TODO alt text

Chris Thompson: Berlin Live

A three-disc set from the Earth Band vocalist.

For Prog readers, this is only of partial interest. Because while the one-time Manfred Mann’s Earth Band frontman does an excellent job in reprising some of the best material from his three stints with the band, nonetheless there are also songs from his post-Earth Band career, which offer less for fans of the genre.

Always an exquisite and convincing vocalist, it must be stressed this single disc DVD/double CD set is entertaining. However, you will really have to be a dedicated Thompson fan to find it all enthralling. While there are some impressive performances here, it’s augmented with rehearsal footage and recordings that are only likely to enthuse the hardcore fans.

The core of this release is a show from Berlin, which makes up the two CDs. Hearing the man running through such Earth Band classics as Blinded By The Light, You Angel You, Davy’s On The Road Again and Mighty Quinn only serves to underline his importance to the success of the group in the late 1970s. His is still the definitive voice for all of these tracks, and he performs here with style, panache and his trademark conviction.

Apart from these gems, there are also songs from both his solo career and the time spent in the early 80s with Night, a successful melodic rock band in America. However, this is where Thompson shows himself to be adroit at a soft rock approach that offers little in accord with his previous status with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. But because his band here is musically sympathetic towards the more progressive end of the spectrum, there’s a connection to the Earth Band style even on these songs. All of which means there’s a little something to be gained from listening to the way they deliver material from this later era of Thompson’s catalogue.

The DVD has footage from a show in Aschaffenburg, as well as some rehearsal film, but this is a lot less satisfactory. If anything, it’s all a little patchy and appears to be here merely for the sake of quantity over quality. That, and the fact that the track listings printed on the sleeve bear little relation to the actual CD sequencing adds to the slightly slack presentation here.

He’ll always be regarded with warmth and favour thanks to his time spent with the Earth Band, but Thompson is now, by choice, only on the very periphery of the prog world. Despite heady moments of inspiration here, Berlin Live isn’t an essential purchase for Earth Band fans. And at a time when the entire MMEB catalogue has been reissued in a box set, it’s hard to recommend this triple disc as anything other than a curio at best.