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K-SCOPE

Phil Manzanera

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tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Phil Manzanera is rightly considered as one of the greatest rock guitarists, up there with all the legends mostly for his prog-related work with Roxy Music, a band that was so original in a period when style was a jean-dripping world of "basse-couture" and where new sounds were constantly brewing. Brief footnote: Bryan Ferry actually auditioned and was rejected for the King Crimson vocalist slot before kicking off Roxy whose first album was produced by Peter Sinfield! Formentera Lady with Ferry crooning would be somewhat Bee Zarrr! Anyway, Manzanera was the fretman/frontman for Quiet Sun, whose Mainstream album was universally greeted with applause, even though the music was completely in the heavy Soft Machine exploratory style that rejected commercialism with snobby aplomb. If Manzanera requires some more prog pedigree (he later co-wrote a few Pink Floyd tunes with a guy called David Gilmour), one will notice that he produced the spellbinding first Split Enz album, the quirky "Mental Notes" to the utter puzzlement of the rock world! But if you demand PROG proof, well "K- Scope" was recorded over a period of 8 weeks in Chris Squire's home studio, with gold and platinum discs decorating the walls! Besides Kiwis Tim and Neil Finn (later to become the immensely popular Crowded House) and the amazing keyboardist Eddie Rayner, this album also contains such prog stalwarts as Mel Collins (yeah! That sax!), former Quiet Sun, 801, Matching Mole and Random Hold superburp bassist Ian McCormick and the inimitable Simon Phillips on drums whose credits are about 2 kilometers long! Roxy pals Andy Mackay, John Wetton (toured with Roxy after KC and before his Uriah Heep gig) and the incredible Paul Thompson make stellar contributions, as well as Kevin Godley and Lol Crème of 10CC fame. Finally Francis Monkman of Curved Air and Sky makes a brief cameo. Most of these fine musicians also appeared on the previous Manzanera/801 "Listen Now" album. A fine record this is with the mental instrumental title track kicking the proceedings into nervy gear, Manzanera's Farfisa organ as much a highlight as his swerving guitar work. "Remote Control" is a brief but subsonic punko-prog tune that is speed incarnate with Tim Finn's demented vocals zipping along uncontrolled (remotely or otherwise). When he sings "Still itching for the great panacea", you realize this is absolutely insayne, mayte! Offering the polar opposite in terms of velocity, "Cuban Crisis" is reggae-prog with a Latin tinge that is a sloooow burn, bass heavy and snip-snap drum rhythm, aided and abetted by Rayner's upright piano funkying up the mood, the spotlight on Tim Finn's sweaty bluesy delivery that verges on perfection "Run run run run". "Hot Spot" keeps the heat squarely on the manic beat, this time conducted by that wacked out Collins saxophone, delirious as usual, tortuously morphing into a disco beat (similar to Love is the Drug") but weirder , as "The neon radiation makes your body glow". A schizophrenic guitar solo closes out this little gem which is not what it appears to be. "Numbers" is John Wetton 's turn to shine, both vocally and lyrically by including references to King Crimson and Roxy Music classics ("CP8 5938") with Phillips drums ripping along and Manzanera flipping another understated six string jewel. "Slow Motion TV" is a return to quirky prog-pop that is totally noncommercial, closer to 10cc than anything else in Popland. "Gone Flying" is the guitarist displaying (by his own words)"nifty" chords both on rhythm and lead guitars, creating distinctive sounds and colorations as opposed to the standard soloing prevalent in those days, with some exemplary work by Simon on drums and neat vocals and bass by Bill McCormick . "N-Shift" is another sentimental instrumental with Phil's experimental, non regimental string bending style (are there enough insanities here do you think?), a groovy jam that is a pure delight to any prog lover out there (or in here, for that matter). The best track here and the proverbial cherry "Walking Through Heaven's Door" is a prog master track, again featuring Collins, and after a dreamy almost Canterbury like intro, the menacing bass of Wetton takes this smoky sucker into some murky undertows that grows like a creepy vine, slithering mercilessly until morphing into a third section that explodes all over the speakers, the title repeated over and over like hallucigenic dementia. The original album ended on the Manzanera one man show "You Are Here" where our friend weaves a rich tapestry with Andalucian themes mixed with various Yamaha CS80 atmospherics that stamp his prog visa for life. The bonus tracks on the reissue offers a raunchy live longer version of Remote Control with a randy Andy Mackay sax solo and a simply philthy Phil lead, lewdly better than the studio version, then a short demo version of "Slow Motion TV" called "It Doesn't Matter to Me" but turns out really sloppier than the final studio version but shows how musicians mould their compositions from rough to shiny and "finalement", Roxy's famous "Out of the Blue" that quite obviously cannot reproduce Ferry's smooth voice but offers a good Manzanera solo as well as some fine oboe work from Mackay. "K-Scope" may not necessarily be everyone's cup of tea but please bear in mind that this was created in 1977, the year the Sex Pistols reared their very ugly (and I do mean ugly) heads and altered the musical horizons only temporarily (for their limited talent could only last as long as the three chords they had learned). This remains fresh and vibrant today and comes recommended to those for whom audacity is a prime quality. 4.5 K marts

