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Manning - Number Ten CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.78 | 92 ratings

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4 stars Guy Manning is severely underrated and Prog's best kept secret, not getting enough tender loving care from us fans. But he troops on like a dedicated soldier, producing quality albums, dripping with juicy folk/rock/blues adventures that have a storyline and a delivery to boot. His tenth album in 10 years proves that he is prolific as well as supremely talented. "Ships" is an infectious cavalcade with bruising organ, rippling guitar and that suave sax that cleverly permeates all his compositions. A sing-along Springsteen like chorus and a rapid pace keeps the toes tapping, as the wind breezes through the open windows of your speeding sports car. Laura Fowles blows with some Clemonsian fury, the synths crackling in the maze, the full fledged guitar solo searching and searing. Yeah, babe! "The Final Chapter" is a moodier venture, perhaps closer to classic Brit folk, loaded with flutes, fiddles and bluesy guitar fills and a light yet impassioned vocal, replete with that now famous nasal twang (a dash Ian Anderson, a slice of Dave Cousins and a tad Al Stewart) and an uncanny ability to compose songs that have meaning. The keyboard bombast adds oomph to the proceedings, clearly progressive and not some folk yawn- inducing lattice, as the instrumental sections display great technical musicianship and that gutsy spirit that must be so utterly amazing live, certainly one of his finest tunes. "An Ordinary Day" lullabies with delicate piano, the spotlight firmly on Manning's trembling voice and his deeply felt lyrics (Cousins, eat your heart out!), condemning the routines of daily life. A stunningly gorgeous melody lights the chorus up with genuine simplicity and the "candles burning bright" reflects on the dim reality of a forlorn existence. "Bloody Holiday" is a sardonic wink and humorous nod at your typical British travel experience , a take on 10CC'genial "Dreadlock Holiday" (mentioned too) with hilarious lyrics dealing with the pains of voyage, the sarcasm and self deprecation dripping with that English savvy. A superb groove section with e-piano, sax and synthesizer really gets the mood aroused. Fun, fun, fun ("Enjoy the ride?") that even hints at early Manzanera or Eno albums. "Valentine's Night" is quite surprising as Guy raises an octave and sings high- pitched with very English skill, as an organ roils into unseen musical gulfs, loaded with colossal string orchestrations that heighten the vague melancholia of a sorrowful evening once, long ago. This is Manning at his most creative, gliding self-assured in a musical terrain he is very comfortable with and its obvious. The 10 minute + "A Road Less Traveled" returns to the slight Gaelic influences that are so particular to the British Isles' musical tradition, mandolin taking the front and center stage with that magic flute , as Guy relates another one of his patented stories about war, heroes and homecomings. Timeless and unpretentious music that flows effortlessly and soothes the soul, it has a mid-section that evokes the sweaty deserts of the troubled lands of war, swirling synths and cascading guitar follies adding to the magnificence of the remembrance theme. Classy guy, Guy! "Another Lazy Sunday" slithers into raunchier expanses, featuring exotic percussives and a quirkier atmosphere that again reveals some early ENO-esque humor with more dashes of 10CC harmonies, another example of an artist enjoying his craft and not swimming in pretense and arrogance. The lazy Sunday sax delivers its sexy message once again with exhilarated verve. "The House on the Hill" is the 15 minute 4 part epic finale, flute propelled by organ (I bet that's Tillison!) that recalls the Tull extravagances with typical Manning passion and attention to detail, some Beatles-like harmonies and a sublime sax blast that exudes warm fury and intricate bravado, the following keyboard section features funky lightning fast piano and an expressive guitar solo that veers towards unconventional dissonance. Manning always surprises, not really pigeon-moldable, constantly on the vanguard of something comfortable yet elusive. I deeply enjoy my 6 albums, I need to get the missing 4 soon because I am convinced that we are in the presence of a prog giant, easily within the prolific realms of Steve Wilson, Xavier Phideaux, Andy Tillison (yeah, love him or hate him) or Roine Stolt. Excellent opus, Guy. I hope you forgive my admiration for your splendid work. 4.5 Downings
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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