Bread's third album, Manna, isn't so much a step forward as it is a consolidation of strengths, as the group sharpens their skills and carves out their own identities. It's clear that the rift between David Gates and Robb Royer and James Griffin is beginning to take shape, as the album is evenly divided between Gates tunes and Royer/Griffin compositions. This benefits the album, since it spurs each member to greater heights, and they even tend to sequence the record in ways that support that sentiment -- Gates' "Let Your Love Go," complete with its rockin' harpsichords, is followed by the hard-driving verses of "Take Comfort," which, admittedly, is tempered by a dreamy chorus. And while some of the rougher edges present on Bread or On the Waters are sanded down slightly, they're still there, providing good contrast to such soft pop landmarks as "If." Yet, this is a record that is laid-back and even tempered, which isn't a bad thing -- it results in a fine listen, especially since the group's songwriting remains at the high standard instituted on that first Bread album. AMG.
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