Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band”

The Small Faces, the Pretty Things, the Zombies and the Move have seen numerous write-ups, send offs, and press in all the big-time (and small-time) classic rock publications.  But of all the major British Invasion acts, none has been as ill-served and neglected in rock critic circles and the collector circuit as Manfred Mann.  Mann and his group are usually thought of as a singles act, which is a cryin’ shame as many of their albums are great if not better than that.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band followed the excellent jazz rock explorations of Chapter Three (Volume 1 is a stone cold classic).  The self-titled Earth Band debut remains one of the forgotten progressive rock masterpieces.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is an LP that’s actually worth hearing as it’s one of the best albums of its time and a fan favorite of sorts.

Originally the Earth Band had been working on Stepping Sideways, a rootsy album that was scrapped in favor of newer, more challenging material, which had been part of their live act at the time.  Many of the Stepping Sideways tracks are as good as much of what ended up on the Earth Band’s debut.  Most of the lost Stepping Sideways sessions later appeared on the Earth Band’s outtake box set, Odds & Sods.

On Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, the group take the best aspects of pop and progressive music and meld them into something original and distinctive.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band came out in 1972, the height of the progressive rock boom.  The album is half covers, half originals.  There are no long, wanky keyboard solos, everything here is well structured and tight – the band cooks throughout.  Mann still kept some of the rootsy singer songwriter material from the earlier, Stepping Sideways sessions.  “Part Time Man,” a cover of Dylan’s “Please Mrs. Henry,” and “I’m Up and I’m Leaving” are all wonderful, underrated cuts that hold up to repeated plays. Other worthy tracks are “Captain Bobby Scout” which features a cool middle synth section, “Tribute,” a mysterious space rock instrumental and the great, hard rocking “Prayer.” Mann’s use of the Minimoog/synth/keyboards is inventive and often overlooked, he never loses focus or falls prey to mindless self-indulgence.  The album’s centerpiece, a cover of Randy Newman’s “Living Without You,” was a minor US hit and is perhaps the best version of this song you’re likely to hear.  The Moog work on this track is subtle but powerful while the hooks are huge.  “Living Withou You” is one of those great early 70s singles that wasn’t a big hit, but truly deserved to be.  Overall, not a wasted note or duff track to be found on this lost classic.

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“Part Time Man”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Polydor | at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | search ebay ]

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  • Len Liechti

    Mea culpa, I’m one of the millions who’ve ill-served and neglected MMEB over the years. I’m gonna have to go on a voyage of rediscovery. I have to say though that MMEB’s covers of Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light” and “Davy’s On The Road Again” are way better than the originals, IMHO (stands back and awaits the flak from the Boss’s loyal stormtroopers), and that “Joybringer” is one of the best, if not the best, updates of the classics ever, apart from the Nice’s pops at Bach and Sibelius on Ars Longa Vita Brevis (see my TRS review of same). Need to be aware that MMEB and the original Manfred Mann were very different outfits: the original was indeed a singles band and part of the British Invasion, while the Earth Band had the same keyboard player with the same penchant for the odd Dylan cover, and that’s about it. Anyway, nice post, Jason.

  • Jason

    Thanks Len. I always felt the Five Faces of and Mann Made were pretty strong records from the British Invasion…two of the best from that era actually…consistent…As Is from 1966 is weak but the Mighty Garvey is underrated (1968), a respectable psych pop concept LP. Up The Junction….that’s a kick ass sound track too. But from 69-74 or so they made a series of excellent progressive rock albums…If you sift through Mann’s discography the group really did record lots of good LPs. Off the subject…..Do any of you guys own The End’s Introspection record? It’s a well known fact that Bill Wyman produced this puppy….I’ve always thought it was a much better record than the Stones’ own psychedelic opus, Their Satanic Majesties Request.

  • Len Liechti

    I can’t resist quoting, almost in full, a review of this album from another source, the most excellent Galactic Ramble: A Peregrination Through British Rock, Pop, Folk And Jazz Of The 1960s And 1970s, edited by Richard Morgan Jack (Foxcote Books, London, 2009). This is in part because the review therein closely echoes Jason’s own analysis of this particular album, but also because it’s the first writing I’ve seen which finally and unequivocally repudiates, in terms with which I utterly agree, the critical panning of progressive rock that’s been a standard of musical criticism from the punk explosion of 1976 until fairly recently.

    The review, by Aaron Milenski, reads: “One of the inexplicable predictabilities of rock criticism is a disdain for progressive rock. The rock critic is an odd animal, trying to intellectualise discussion about an art form they insist is not intellectual, and when the musical format veers in a more complex direction, they balk, as if only they, the almighty writers, are allowed to be literate. Either they don’t like competition, or they patronisingly look down at rock musicians as failed intellectual wannabees whose attempts to widen the scope of the form are doomed to failure because they just don’t have the minds for it. Given this odd situation, where pretentious highbrow ‘writers’ make themselves feel cool by wallowing in ‘low art’, it’s unsurprising that when a prog album became a critics’ darling, it was this one: a record that is every bit as much pop as prog. It’s got prog arrangements, and even includes space rock instrumentals, but it’s also full of hooks and oh-so-catchy songs. Bingo! Just what every rock critic wanted. Critics would harden against them with each successive record, and an excellent album like Solar Fire, which is much closer to traditional prog, would be dismissed by them. The good news, though, is that this time the critics are right. This is as good a 70s pop album as there is in any style. It’s catchy, creative, funny, memorable as hell and full of surprises. Over time this record has been forgotten, but it’s absolutely recommended: a first-time listener is bound to be wowed by it.”

