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Manning - Charlestown CD (album) cover

CHARLESTOWN

Manning

 

Eclectic Prog

3.49 | 129 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Negoba
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Graduating to Semi-Pro from Advanced Amateur

At Progwarts school of Symphonic Wizardry, Guy Manning is a solid 4th year pupil. He's got a firm command of basic prog key sounds, including Canterbury maestro Dave Stewart's signature distorted organ. He's learned Ian Anderson's vocal mannerisms. He strums a mean bazouki. Various friends provide the requisite flute, drums, and lead guitars with decreasing levels of skill respectively. But overall, our student is meeting all expectations and is ready for his jump up to semi-pro musician.

For his 4th year project, we get CHARLESTOWN. As part of the assignment, an epic was required, and Manning surely ran with that idea! At 35 minutes he more than doubled the required length. One can forgive some of the lack of focus given the zeal of the developing artist. We also get several shorter pop-tinged songs which fits perfectally into the model of modern prog. Manning's voice is clearly the most developed and emotive of his many instruments, but he obviously hasn't completed his study of Peter Hammill yet. I should also add that Manning's compositional skills are also pretty good. Sections flow together nicely, and he blends a nice variety of sounds to keep up some variety and interest. This would reward our pupil with graduation to the next level with a solid B.

Joking aside, this album sounds like a hobbyist's project from the beginning. As other's have said, the production is very raw. But it's not raw in a noisy garage band kind of way, it's raw in the ProTools 101 way. The playing is almost too perfect, too deliberate. The drumming is especially mechanical. It often sounds as if the percussion is programmed or played though a digital set, but it is so perfectally on the beat that the music has very little groove at all. In fact, all of the parts are just too safe. There just isn't feeling of risk anywhere on this disk. The instrumental solos have little fire. A few of the guest musicians add a little life, but I never get the feeling that they are allowed to really cut loose.

Probably my favorite song on the album is "Clocks," with it's hummed harmony vocal and mellotron bridge. Rhythm is provided only by a pulsing jingle bell, and the acoustic guitars, and the song benefits. "Finale" is also a nice little prog instrumental, but the other short songs are pretty much throwaways. "Caliban and Ariel" and "T.I.C" are the weakest to my ear while "The Man in the Mirror" is typical pop-prog. The epic has a few nice melodic themes, long instrumental sections, and enough repetitions of "Coming Home" to almost annoy but not quite.

So as the title says, Manning strides the line between amateur and semi-pro musician. And all the criticisms that point to that fact would be moot if the music itself was more inspired or communicated better. But the songwriting is at about the same level as the rest of the work. If it was a fellow local musician, I'd say nicely done. But placed against the world of prog music, this is a 2-3 star effort. Hopefully he'll get some help on production, inject a little more fire into the performances and we can discuss the work of a bonafide prog wizard.

Negoba | 2/5 |

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