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#165473)
Posted Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I had an idea in my head of what a solo Phil Manzanera album would sound like, and it sounded like this. THIS, in case you're wondering, is art pop/rock that not only sounds like his various side projects but enlists many of them as well: Roxy Music, Split Enz, Godley and Creme, Brian Eno's backing band. Roxy fans are likely to have the most interest in Manzanera's solo career, and yet K-Scope is more likely to please fans of early Split Enz or Godley and Creme. The songs (there are only three instrumentals) feature Tim Finn, John Wetton and Bill MacCormick on vocals (logical deduction tells me that Bill and brother Ian are responsible for the silly lyrics, which are less clever than Eno but in the same bananaland). When Tim's singing, which is about half the time, it's hard to escape the Split Enz comparison. Bill MacCormick surprises with two vocals, including the charming "Gone Flying," while John Wetton (marbles firmly in cheek) is fairly credited with "voices" on "Numbers." Despite the revolving vocalists, K-Scope remains a consistent listening experience because the same left- of-center principles are at work in every song. While Eno more was more consistently inventive, K-Scope is a better record than G&C's L, perhaps because Manzanera doesn't seem to have so large an ego to feed. He sticks to his strength (the lead guitar) and surrounds himself with smart folks who know what to do: Mel Collins, Simon Phillips, etc. Highlights include "Gone Flying," "Walking Through Heaven's Door" and the instrumental "K-Scope." Whether this is the best of the Manzanera solo elpees, well, I couldn't tell you. However, he deserves a gold star simply for not copping out with an album of instrumental fuzz like Robert Fripp, Andy Summers and the other gauzy guitarists of his generation (although the closing "You Are Here" suggests it may be a suitable destination for PM some day).

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#288961)
Posted Saturday, July 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars I happen to love this album. Sure, it's not truly prog, but it is adventurous, in the same way as a 10cc album might be. The album is extremely well produced, and extremely well written. I really find the whole thing quite infectuous.

The proggiest tracks are the instrumentals, K-Scope, N-Shift and You are here. But I enjoy the vocal tracks even more. The lyrics are tongue in cheeck, again like 10cc. Who can resist Hot Spot, with lyrics about dying of radiation poisoning (among other things) while dancing away at a disco? And the "number" puns sung by John Wetton in Numbers are a delight.

It's while listening to this that I realized that one of the main reasons I have been disappointed by later Manzanera albums is the lack of Bill MacCormick's bass. His bass lines add much to Manzanera's albums, and were essential to their sound.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#291219)
Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Manzanera's best (and most progressive) work is his "Quite Sun" project and their only album of the same name. His solo albums are usually more pop-oriented, even if some of them are of good quality and enough interesting.

K-Scope is second on the line Manzanera's real solo album. Music there is melodic multi textured art-pop/art-rock in the vein of 10 CC (Lol Crème participated on this album as backing vocalist by the way). In their best moments, musicians play really nice arranged ,if a bit cheesy, soft-rock songs with wide influences from reggae to Latin. In worst - songs are a bit repetitive and too pop-influenced. Anyway, I believe almost any fan of later Roxy Music or 10 CC will like this music.

Personally for me most attractive moments are a bit jazzy arrangements with deep excellent bass of Bill MacCormick. Manzanera's guitar work is very competitive as well, and few Mel Collins sax touches added some pleasant flavour as well.

Not the best, but one between strong art-pop albums of late 70-s.

My rating is 3+.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#296257)
Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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