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Phil Manzanera - 6PM CD (album) cover


Phil Manzanera


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3.97 | 23 ratings

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4 stars Phil Manzanera, who made a name as guitarist in Roxy Music in the 70s, has released a steady flow of solo material over the years, mixing a number of influences with a solid rock backbone. This, his 6th, is the first of a pair mostly recorded during the same sessions, the second being 50 Minutes Later which has a very similar feel. As the man himself says in his liner notes, much of the inspiration comes from his time spent in London in the late 60s when he first met up with the likes of David Gilmour and Robert Wyatt, both of whom play on this album. Also featured are his old Roxy colleagues Brian Eno, Andy MacKay and Paul Thompson, as well as Chrissy Hynde who adds harmonica and backing vocals to a couple of tracks.

The music here owes much to those psychedelic days, but overlain with modern techniques and sounds, and the sensibilities of someone older and, presumably, wiser. It is rich in texture and multi-layered, with repeated listening revealing some delicate nuances - always the hallmark of quality arrangements. While his singing voice is adequate but unspectacular, it is his guitar playing which is of most interest, and here he doesn't let us down, exhibiting inventiveness and energy with some excellent soloing. He is not a flashy player, nor is he egotistical - a sentiment born out by the amount of lead work undertaken by others - instead his guitar work is always complementary to the context of the song. Oh, and all the keyboards are also played by Phil!

Broken Dreams builds slowly from sound effects to a dreamy mid-tempo full-ensemble song with a multi-tracked guitar solo and some spacey treatments by Eno. Green Spikey Cactus, a bitter take on injustice ("Son of a bitch you damn darn potato-head I'm gonna swat like a big fat fly"), is a full-on rocker with treated vocals. The simpler love song Love Devotion has a more intimate soundscape of acoustic guitar and strings (Mellotronic?) which jogs along nicely with a memorable tune and an almost singalong chorus. Wish You Well, an ode to a late friend, is a simple song, with lots of acoustic guitars and an almost latin feel, though not particularly inspiring musically. Apart from a brief spoken passage, the title track 6PM is a more adventurous up-tempo instrumental, led by electric guitar and electric viola. Waiting For The Sun To Shine is another spacey mid-tempo song with some nice harmonies (presumably Phil with himself), an interesting arrangement, and some fine sax from Andy Mackay. A slightly jazzy texture is added by double bass and piano over an almost hip-hop type beat and repetitive percussion for the instrumental Manzra, where a variety of lead instruments fail to give the track any real substance.

The last 5 tracks form a mini-suite called The Cissbury Ring which Phil describes as a "psychedelic short story. The weaving of my visualisation of magic realism into a Hardy-esque / magical mystery tour of the South Downs in England with death (Shoreline), love (Always You) and final transcendence (Sacred Days)". The track Cissbury Hill is another good tune with a chugging accompaniment and multi-tracked electric guitar. Porlock is a short interlocking instrumental featuring Wyatt on trumpet, leading to the slightly weird Shoreline, an atmospheric arrangement with haunting vocals and oboe evoking a cold and lonely beach with gulls flying overhead and the tide coming in. Always You begins slowly with synth washes and a lone electric guitar, then a kick drum gives it some movement before Gilmour's guitar and Wyatt's trumpet add to the dynamics near the end. Starting encouragingly with some backwards guitar, the final track Sacred Days is an up-tempo psych work-out with an infectious repeated chorus ending with the duelling guitars of Manzanera and Gilmour.

This is an excellent album, full of progressive ideas, inventive arrangements, nice tunes and top class musicianship. It is also nicely presented in a tri-fold die-cut digipack complete with lyrics. Highly recommended.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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