The Roaring Silence
Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Warner Bros. BS 2965
Released: August 1976
Chart Peak: #10
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Gold: 4/5/77
Even though I have come to celebrate Manfred Mann, it must be noted immediately that The Roaring Silence is not among his best records. It has great pleasures -- "Blinded by the Light," "This Side of Paradise," the chorus and ending of "The Road to Babylon" -- but it is not the marvelous work last year's Nightingales and Bombers was. That album, like the rest of Mann's Earth Band albums, was duly noted, faintly praised and failed to make the slightest dent in the steel plate of popular consciousness. "Blinded by the Light" is already getting national FM airplay, though, and thus the anomalous Mann is thrust before us again, if again only briefly. Most of us continue to think of him as Manfred "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" "Quinn the Eskimo" Mann, but to make things simple, I think we can agree that it was upon meeting his synthesizer that Popster Manfred became Underground Mann, keyboard gadfly and collaborator in musical pizzas with everything, to go.
He knows that by recording an elaborate eight-minutes-plus song called "Singing the Dolphin Through," as he has on The Roaring Silence, he is not going to tickle a mass audience. One reason for this is that it will strike many as being a mite too high-falutin. They'll be right, but that's okay with Mann since it establishes his work as "serious" on some level. For all the wit inherent in his Springsteen and Dylan covers, he is most definitely serious, even contemplative. His Earth Band work is one long meditation on the question, "What is this thing called jazz rock?" Rather than attaching hooks to free-form jazz, which is essentially what most jazz rockers are doing, Mann is engaged in elasticizing various rock forms: The Roaring Silence's examples of this are pop hymns ("The Road to Babylon," "Singing the Dolphin Through"), ballads ("Questions") and speedy instrumentals ("Waiter, There's a Yawn in My Ear").
Manfred Mann is the best sort of underground artist; he's engagingly complex, uncompromising, eccentric and aware of his occasional pretentiousness. In this sense, he doesn't deserve a huge audience: he makes little effort to actively accommodate them, and therefore only those who enjoy the challenge should bother with him. It's a healthy situation, and on The Roaring Silence it still leaves room for Manfred to make the last word of Springsteen's line about being "wrapped up like a deuce" sound like "douche" and it's...sort of a joke, I think.
- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 11/4/76.
Mann moves farther away from obtrusive electronic instrumentals towards a marked concentration on softer melodies, audible lyrics and a more cohesive sound. Instrumentally, the band is tight and highlighted by Mann's keyboard playing. The big hit from this LP should be Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light," as Mann had considerable success on his last LP with Springsteen's "Spirit In The Night." Best cuts: "Blinded By The Light," "Road To Babylon," "Questions," "Singing The Dolphin Through."
- Billboard, 1976.
Side two is so slavish in its heavy-metal pretensions that it sounds like a parody that doesn't come off. Which is why I'm inclined to give up on this band and describe side one as two worthy songs stretched out of shape on a synthesizer. If this is what the audience Mann has found on tour wants, he should retreat to the studio. C
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
A later edition of Mann's band, which had a '70s hit with Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" (on this album). * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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