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Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Nightingales & Bombers CD (album) cover

NIGHTINGALES & BOMBERS

Manfred Mann's Earth Band

 

Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 310 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars It's always good to hear a band rebound from a weak album, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band did just that with the pleasantly surprising 'Nightingales & Bombers' following a rather tepid 'The Good Earth'. The band revisits the female backing vocal motif of 'Solar Fire' (in this case just Doreen of the Chanter sisters augmented by Martha Smith and the soul singer Ruby St. James). The band also adds strings with no less than three different cellists (cellist Nigel Warren-Green also appeared on Steve Hackett's 'Voyage of the Acolyte' the same year) along with a violin and viola. The female vocalists and strings don't appear on every track but that's probably just as well since guitarist Mick Rogers is in fine form throughout and he and Mann carry several tracks almost by themselves including the soaring "Time is Right" and the almost New Age-y instrumental "Crossfade".

The band is very tight on every track, a welcome return to form after the loose and somewhat improvisational 'The Good Earth'. Mann stretches himself more than ever before on keyboards, relying more this time on synthesizers than in the past but with plenty of Hammond to center Roger's soulful vocals and majestic guitar forays. Bassist Colin Pattenden on the other hand takes more of a back seat than he did on the prior few records, apparently content to lay down complimentary supporting rhythm to Slade's drum work rather than step out into the limelight as he did on 'Messin' and to a certain extent 'The Good Earth'. This is really a Mann and Rogers show through and through, and the two of them show their chops wonderfully on the band's interpretation of Joan Armatrading's early composition "Visionary Mountains", the Springsteen standard "Spirit(s) in the Night" and the funky title track. Too bad Rogers would depart following this release, but he shows here why it took two musicians to replace him.

The most well-known song is the opening "Spirits in the Night", one of three Springsteen debut singles the band would record in their career. The original album version features Rogers on both guitar and vocals and the tune bears an eerie resemblance to Donald Fagen and some of the less jazzy early Steely Dan material. The band would reissue the song as post-album single with new vocalist Chris Thompson and this is the version most people have probably heard as it made it into the Top-40 charts in the UK and U.S. the following year as a complement to the band's smash hit "Blinded by the Light", also a Springsteen cover. This is a summer tune with a theme in the vein of Bob Seger's "Night Moves" and an addictive harmony of vocals and cellos that perfectly captures the mood of the summer of 1975, although it in fact was meant to recall an earlier time much as "Night Moves" was.

The weak tracks if there are any include "Fat Nelly" and the guitar/organ-orgy "Countdown", both relegated to the background only because of their relative brevity and lack of female vocals or strings that accent some of the other material so well.

This is another very impressive performance from the Earth Band, an album somewhat forgotten only because it was followed and eclipsed so quickly by 'The Roaring Silence'. That's too bad, as 'Nightingales & Bombers' ranks among the best two or three Manfred Mann studio efforts ever, easily as good as 'Angel Station' and giving 'The Roaring Silence' a run for its money in energy and consistency if not in star power. Another four star offering and highly recommended. If you liked any of the Earth Band's popular material you should definitely check this one out too.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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