MANFRED MANN’S EARTHBAND
The Stables, Wavendon - 24th September 2006
There aren’t many groups who have offered a square foot of land on a Welsh hillside to every purchaser of one of their albums.
In fact, I’m willing to bet Manfred Mann’s Earthband (free earth, get it?) are the only group to come up with such an eccentric marketing ploy.
That alone would be sufficient to make me look on them with a degree of affection.
But they are still going strong more than 30 years after Mr Mann became bored with the pop music which gave his first eponymous group chart success with songs like 'Doo Wah Diddy', '5-4-3-2-1' and 'Pretty Flamingo'.
The formation of the Earthband allowed him to enter the world of progressive rock, a genre much derided in recent years, but one commanding unwavering devotion from its many followers.
Like many prog bands, they have gone through numerous line-up changes over the years.
The same hallmarks remain, however, of clever arrangements, flawless musicianship and powerful vocals - the latter now supplied by Noel McCalla.
The Earthbands’s most successful tracks have almost all been covers of other people’s songs - 'Blinded By the Light', 'Spirit in the Night' and 'For You' all came from the mind of the young Bruce Springsteen.
One can only speculate what Springsteen was on when he produced lyrics like “Dethrone the dictaphone, hit it in its funny bone, that's where they expect it least", but who cares.
All three were delivered to perfection at The Stables, the latter now transformed into an instrumental led by guitarist Mick Rogers, whose playing was magnificent throughout the evening, especially on Bob Dylan’s 'Father of Day, Father of Night'.
Less successful was a cover of another, better known Springsteen song, 'Dancing In The Dark', suggesting the band should stick to breathing new life into more obscure numbers, rather than tackling ones already performed definitively by their creators.
Manfred himself was an animated figure behind his bank of keyboards. He was clearly having a great time for a man in his mid 60's and only too happy to supply the sounds of nostalgia for lovers of the Moog synthesiser.
The only song surviving from his pop days was Dylan’s 'The Mighty Quinn' and it provided a chance for the crowd to sing along noisily with the chorus before sending the band back to their dressing room with a deserved ovation.
There’s only one thing left to say - anyone fancy buying a piece of my garden?