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Nightingales and Bombers (Remastered)

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Album Review

The album that was Manfred Mann's commercial breakthrough was a departure from the previous albums made with the Earth Band. Though the personnel are the same and the musicianship is as mind blowing as ever, the songs are shorter and punchier, in some cases more poppy. This is not to say that the band had sacrificed a bit of ingenuity or complexity, but the long jams are gone in favor of briefer sound portraits. The perfect example is the cover of "Blinded by the Light" by a then obscure songwriter named Bruce Springsteen. A listen to the original version, a rambling stream-of-consciousness piece reminiscent of early Dylan, doesn't hint at the delightfully bizarre possibilities Mann and the Earth Band extracted from the tune. Taking a piece of folk-rock, giving it a cool, spooky delivery, and adding a full-band treatment created an uncategorizable masterpiece. It was a number one hit for Mann and a major career boost for its author, and Mann released Springsteen covers on several subsequent albums. A second single from the album, "Time Is Right," also charted, becoming one of the only pieces written in 10/4 time ever to do so. Nightingales and Bombers featured in almost every "Best of the Year" list for 1975. Justifiably so — though attention at the time was naturally on the hits, the rest of the album features a mix of good originals and eccentric covers, inspired playing, and tight, focused arrangements. The album stands up to repeated listening decades after it was created, and though fans of the more expansive progressive phase may prefer earlier works, they will generally allow the excellence of this one. (The name of the album was once regarded as a possible drug reference, but it is actually taken from a nature recording made during World War II. An ornithologist who was trying to record birdcalls captured not only the sound of birds, but also of incoming enemy aircraft. That recording is used in the track "As Above, So Below," and gives it an eerie character.) [The German edition features bonus tracks.]


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An R&B band that only played pop to get on the charts, Manfred Mann and its various permutations ranked among the most adept British Invasion acts in both styles. South African-born keyboardist Manfred Mann was originally an aspiring jazz player, moving toward R&B when more blues-oriented sounds became in vogue in England in the early '60s. Original Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones was one of the best British Invasion singers, and his resonant vocals were the best feature of their early R&B sides,...
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Nightingales and Bombers (Remastered), Manfred Mann's Earth Band
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