Fans of muscular progressive rock will love Solar Fire, a concept album loosely designed around cosmology. The album opens with the majestic "Father of Night, Father of Day," which has the drive and complexity of a prime King Crimson track. As unlikely as it may seem, the track was controversial in Mann's native South Africa because of the "Father of black, father of white" line, implying that apartheid might not extend to infinite space. The album moves on to the progressive rock/jazz fusion of "In the Beginning, Darkness," a swinging, even funky track that benefits from soulful vocals by Doreen Chanter and Irene Chanter of the Grove Singers. The same duo contributes to the title track, a slow piece that begins with a fairly standard rock structure and incorporates a massive progressive jam in the middle. The instrumental suite which follows is a showcase for the combination of angular, sometimes slightly dissonant guitar with fluid keyboard work, and the band rocks straight through with stately grace. Once again, one is reminded of early King Crimson, which was about the only other group to turn out complex, shifting instrumentals of this quality. The album closes with the strange "Earth, the Circle, Pt. 1," which begins almost like a nursery rhyme, switches to a jazz shuffle, and fades out as an odd combination of the two. The album was groundbreaking when it was released and is still a delightful listen. If you like the hard-edged side of Manfred Mann, this may be your favorite album.
AllMusic Review by Richard Foss