Although the group around Moog wizard Manfred Mann was not able to sail permanently on the big international wave of success like Pink Floyd or Genesis, they have found a loyal audience with their perfect balancing act between spherical progressive rock and good mood classic rock, especially in Germany over five decades. In view of the anniversary, we take a look back at the Earth Band's eventful history together with bandleader Mann, long-term guitarist Mick Rogers and former vocal figurehead Chris Thompson. We also spoke with current vocalist Robert Hart. In addition, we put their most important albums and video documents in perspective.
"Manfred got interested in synthesizers back then," Mick Rogers recalls of the early days of the Earth Band, "and I played him ELP tracks. We couldn't get out of our amazement." Manfred Mann then bought what he described as a "bloody expensive thing", the then brand new, revolutionary Minimoog. He decided against the big modular Moog system because of its lack of stage compatibility. Mann's retrospective comment: "I didn't know at the time that it was going to become my instrument."
With albums like "Solar Fire" (1973), "The Roaring Silence" (1976), "Watch" (1978) and "Angel Station" (1979), Manfred Mann's Earth Band wrote prog and pop history. Their style: with one foot in spherical prog heights, the other in grounded rock and blues riffs. Songs like "Father Of Day, Father Of Night," "Spirits In The Night," "Blinded By The Light," "Davy's On The Road Again," "Mighty Quinn" and "For You" hit the charts thanks to their pop qualities and became unforgettable hits. The special features of the group were Mann's extraordinary Moog improvisations, his virtuoso, downright jazzy duels with guitarist Mick Rogers, the extremely successful arrangement of songs not written by himself and (from 1976) the charismatic voice of rock singer Chris Thompson.
In 1982, the band around Manfred Lubowitz, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1940, even became a forerunner in the integration of traditional African sounds into Western pop music with the album "Somewhere In Africa". After that, however, they increasingly changed their style, moved closer to the zeitgeist, lost their own touch and disbanded for a short time. Since the beginning of the 90s, however, MMEB has been successful again as a live band, especially in Germany. A new real band album, on the other hand, has been a long time coming since 1996. (The Earth Band was involved in "2006", released in 2004, but it was de facto a solo work by Mann)
The Beginnings: From Chapter Three Jazz to Earth Band Rock
The Earth Band's journey begins in the summer of 1971, by which time Manfred Mann already had a veritable musical career behind him: after initial successes with the R&B and pop band Manfred Mann (including "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", "Pretty Flamingo", "Mighty Quinn"), he had tried his hand at ambitious jazz rock with Manfred Mann Chapter Three. But the response to it didn't meet his expectations: "It didn't work commercially. We had a lot of rules, like not playing a guitar, and we had to write everything ourselves. Mike Hugg [pianist, singer, arranger and co-producer, note] was in charge. In the Earth Band, on the other hand, everything was open, everything was possible, including the style. We didn't give ourselves any guidelines." He had come across two of the musicians with whom Mann formed the new band through his previous project: Singer and guitarist Mick Rogers knew Mike Hugg because he produced his band Procession, and drummer Chris Slade had participated in a Chapter Three session. They were joined by bassist Colin Pattenden as the fourth member. It is said to have been Chris Slade who suggested the name Earth Band in reference to the then emerging ecological movement. In his autobiography, however, ex-Manfred Mann bassist Klaus Voormann writes that he inspired Mann to choose the band name because he had often advised him at the time to make "earthier" rock music instead of pop songs
Manfred Mann - Master of Moog modulations
The first album "Manfred Mann's Earth Band" (1972), a mix of original compositions (such as the highly atmospheric instrumental "Tribute") and foreign compositions (including the first Bob Dylan cover "Please Mrs. Henry" and the later live classic "Captain Bobby Stout") was still strongly influenced by blues rock and jazz rock. Present from the beginning, however, was Mann's innovative playing on the Moog, which went far beyond a mere gimmick. In fact, it is always unmistakable, in its way quite different from that of other great synthesizer players such as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or Tony Banks. Mann explains: "It took time. The Moog wasn't velocity sensitive. So to produce a different sound with each note, you had to be creative. The Moog itself only does one thing: It sounds like a pussycat. (laughs) So I used the filters simply like a wah-wah pedal - maybe a little more than others." Mann's modesty is honored - with his jazzy and spherical modulations, he created much of the world's best "Miaus" on the Moog. He cites jazz rock visionary Miles Davis as an important influence, with his way of playing scales down instead of up, creating a tension all his own ...