I don’t believe Manfred Mann’s Earth Band ever had a hit as big before or since “Blinded By the Light.” This inventive turnaround of a Bruce Springsteen song took the world by storm when this album was released in 1976. Manfred Mann, the man of many projects has put together a great band with the arriving Chris Thompson on vocals. Chris is a blessing with his bluesy voice, strong emotive qualities exuding a cool but rough tone. It works astoundingly well throughout this record. I feel that Mann has finally found a singer for his band that matches his abilities as a player and arranging talents.
Other than the chart topping hit, “This Side of Paradise” and “Questions” happen to be my personal favorites. The bass part by Colin Pattenden that carries the song on “This Side of Paradise” is singable and very catchy. You have to check out Mann’s frantic Moog solos throughout this song, sheesh! “Questions” co-written by drummer Chris Slade, features Thompson’s most impassioned vocals on an album that he just shines on throughout. His delivery here moves me.
“Waiter, There’s a Yawn In My Ear” (which seems to be the inspiration for the cover of the album) solidifies Mann’s rep as “The Rodney Dangerfield” of keyboardists. It’s one of his best instrumentals and imaginative forays into electronic exploration abound. “Singing the Dolphin Through” has a lovely female vocal accompaniment to Thompson’s and features a remarkable melody. The use of the choir on “The Road to Babylon” is inventive and real, as is the Gregorian-style chanting that begins the otherwise fusiony instrumental “Starbird.” You know, this music is really not all that commercial and ventures artistically into other moods and tangents enough to be thought of in the same breath as some of the other second-tier prog bands from the same period. Bands like like Eloy, Supertramp, Nektar, and Alan Parsons Project.
Little known fact: “Blinded By the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is Bruce Springsteen’s first #1 hit! Most CD versions also include the Springsteen cover “Spirits In the Night” from the previous MMEB album with Chris Thompson subbing for Mick Rogers on vocals. That’s pretty cool too, as once again Thompson’s voice takes the song to new heights with one of the better voices in rock.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on August 3rd, 2011