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Manning - Anser's Tree CD (album) cover

ANSER'S TREE

Manning

 

Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 60 ratings

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4 stars Rasping flute contrasting with melodic flute passages ,inspired fiddle playing, subtle acoustic guitar, ,shifting keyboard textures ,virtuoso saxophone and blues based electric guitar solos are all found within Guy Manning's latest release. Ansers Tree is difficult to categorise as it draws upon so many musical styles and influences. It is a real eclectic mixture which rewards some degree of effort on the part of the listener. Repeated play of this disc reveals many layers of musical excellence. It has hidden depths just waiting to be discovered. Ansers Tree's overall sound and style has stylistic links with Guy's previous releases. It should appeal to fans of his music. However , Ansers tree is arguably more complex than his last release 'One Small Step' and as a result is probably not as easily accessible. It features excellent ensemble playing, frequent changes of mood and tempo within individual songs. Ansers tree is a concept album in the grand tradition of such epics as a Passion Play, 'Tales of Topographic Oceans' and 'A Passion Play'. It tells the story of the ancestors of Dr Jonathan Anser and how Dr Anser discovers the secrets of his genealogy. Lyrically it is intriguing. The CD begins with the memorable line . 'Ice Cold Valleys protect from the eyes of all strangers that wander the hills'. This sets the lyrical bar high for rest of the CD and it does not disappoint. Margaret Montgomery begins with a beautiful flute melody before lulling you into thinking that this song is going to be a straight forward folk rocker albeit with a memorable chorus. It explodes at the 2min mark with a superb flute break played by Molly Blooms Steve Dundon . Steve's playing throughout this CD is magnificient . He is clearly inspired by Ian Anderson and has perfected a dirty flute sound reminiscent of Anderson at his most guttural.. The biting flute solo is closely followed by a tasty acoustic guitar interlude. When the song resumes The keyboard runs in the background remind of sections of 'On The Carousel' from Guy's 'View From My Window' release It's a great opener.

Next up is Jack Roberts. This is worth the price of the CD alone. It evokes images of mountains and solitude. It features a melody that can be hummed and is epic in proportions. The mood changes at the 3min mark to feature some remarkable keyboard playing by The Tangent leader Andy Tillison This section of the song is supplemented by one of the most beautiful flute passages I have heard . The track ends in climatic fashion with soaring Sax playing and backing vocals . Simply memorable and just wonderful Track 3 William Barnes deals with a mining community of the North East of England and a specific mining disaster. It begins with a folk rhythm led by a fiddle and augmented by handclaps . I found myself imagining miners singing along to this in their working mans club . It then develops into a progressive workout that has numerous imaginative twists and turns. The music consistently reminds of the subject matter of the song. It generates vivid thoughts of the miners lot and the work they did. Parts of this track remind me of Tull's A Passion Play. It has that same riffy feel with vocals soaring overhead accompanied by complex rhythms. One instrumental section even reminds of 'Nice little Tune' from Tull's Minstrel in The Gallery. This sentiment is further is reinforced when the flute enters the fray at the 5.40 mark in great fashion Emotive vocals call out 'Is anyone else alive down here ? A haunting and unnerving track which once heard embeds itself into consciousness. This is partly because of the great chorus which is just unforgettable ,but is largely because of the many different facets of this lengthy piece. I particularly love the outro of this track with its piano and spitting flute before the folk rhythm is revisited .

Diana Horden is another track that has proved to be a real grower . Its Sax led rhythm just works and demonstrates Guys ability to craft a good tune. Once again the track develops and has many excellent moments . The flute features heavily in a lovely instrumental part before the Sax led rhythm resumes.

Joshua Logan is probably the most straight forward track on the CD. On repeated play the lyrics which are basically a series of questions have become irritating. The track as a result is not as satisfying for me as the previous tracks . Of note and I assume it was not accidental, the end section revisits parts of 'Lead Me where you will' from Guy's Cascade album The longest track on the CD is Prof Adam Logan. Initially, I did not like it , but it has revealed its true nature over time. Whilst not my favourite on the CD it has enough subtleties and nuances to make it an interesting and rewarding listen. It also features a chorus which might just get your Granny singing as well. Interestingly parts of this track also conjour up memories of aspects ' A Passion Play'. It also includes a great ending that includes the singing of 'Singing in the Rain ' ala Fred Astaire. I suspect though that some will find the lengthy outro on this track tiresome and unpalatable. Made me smile and sing anyway

The final track brings the whole concept together . Dr Jonathan Anser has discovered the secrets of his past and departs to a lengthy instrumental cacophony led by the Sax and guitar. So ends Ansers quest. I for one cannot wait for the next instalment Highly recommended

Preston

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