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


Manfred Mann's Earth Band


Eclectic Prog

3.74 | 228 ratings

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3 stars Manfred Mann's Earth Band's eighth studio album was a strange affair, coming nearly a year and a half after the release of their mega-hit breakthrough record 'The Roaring Silence'. For one thing bassist Colin Pattenden had followed Mick Rogers out the door and would soon be followed by drummer Chris Slade, leaving Mann himself as the only remaining original member. Pattenden was replaced by Pat King, another relative unknown like guitarist Dave Flett and vocalist Chris Thompson who had previously replaced Rogers. The band had also trimmed its supporting cast and featured little more support than backing vocals on this record. Flett would hoist an acoustic guitar for the first time of any note on this album, and along with Mann's restrained keyboard work resulted in an overall sound that was somewhat more casual and passive than most of 'The Roaring Silence' or even the following album 'Angel Station'. The band had spent considerable time touring and making other public appearances over the prior year in support of their hit album and lengthy chart run of "Blinded by the Light", which perhaps explains why there was virtually no original material on this record, and why a handful of live tracks were used to flesh out the track list. In fact the only purely original Earth Band tune would be the medley "Drowning on Dry Land/Fish Soup", the latter half of which would be released as a single titled "Bouillabaisse" that resurfaced as a bonus track on the CD reissue of the album.

The album opens with Thompson's quavering falsetto crooning out the lyrics to the Alan Mark tune "Circles", a typically cryptic Mann cover about the long touring road, or maybe the breakup of a relationship, not really sure. In any case this is a pretty pop-leaning tune pleasant enough but not exactly the definitive follow-up to 'Blinded' casual fans were probably expecting. The following acoustic opening to the 'Drowning' medley wasn't a promising introduction to the rest of the album either, although Flett's scaling guitar solo well into the track at least hints at the power of his debut less than two years before.

"Chicago Institute" would become one of the more popular Earth Band tunes with fans, and it almost qualifies as a band original with longtime Mann collaborator Peter Thomas pairing up with Mann and Flett to add lyrics to the arrangement. Flett once again dominates with a lively though somewhat turgid guitar solo that would have sounded better had it not come so unexpectedly in the middle of what was otherwise a jaunty pop tune. Thompson's vocals are warm and comfortable and carry the song despite its relatively shallow arrangement.

"California" manages to evoke the southern California easy-going mood which was kind of a new sound for the band, and although this isn't in the Earth Band vein at all it did fit with the glut of easy-listening pop rock that was filling the airwaves in the latter seventies.

In an unusual twist Mann managed to include a cover that for once was not superior to the original. "Davy's on the Road Again", another cover often mistaken as an Earth Band original was actually written by John Simon and Robbie Robertson of The Band and first appeared on Simon's debut solo record. Mann applied his customary rollicking melodic rock treatment to the song but for anyone who'd heard the Simon version this one lost a bit of its bite in translation.

Yet another cover came from the same obscure late sixties Jerry Hahn Brotherhood album that yielded "Captain Bobby Stout" from the Earth Band's debut album, and in fact this version sounds an awful lot like the mostly straightforward rocking type of music which characterized that album. Mann applies some adept fingering on synths midway through; otherwise this is just a bit more upbeat but similar to the original.

And finally Mann dredges back up a live version of Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn" titled "Quinn the Eskimo", a good rendition but once again a cover and one that he had already charted nearly a decade prior.

This is a decent album but nowhere near as ambitious, well-produced or innovative as 'The Roaring Silence', and not even as solid of a rocking album as the following 'Angel Station'. Three stars I suppose, but I'm among those Earth Band fans that was slightly disappointed by 'Watch' and can't say as I recommend it very highly. Check it out if you want but don't go out of your way.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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