Manfred Mann and his Earth band seem to me to be highly underrated in prog circles. The “Rodney Dangerfield” of keyboard players, Mann has a lot more talent than the Emerson, Wakeman seekers give him credit for.
Chance begins with a song that preaches lyrics about what we should expect “All Through the 80s.” It sounds rather dated now, 30-odd years later, but at the beginning of the decade was perhaps prophetic. I especially like the homage to Joni Mitchell in the song. Great keyboard solos abound here and throughout this album, proving that Mann’s percolating style of playing does indeed deserve some respect.
The Earth Band became especially well known for their reworking of Bruce Springsteen songs like “Blinded By the Light” and “Spirits in the Night.” Chance has “For You”, with its powerful guitar and staccato piano driving the song. I actually prefer Mann’s versions to Bruce’s originals. Good guitar work throughout on Chance, which features an early Trevor Rabin appearance, pre-90125!
“Adolescent Dream” recalls Tangerine Dream or Jean Michelle Jarre as it begins. Drummer John Lingwood gets a great workout towards the end of this track. The vocal (one of the few leads taken by Manfred himself) is serviceable at best. Chris Thompson has been Mann’s lead vocalist of choice for the last few albums and although he only sings the first few songs on Chance, his style is prevalent on the other songs where the singers do not stray far from this style.
“Stranded” with the keyboards repeating S.O.S. in morse code during the entire song, builds a strange sense of isolation as the song details the exploration and loneliness of man in outer space. I also enjoy the way the song fades out with “Mayday, this is Echo Hotel.” I don’t know what that means, but it makes me feel like an astronaut needs help in the vastness of space as the keyboards continue to repeat S.O.S. over and over. Genius. “Hello, I Am Your Heart” cleverly tells the story of abuse from the perspective of your heart and the damage you have done to it by falling in and out of love too many times. Its style reminds me of what new waver Gary Numan was doing at the time.
Although this is not MMEB’s most consistent album (that honor goes to 1978’s Watch), it is of good quality and recommended to anyone who enjoys great keyboard playing partnered with memorable pop melodies and progressive tendencies. A really good Manfred Mann album.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 11th, 2010