Manfred Mann - Angel Station
The cover of Bob Dylan's "You Angel You" is the best track off this otherwise unremarkable album. I find it kind of peculiar how Manfred Mann had some of his biggest successes with Bob Dylan covers. However, I don't listen to this album much now and the band itself was, for me, reminiscent of a time in popular music when punk was changing the face of the music world and bands like this refused to change or adapt to the new wave and were about to be swept away. As a result, this album was destined to fade almost as soon as it was released.
Yes it had some style - it was well-produced, it had some good musicians on it and it was well-played. Having said that, the over-emphasis on the synthesiser was a little wearying at times. Manfred Mann may well have been one of the best keyboard players of his generation but I was never a great fan of that instrument and found that all too often it was used to cover up basic deficiencies in ability or a critical lack of creativity. I cannot lay the first charge here, given Mann's undoubted ability, so I will stick with the second. That may explain the earlier remark about Bob Dylan covers.
"You Angel You" apart, the remainder of the tracks on the album are a humdrum affair at best. "Don't Kill It, Carol" is probably the best of the remaining bunch, but although it is quite catchy it never really takes off. "Angels at My Gate" has some clever work on it but is not good enough to sustain much interest. The rest are forgettable to the extent that I don't even remember what they sound like any more. Even a track like "Waiting for the Rain" which has surfaced under a variety of other artists is lacking in memorability. It makes me wonder if I should listen to it again to see if age (mine and the album's) has improved it. Probably not, but when I have the time and the inclination, I may well give it another spin just to see.
What was lacking was a combination of style and feeling. The style was not there - this was indistinguishable from a host of other bottom feeders at a time when the sharks ruled the oceans. Feeling, well there wasn't any at all. Music has to be played with feeling to be meaningful, to distinguish it from mere sound. Without feeling, a piece of music might as well be the background thumping of a jackhammer, or the alternating pitch of a car alarm gone off. Hell, it might as well be hip-hop at its worst! The closest I can approximate it to is the ill-starred Yes album Going for the One for its combination of pop with distinct prog rock leanings. It was an unsuccessful marriage of styles at the best of times and this album does not represent the best of times.
Given my plain dislike for this album, which in many ways typifies the sort of MoR direction which music was heading to until punk shook it up, you may ask why I own this. Well, that one track, "You Angel You", was one of handful of tracks which was played in certain circumstances which hold fond memories from me. I always associate those times with those times. Oh why had downloads not been invented back in the seventies or eighties. Albums like this would not be in my collection, but songs like this would be - and probably would be listened to a whole lot more as a result.
However, the age of technology came after this album was released - long after - so that option was simply not open to me. This album just doesn't cut it any more in terms of what I listen to. In fact, I am pretty certain it never did. If it had not been for that one track I cannot see any reason why I would have got this album. Were it not for the fact that I am a near-obsessive when it comes to hoarding stuff, I would have probably got rid of it long ago.
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