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Manning - Anser's Tree CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 75 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars A solid collection of tunes.

This album was my introduction to Manning's solo output (it was the only album available to me to purchase at the time) and I have to tell you straight away that this is not the place to begin. I must admit that initially, when playing this album, all I could think was "is this really what the great, prolific Manning sounds like?". I was expecting more, that much is certain.

Starting with this album almost stopped me from exploring further, which would have been a tragedy, so again, I strongly recommend starting somewhere else. There are some serious gems in his discography, both before this one and (especially) in the albums that were still to come.

Back to this album though, as many have said in previous reviews, it is definitely a grower. A little bit of patience and multiple listenings (and further explorations into Manning) have sort of tempered my initial distaste for this recording and now I appreciate it much more.

The album is very much a concept album, with a strong focus on narrative and story-telling. The liner notes reveal that each track has rather a dense back-story, and you begin to realise that the story was perhaps the main focus of Guy's attention at the writing stage. This helps the album feel quite cohesive, and gives you something interesting to concentrate on as Guy sings. The problem with this approach (at least on this particular album) is that you are left with few standouts or highlights, though there are a couple.

Opening track Margaret Montgomery, the most obvious highlight, is a very appealing Jethro Tull inspired track (yes, the flute makes an appearance) with a simply wonderful, dense arrangement featuring a wide variety of folky instruments, of which the violin in particular impresses.

Elsewhere on the album, Jack Roberts has a very powerful instrumental mid-section with the sort of keyboard work that really appeals to readers of this site, and the last few minutes of closing track Dr. Jonathan Anser are very stirring, indeed.

A word on the production. It's not quite terrible, but it's close. There's some nice separation between the instruments, so everyone's part can be heard, but that is the production job's only saving grace. It sounds incredibly thin and weak, like a much older recording. It's also unusally quiet, to the point I had to turn my player up much louder than I normally would. By comparison, A Matter Of Life And Death, which was recorded two years prior (!!) sounds fuller, sharper AND clearer. Bizarre.

All in all, a very good album (with a weak production) that is quite definitely recommended, but only to the Manning initiated.

Eapo_q42 | 3/5 |


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