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


Manfred Mann's Earth Band


Eclectic Prog

4.07 | 325 ratings

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2 stars Always the odd cousins to the progressive rock fraternity of the 1970's, Manfred Mann's Earth Band enjoyed a relatively successful career, graduating from humble beat group origins to full-blown art-pop purveyors during the space of a few short years. A prolific outfit led by the South African-born keyboardist Mann, the first Earth Band album arrived in 1972 and was quickly followed by four more full-length studio offerings, all of which were released across the space of just two years. The most notable of these was arguably 1973's ambitious 'Solar Fire', a kind of classically-tinted, space-themed concept yarn, yet the Earth Band would really hit their stride with 'Nightingales & Bombers' from 1975, an album whose title was inspired by a cache of accidental BBC recordings from World War 2 that were supposed to pick up certain ornithological sounds yet ended up catching a major aerial dogfight between British and German forces(the recordings feature in the album's penultimate piece, a live rendition of 'As Above So Below'). Inspired by these extraordinary tapes, Manfred Mann's Earth Band put together what many consider to be one of their defining achievements. Featuring a trio of covers - this time it's a fairly straightforward AOR version of Bruce Springsteen's popular 'Spirits In The Night', a slick reading of Joan Armatrading's 'Visionary Mountains' and a slightly awkward take on 'Quit Your Low Down Ways' by Bob Dylan - 'Nightingales & Bombers' proves both eclectic and accessible, blending progressive aspirations with a slick pop-rock touch that prefigures much of their 1980's output. Unlike 'Solar Fire', it is shorter, sharper tracks that are the meat of 'Nightingales & Bombers', making for an enjoyable if somewhat lightweight album, the atmospheric Springsteen-penned opener - one of the better versions of the oft-copied track - providing an energetic opening, whilst the intricate melodies of 'Time Is Right' and the title- track showcase the group in highly-creative mood with the latter in particular blessed by a dazzling keyboard solo from bandleader Mann. However, whilst many of the classic releases from the Earth Band's fellow progressive icons of the 1970's have generally stood the test of time remarkably well, both 'Solar Fire' and 'Nightingales & Bombers' simply haven't. Listened to now through 21st century ears, its unfortunate to note that virtually all of Manfred Mann's Earth Band albums from this period feature a trite, almost jocular feel, no doubt carried on from their 1960's beat-group past, that distracts the listener from what should be some pretty impressive instrumental moments. As a result, this inability to shake the pop-essence of their past makes for a simplistic brand of what can be best described as progressive pop - no bad style in the right hands, just ask The Alan Parsons Project - with 'Nightingales & Bombers' a prime example. There are still moments here well worth the price of admission, but when compared against the 'Nursery Crymes' and 'Wish You Were Heres', this does feel rather tame. Hats off to excellent production values though; pity the music isn't of the same quality. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
stefro | 2/5 |


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