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Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Solar Fire CD (album) cover

SOLAR FIRE

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

4.01 | 334 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I am a big Mick Rogers fan, he being one of the finest and most underestimated proggy guit-slingers back in the glory days, as well as a great vocalist. "Solar Fire" is widely proclaimed as one of the better Earth Band projects (together with Bombers & Nightingales and The Roaring Silence) partly because of Mick's ripping fret work, full of zest and zeal. According to the liner notes, both Rogers and Mann were listening to a lot of Terry Riley and Pink Floyd during the recording of this album, in fact the live band used pre-recorded choir tapes, and it shows with the sweeping arrangement of Bob Dylan's Father of Night, a nine minute unaccredited awesome mellotron feast that has to be among the trippiest tunes in progdom, with a seductive and extended Rogers guitar adventure full of bluesy bravado, raging fury and blistering restraint. With bassist Pattenden and Chris Slade's expert drumming leading the way and the choir hauntingly effective, Manfred tosses in some sinewy Moog solos, particularly the closing segment which is delirious and grippingly poignant. "In the Beginning" is a more straight forward rock song with superlative backing vocals by the famous Chanter Sisters and more slick Rogers pyrotechnics and of course, a little jamming mid-section with another dose of synthesized delirium with guitar and Moog dueling. "Pluto the Dog" is one of those rare "fun" instrumental tunes with the Moog barking uncontrolled, assorted timbres and patches showcasing Mann's rather revolutionary keyboard style, swayed by the simple rhythmic groove. Woof, woof indeed. The title track is another smoking classic with shivering and swirling synths leading the way, groovy propulsive beat , more of those wonderful female backing vocals and that soaring Moog foray and another Rogers guitar fest (what a monstrous solo, whew!) that would make Fripp stand up and applaud. And the way the tune kicks back into the groove after the solo section is remarkable. The next 3 tracks are Mann's take in Gustav Holst's classical masterpiece Planets Suite, a modern rock approach with blazing guitars (Mick is imperial, I tell you), sizzling melodies and some more scintillating synthesizer work which was extremely innovative at the time, Manfred certainly enjoyed bending those notes, his joystick getting a serious workout. When the two lead instruments decide to trade licks, this falls straight into the magical realms of prog genius. "Earth the Circle Part 2" is a tad weaker than the previous material but does espouse the merits of some highly original electronic noodling that was (at the time) experimental, or just plain mental. "Earth the Circle Part 1" is a gentle ballad that has a little Yes feel until it is raped by some bombastic and wobbly Moog fills, a sudden delicate piano arriving from nowhere adding some contrast to the weirdness of the middle jam, with Mick torturing his axe with strange abandon. "Joybringer" is a little too poppy for my tastes, having been released successfully as a single and is obviously a clear attempt to pay the bills. But totally removed from the homogenous quality of this album. Solar Fire is a must get (Father and the title track alone are worth the money) and wholly deserving of its 5 meteor shower status. Oh by the way, did I mention that Mick Rogers is a phenomenal guitarist?
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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