In 1992, Manfred Mann's Earth Band in its latest incarnation delivered a new album that retraced a few earlier steps and got closer to finishing some ideas that earlier incarnations of the band had begun. The result was Masque, a strange and beautiful (and strangely beautiful) mix of jazz, rock, classical, and pop sounds, drawing on compositions from Paul Weller to Gustav Holst. The most easygoing incarnation of cosmic rock, Masque melds elements of '40s pop (and even big-band swing), synth pop, '70s pop/rock, and classical into a quite beautiful whole that's as seductive as it is dazzling. Mick Rogers and Maggie Ryder's vocals are a potent combination, even plunging into Manhattan Transfer territory with a little studio trickery (on "Billie's Orno Bounce"), and Mann's keyboards and Rogers' guitars make a great lead instrumental combo as well. The strangest piece here, however, is "A Couple of Mates," in which Mann excerpts elements from several other pieces, including Holst's The Planets. The whole album is essential listening for anyone who's ever been a fan of Mann's work, or even of Gustav Holst's music -- even his remake of "Joybringer" (an adaptation of "Jupiter" from The Planets), which had previously been recorded by another version of the Earth Band, is distinctly fresh and startlingly beautiful, so much so that it was chosen to open the album, which is mighty impressive for a remade piece. Bruce Eder, Rovi
- September 6, 2011
- Manfred Mann's Earth Band
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