Released: March 1971
Chart Peak: #21
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 12/21/72
With the unlikely moniker of Bread, sans hip status, scorned by Underground FM DJs, they retain an unusual and rather phenomenal popularity. You might call them innocuous. They sound a little bit like the latter Beatles at their most saccharine, a bit like the insipid heart of CSN&Y, and a lot like a perfect radio distillation of the last year's most sentimentally pseudo-personal balladic trends. Love Story making headway in the wake of used-up styles once called folk-rock and hooking a thoroughly ambivalent audience. And in that crassly calculating process they manage to be thoroughly appealing.
The new one offers no surprises. One nice thing about Bread is that they're totally professional, and as Mellow as most of the music is these days, they never cop out to sheer sloppiness; every riff is precisely enunciated and the drummer never drops a beat. Maybe that's what's wrong with them, they just might be too perfect to live, but that's a matter of taste, and who knows what we'll be listening to tomorrow anyway? They've got standards and they sing with feeling, and maybe that's enough right now.
Manna has a heavier schmaltz quotient than their other two, but then On the Waters drew more from Tin Pan Alley than their first one. And then again, schmaltz has more branches then meet the eye. Burt Bacharach is schmaltz aplenty, but so is Elton John, and even if "If" sports lines like "If a picture paints a thousand words/Then why can't I paint you"; the tale of woe called "Come Again" works its way to "Time -- the friend that would bring him around,/Is turning on you and it's bringing you down."
Admittedly that's out of context, and even out of context it seems to bear a certain authenticity, but who needs lyrics like that no matter how genuine? Do we really need for rock 'n' roll to explicate epistemological dilemmas and the traumas of our love lives? Will Bread or their brethren patch rended romances with the universality of their supra-sincere stanzas? Tune in next album, if you really need it, and see what this human drama can do for you and yours.
Not everything they do smacks of soap, though. "Let Your Love Go" and "Be Kind To Me" are effective injunctions to rock 'n' roll women to come across, even if they do lack the visceral urgency of the real thing. After all, this is about as insistent as Bread gets. And the clever Elton John-Dory Previn Hollywood moonings of "Come Again" bridge into the worthy lope of "Truckin'," which not only kicks the ass of the Grateful Dead song by the same name but is one of the very few second generation "truckdriver" highway songs that doesn't echo "Six Days on the Road." It'snot gonna surprise you, but it delivers with a rare consistency, which is about the nicest thing you can say about Bread. It's hard to imagine going out of your way for them, but they're nice to have around.
- Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, 5/13/71.
Bread seems to be essentially a one-man group, and that man is David Gates. He has written many of the songs here, done all of the arrangements, and functioned as the producer. He's talented in all three areas, but most strikingly as a composer. His best songs ("Let Your Love Go," "He's a Good Lad," and "If") have a decidedly commercial tang to them without lapsing into outright pandering to the tastes of teenagers. The lyrics often get bogged down in a moony kind of sentimentality about loneliness, lost loves, and the pain caused by a lady's refusal to let her love go (i.e., say yes). The performance by the group is expert and professional, but still lacking the sort of spark that would make them unique -- not an unusual circumstance in one-man groups, where one creative mind seems to be at work and the rest only tagging along. This is a nice album, but one has the feeling it's time Gates went out on his own.
- Paul Kresh, Stereo Review, 9/71.
Bread's Manna is an earthy, sensuous blend of folk and rock designed to get the listener heady with the gusto of its onslaught. In this album, the four-member ensemble really gets it all together with such chart-riding hits as "Let Your Love Go" and others, including "Too Much Love," "Be Kind To Me," and "Come Again." Their new hit "If" is included for added sales impact.
- Bilboard, 1971.
Bread's third effort builds strongly on the foundation laid down on their first two records. More great singles (including a rocky "Let Your Love Go" which didn't do quite as well as the ballads on the charts) and more great album tracks were included. * * * *
- Jim Worbois, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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