The Earth Band was the 3rd iteration of South African, Manfred Mann’s fronted efforts. He was on the scene in the early 60’s with the hits, “The Mighty Quinn” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, and followed that with Manfred Mann Chapter Three, a Jazz Fusion effort. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band formed in 1971 and produced some of the earliest progressive rock efforts. This current version of the band found their stride with the 1973 release Solar Fire. It was a planetary concept album with progressive keys, cinematic vocals, and classic guitar solos. I’m going to post three tracks from the record that best represent it’s essence. BTW, the first track is a Dylan cover, done much better by Manfred Mann.
All, always the same.
But there appears in the shades of dawning,
Though your eyes are dim,
All of the pieces in the sky.
Every so often I’ll revisit one of my old albums and listen with a more seasoned palate. Genesis’ Nursery Cryme isn’t one of my favorites from the Peter Gabriel era and I was only really interested in one track, The Musical Box. Listening to it now, I understand that almost half the band had been replaced and they were still growing comfortable with the new lineup. I’d also come to appreciate the slow, pretty songs on the LP. Songs I’d dismissed when I was younger because they lacked rock hooks. Most of the songs on this album tell a story, which was a trademark of the Gabriel era. Harlequin was one track I always skipped, but now, with a renewed appreciation for instrumentation and subtlety, it strikes me as a beautiful, three part harmony, hymn about hope.
The Crane Wife is the fourth album from The Decemberists, the band that (finally) brought us a song about killing babies (The Rake Song); I’m talking patricide, not abortion. I could plagiarize the crap out of Wikipedia, but rather you click here for the full story. The Decemberists are intelligent baroque/progressive rock. Their songs usually tell a story not usually familiar to westerners, The Crane Wife is a Japanese folk tale. This is further explored in their follow up LP “Hazards of Love.”
This track, O Valencia, is one of my favorites, and a pretty good mini-film featuring the whole band.
The first two Queen Albums (Queen I and Queen II) are my favorites. These albums personify the early progressive and classic rock origins of the band and are enjoyable as raw, energetic rock and roll music. Following these albums Queen released Sheer Heart Attack which was infused with high production effects and began steering the band to a more pop/radio appeal. They certainly increased their fan base, but like other progressive rock bands of the same era, I feel they turned away from the artistic voice that set them apart from the rest. I’m not sure if it was a decision by the band or music executives that led them to turn down the bass and turn up the treble, but I wish they’d have stayed less successful and more original.
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”