    Well said indeed, on both counts. There’s an old saying that bowdlerises nicely as “those that can, do; those that can’t, criticise”. Well, you can be pretty sure that those who most stridently criticised prog-rock hadn’t a fraction of the talent required to actually create anything remotely similar. Thank providence we live in the Postmodern society, where musical tribalism no longer has a place and works of quality, no matter what their genre, can be accepted as such. Meanwhile, an album that elicits such a glowing review must surely be worth a listen.

  • Len Liechti

    Incidentally, for Mann virgins, the budget double CD retrospective World Of Mann: The Very Best Of Manfred Mann and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band provides an excellent introduction to both the British Invasion period and the later prog stuff. It’s short on documentation, but the selection of tracks is pretty all-encompassing. (You can get the additional info from Wikipedia.)


    Funny I first heard “living without you” on an album by Alan Price, the keyboard player for the Animals the album was titles ” Mr Smith and his amazing Dancing Bear” Always liked the line ‘the milk truck holds the sun up” was the first I ever heard of Randy Neuman. Thanks Great site

  • Paul

    I actually find the idea that rock critics, or those of us who genuinely despise a lot of the music that is usually filed under the Prog Rock heading, are simply intimidated by the intellectual prowess of these musicians just a little too easy. To me, it has less to do with rock and roll as a necessarily “primitive” or “low” art that must stagnate in its own raw purity, and more to do with the fact that, as Oscar Wilde put it, “all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” Listening to ANYBODY indulge themselves excessively, often with little to absolutely no sense of irony, or at least modicum of self-examined humor, is often too embarrassing, or else tiring, to withstand for long. Add to this the lyrics, which usually sound like a badly played game of Dungeons & Dragons, and you have what amounts to a truly objectionable listening experience for those of us who feel this way. However, I AM going to get a copy of this album, and if anybody has any suggestions as to how to better access this genre (which has actually seemed like a gaping hole in my musical radar for years now)… perhaps a few less pompous albums to try… please lend a fella a hand.

  • Jason

    There’s lots of good prog albums but it’s a matter of weeding the bad ones out….I’m not a fan of the big time bands like ELP…they were boring but here’s a short list of some decent records…

    Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom
    Spirit of Christmas – Lies To Live By
    Collosuem – Valentine Suite
    Frank Zappa – Hot Rats or Grand Wazoo
    Jack Bruce – Harmony Row or Song of a Tailor
    Touch – Touch (1969)
    Manfred Mann – Chapter 3 – Volume 1
    East of Eden – Mercator Projected
    Third Ear Band – The Magus – this one has vocals and is tremendous
    Brian Auger and the Trinity – Street Noise
    Soft Machine – Volumes 1, 2 and Third
    Caravan – all the early albums
    King Crimson – anything
    Focus – III
    Super Sister – debut from 1970
    Tamam Shud – Goolutionites
    The Nice – all their albums
    Aglarnas Tradgard – In The Garden of the Elks – outstanding prog psych
    Group 1850 – Paradise Now
    The Rainbow Band (Scandanavian group)
    Plastic People of The Universe – Egan Bondy
    Captain Beyond – 1st lp
    Deep Purple – self titled 3rd album
    The Can – anything
    Amon Duul – anything
    Brosel Machine – 1st lp
    Ash Ra Temple – anything
    Emtidi – Saat
    Embryo – anything early…We Keep On is great
    Mythos – first LP

    Plus there is scores good prog albums from Italy, Spain, Germany, Scandanavia, South America, Japan and so forth.

  • Jason

    Family’s early albums are also real good….I like the Moodies too….

  • Anonymous

    On the other hand, if you want to be permanently scarred for life prog-rock-wise, there’s Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Pawn Hearts. I love ’em both but then I’m heavily into musical self-flagellation. How do you feel about Schoenberg, or Ornette Colman? Seriously, the first MMEB album shouldn’t cause anyone too much trauma.
    Whoops, forgot to sign my work . . . Len Liechti.

  • Paul

    It’s funny you should mention Schoenberg and Coleman, as a friend of mine was talking just recently about how Jazz and Classical musicians must find it difficult to be any less than an instrumental virtuoso, even what some might call unnecessarily complex or self indulgent, in order to truly rise into the elite class of their genres, and understandably so, whereas only seemingly in rock & roll can one really base a career on not playing the instrument proficiently at all, and then kind of snottily implying that that’s exactly the point, and completely get away with it. Virtuosity in rock music is at least unwelcome to me, if not against its very nature. I know the point is not original, but there is too much of the inept and yet powerfully pubescent late teen mindset at the heart of rock, and though I know some like to think of it as a melting pot where any kind of music can be thrown into the mash, I think of it as a distinct genre that if watered down should be called something else. Of course that’s not to say there shouldn’t be room for elven meadows and guys who can move their fingers very fast, it just seems that as the level of musicianship rises the authority of the lyric and the voice have to rise as well, or else it falls into that dreadfully intense kind of faux-operatic whimsy.

    Anyway, I guess it’s only where the voice is involved that over the top instrumentation bugs me, otherwise I can like it pretty easily.

  • deseraligears

    thanks love your site you have a wealth of musical knowledge, Funny the first time I heard “living without you” and great Randy Neuman who I didn’t know from nothing,was an album i bought bt Alan Price the Keyboard player for the Animals
    ala House of the rising Sun, I think the album was called Mr Smith and his amazing dancing Bear. I belive that Price di a bunch of Neuman songs including “Living without you”
    As an aside Burton, Chandler and the rest hate Price for taking all the credit for house and royalties and giving them zilch. Didn’t i see Mr. Price playing and hanging out with Dylan on his Don’t look back Pennebaker film?
    You are great keep up the music

  • living with out you great music.good lyrics

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