MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND – Solar Fire (That 70’s Guy Retro Review)

I’m back again to blow the dust off yet another rare lost gem of the 1970’s. This time my time machine lands back in 1973 for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Solar Fire. Even though the official release is listed as 1973, it wasn’t until late 1974 that we came across this classic. Could this be the same band from way back in the 60’s that had a hit called “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” or the same band that penned “Mighty Quinn”? In kids’ years, that was an eternity ago. Certainly, bands don’t hang around that long – do they? Well, with a major overhaul and the addition of “Earth Band,” it was at least Manfred Mann’s new band.

After the original Manfred Mann band called it a day in 1969 and split up, South African born Mann gave it another shot with the formation of his Earth Band in 1971. Solar Fire was the 4th album from the Earth Band and still consisted of Mann on keyboards and vocals, Mick Rogers on guitars and vocals, Chris Slade on drums and Colin Pattenden on bass guitar.

To be quite honest, since I recall just about anything music related, I am not entirely sure how it fell into our midst. I am pretty sure my buddy Rod picked it up and, like all albums, was brought in front of the jury for approval.  I do recall he promoted the song “Joybringer”. In this case, it was a big two thumbs up. Solar Fire spent 15 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at number 96 on May 11, 1974. So, as you can see, that isn’t exactly breaking the bank but it also made it more of a discrete album that we could claim as our find. Nothing was better than taking an album that you are sure 100% of the party goers would not recognize and put the needle down and attempt to blow them away. You were always hoping to hear comments like “holy shit man, who is this?” or “turn that up!” or “that sounds awesome!”

Are they pioneers of rock, are they progressive rock or maybe a mix of both? Here’s an album I always thought was a bit out of left field. Possibly, that’s why I love it so much.

OK, it’s your turn to decide. Lets’ bring it on.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Solar Fire (Released 1973 on Polydor Records)

Side One

  1. “Father of Day, Father of Night” – right off the bat, we are faced with the 10 minute epic. A long song that is instrumentally sound, with the keyboards and guitar work masterfully done. A great course and a song that is forever etched in my mind, especially from MM. A lights out, sit and dream type of song, it was written by Bob Dylan.
  2. “In the Beginning, Darkness”– a bit more of a guitar-driven rocking song, with Mick shining on the vocals whilst ripping a nice guitar solo.
  3. “Pluto the Dog” – one thing is for sure, Mann’s keyboards were very distinguishable with his signature sound. Not to be outdone on this fabulous instrumental, complete with Pluto barking throughout.
  4. “Joybringer”this was the song that got us hooked on this album and our re-discovery of MM. It’s more of a Top 40 pop type song than anything. Great vocals and melodies. I was always shocked to find out, for some strange reason that I still do not understand to this day, why this was missing when the CD was released back in the 90’s. Really? My favourite song.

Side Two

  1. “Solar Fire” – another fave. Keyboard and harmony drenched, brilliantly written and performed. A perfect partner to another classic band at the time, Uriah Heep. Irene and Doreen Chanter sing wonderfully, taking charge of the background vocals. Another nice solo from Rogers.
  2. “Saturn, Lord of the Ring/Mercury” – OK, lets start by saying that this song may be one of the tunes that I hooked up the air guitar to the most back in the day. Still one of the finest displays in guitar playing I have EVER heard. Even today, this beautiful gem stands the test of time with its ripping and heavy picking. Who puts Mick Rogers at the top of their list? Goosebumps still as I was listening writing this. The second part is more or less a psychedelic jam of Mann and Rogers trading off solos!
  3. “Earth, the Circle Part 2” – insrumental heaven, with eveyone joining the party including some fine work by Chris Slade and Colin Pattenden.
  4. “Earth, the Circle Part 1” hey the vocals are back!  It’s been awhile. Also getting some airplay is Mann on the synthesizer.

There you have it. For the most part, the album is instrumental and played more on the progressive side with some fantastic guitar work. Fans of Yes, King Crimson or even Rush and Dream Theater will appreciate the musicianship here. Pick it up if you can find it, but make sure Joybringer is on it!

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band inherited a more Top 40 image as their popularity grew, with later 70’s hits written by the boss himself, Bruce SpringsteenSpirits in the Night and Blinded By the Light and again in the 80’s with Runner written by Canadian Ian Thomas. The band also had some ACDC connections, as Chris Slade went on to play drums for the Aussie rockers during their big comeback in the 90’s. Colin Patterden was also rumored to replace Mark Evans when he left just before Cliff Williams stepped in. Manfred Mann and Mick Rogers still front the Earth Band and tour frequently, mainly in the UK and Europe.

Still a bucket list band for me.

I bring joy and I can take you through
All those days when people seem to get to you
I bring joy and I come here to you

I bring life and I can take you where
You can see and feel and breathe and touch the air
I bring life and I can take you there

Feelings inside that we keep
Out of sight and out of reach
Brings us to the things we seek

Take your time, remember when you do
There are days when people feel the same as you
I bring time and I can take you through

– “Joybringer”

 

 

Enjoy this classic lip synced version of Joybringer.

Brian Ronald

 

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