The American Tears debut ‘Branded Bad’ is a fun spin and while it’s not up to the pomp majesty of the Touch album, it’s an important piece of the American progressive/AOR puzzle.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: American Tears
SERIAL: KC 33038
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Mark Mangold – keyboards, lead vocals * Gary Sonny – electric and acoustic bass * Tommy Gunn – drums, percussion
TRACK LISTING: 01 Sweet Changes * 02 Doctor Abreaction * 03 Low Down Need You Badly * 04 Crooked Is Quicker * 05 Pauline * 06 Lock And Chain * 07 Take Me Lord * 08 Louie * 09 Pennywall * 10 Slidin’ Home
Mark Mangold is one of those names in melodic rock that commands attention no matter what he does, recent forays into new age music excluded. A talented guy, but a reputation built on just two albums in my opinion – the third American Tears album ‘Powerhouse’ and the immortal Touch debut which is truly one of the best AOR albums our beloved genre has to offer.
The overrated Drive She Said and the painfully average Mystic Healer I could have done without and while you have to give Mangold credit for continuing to put his musical hat in the ring, his best work seems to be long behind him. Which brings us to the American Tears debut with the cheesy title and equally repulsive cover art.
I’m not sure what the woefully misguided visual concept was, but the image of the band is unmistakably glam while the music inside is keyboard fronted prog. It’s no wonder record buyers didn’t bother, but tune wise it’s not as bad as you might imagine or have heard from other sources.
Being open to classic progressive rock such as Triumvirat, Procol Harum and the first couple of Supertramp albums will certainly help, but it’s not a prerequisite.
Make no mistake Mangold is the star of the show and his everything but the kitchen sink keyboard work on ‘Branded Bad’ is exemplary. He’s his own man with his own style and with no shortage of good material; I particularly like the opener ‘Sweet Changes’ with its playful piano, innovative synth washes and gradual hook.
‘Low Down, Need You Badly’ is heavily reminiscent of low-key Supertramp as is ‘Crooked is Quicker’ with Mangold’s grinding Hammond front and center. But it’s the slower tracks like ‘Pauline’ and ‘Pennywall’ where American Tears excels, the latter being the best of the lot with a dash of Mellotron near the close.
American Tears follow-up ‘Tear Gas’ was more of the same and obviously Mangold patience was wearing thin enough to revamp the line-up for ‘Powerhouse’ and as they say – the rest is history.
Reissued more times than necessary, ‘Branded Bad’ is a fun spin and while it’s most definitely not up to the pomp majesty of the Touch album, it’s an important piece of the American progressive/AOR connection and worthy of any serious collectors shelf space.
Low Down Need You Bad
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