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Phil Manzanera - Diamond Head CD (album) cover


Phil Manzanera


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4.07 | 88 ratings

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4 stars Most progressive albums are heavy weights, this album is a pleasant exception to the rule. This was the first proper solo album from the well known Roxy Music guitarist. Diamond Head is an album that's easy to listen to and doesn't bore the listener after repeated spins. The reason for this lies in the variety of musical influences. Hidden in the pop/rock songs you'll find elements from Latin music, psychedelic music, fusion and prog. One of the reasons for this is probably the extensive credit list. The entire line-up of both Roxy Music and Quiet Sun are collaborating with Phil, helping him to create one of the best records he ever did. Too bad he didn't maintain the quality level on the next couple of solo albums..

Let's take a look at some of the tracks :

Surprisingly, the splendid opening track "Frontera" is sung in Spanish by Robert Wyatt. This catchy song includes Latin influences and very nice acoustic guitar chords. There's an exotic feel to it by the exotic percussion. The instrumental title track is a slower song. There's some excellent tunes on a bed of moody strings provided by Eddy Jobson. "Same time next week" is written in collaboration with John Wetton who's one of the lead singers in the duet. His female counterpart is Doreen Chanter who sings quite passionate, too bad her voice is hidden too much in the background. This melodic pop track has a highly enjoyable tune. Same thing goes for "Big day" and the excellent "Miss Shapiro" which are composed in collaboration with Brian Eno. The RM elements are undeniable present but it's clear "Miss Shapiro" was born during an inspired jam, it also has a touch of avant-garde which both Eno and Manzanera explored further on the John Cale albums they contributed to. Although these tracks are perfect seventies pop tracks, they are also showing the weak spot of "Diamond head" ; the album misses an excellent lead singer for all of the tracks even though the backing vocals are excellent. I've never liked the way Brian Eno sings, it sounds flat and some of the melodies do sound a bit childish but that may be a matter of opinion. Manzanera gets the support of his former QS colleagues in the instrumental "East of Echo" where the psychedelic influences are coming to the fore but RM is never far away as you can hear in the chorus and the keyboard parts. The classical influenced "Lagrima" reminds me a bit on the quiet songs of King Crimson. The combination of acoustic guitar and the oboe of Andy Mackay has an astonishing effect. Great reflective track ! "Alma" is a true prog track which combines the laid back feeling of Pink Floyd's Meddle and the astral sound of Camel's Moonmadness. The instrumental closing track "Carhumbia" is surf music. Most refreshing to find this kind of music on a prog album. Again, there's some Spanish influences and exotic percussion, Robert Wyatt is present through the jazzy trumpet parts.

Throughout the album there's off course the characteristic playing of Manzanera. Usually his guitar lines sounds floating. On "diamond head" the guitar gets more room to breathe which you can expect from a solo album from a guitar player. Still, "Diamond head" can barely be called a guitar hero album. The quality of the song writing and arrangements makes this album special. At the time, especially Eno was making a name for himself as a skilled session musician and producer. This album proofs that this was no coincidence at all. I suppose some of the material of "diamond head" is better known in the versions that appeared on the "801 live" album. I know prog fans will find this album a borderline case but nevertheless there's excellent musicianship and most of all brilliant song writing. If you like 801 and you have a soft spot for Roxy Music, you should check this one out.

Fishy | 4/5 |


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