Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Messin'

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Opening with Mike Hugg's title track, which builds on Mick Rogers' intense riffing and the killer vocals of Vicki Brown, Judith Powell, Liza Strike, and Ruby James, Messin' is pretty intense and involving from its very first bars. It's also damned topical and serious, for all of the free-wheeling rock & roll spirits and the progressive rock complexities that go into the playing. And the result is a spellbinding whole, featuring some astonishing keyboard flourishes by Manfred Mann himself (who ventures into Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson territory on "Buddah," even as the rest of the band seems to be emulating Deep Purple) and killer guitar from Mick Rogers, while Colin Pattenden and Chris Slade lay down the rhythm section like a pair of articulate pile-drivers. They pretty much stomp their way through their rendition of Bob Dylan's "Get Your Rocks Off" and do a gorgeous high-wattage blues rendition of "Black and Blue." The whole record comes out somewhere in the middle of art rock and heavy metal, along with (amazingly enough) topical folk, and does no violence to any of the genres -- and the band even works in a loose-limbed version of Dr. John's "Mardi Gras Day" as a finale. In a way, it's surprising from hearing this record that it took this band another two years, and an embrace of one of Bruce Springsteen's songs, for Manfred Mann's Earth Band to become truly well known, because all of the ingredients were in place, and their genre-bending sound was only the best, most accessible kind. The album was also issued with a different cover as Get Your Rocks Off, but Messin' has become the reissue title.

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