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Phil Manzanera

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Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#77151)
Posted Thursday, May 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Is Phil Manzanera incredible or what? The pioneering guitarist has a style that always searches out new tones and territories, so that when writing accessible material, the axe work would swoon in utter creativity. With such prog stalwarts as Robert Wyatt and David Gilmour as well as the inimitable Paul Thompson (arguably one of the greatest rock drummers ever), the incomparable Brian Eno and the suave Andy Mackay from the Roxy days, this recording also has Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders on "fuzzy" harmonica and backing vocals. The disc is clearly a two chapter affair, the first being a series of rock tunes that singe the outer edges of progdom, with healthy doses of originality and amazing sounds. The languid lament of "Broken Dreams", the mesmerizing sing-along with an almost U2-ish feel "Green Spikey Cactus" featuring a torrid Mackay sax blast, the bluesy "Love Devotion", the laid-back and countrified "Wish You Well" (a wink to his previous "Listen Now" album and with a fluid Bill McCormick bass solo) and the rousing "6pm" that unpretentiously show off Phil's unique style both on rhythm and his unmistakable lead contortions. "Waiting For the Sun to Shine" sounds almost like an RPWL song, progressive pop that is just too strange to be commercially viable, with loads of "Enotonic" drenching some obtuse guitar atmospherics (just like in the good old Roxy days) and sealed with a gallant Mackay sax shine. "Manzra" is a terrific instrumental ode that has a gentle lilt, highly melancholic, conjuring images of "Primitive Guitar" days and an absolute treasure track. The second chapter is subtitled "The Cissbury Ring", a multi-part suite featuring the unmistakable trumpet and drums of the legendary Robert Wyatt, offering up some whimsical Brit prog with a slight Canterbury feel, where nostalgia, humor and first-class melancholia prevail. Two brief snippets: "Porlock" is more trumpet with Phil's shimmering sonics adding some atmosphere and "Shoreline" is introduced by a superb Andy Mackay oboe, enveloped in sheets of wind-blown synths . "Always You" is a drop dead gorgeous melody, leading into the apotheosis track "Sacred Days", where the rambunctious arrangement is firmly anchored by a typical whopping David Gilmour solo guitar. Manzanera has already a reputation as a class act (Roxy Music sort of laid that in stone) and frankly really doesn't need to be doing this but his legacy has always been about being undeniably progressive. Very few guitarists today can ever lay claim to that accolade. No wonder he has so many friends and so many fans. 4 amazonas.
Report this review (#166478)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars It's 6 PM, do you know where your Phil Manzanera is?

This is Phil's second excursion into lead vocals for a solo album, five years after Vozero, and he's definitely sharpened up his vocal skills and found his style. Phil had started out doing fairly progressive solo albums, but drifted off into more commercial material, but seems to be getting back to a more progressive area. Phil says in the liner notes he was kind of reconnecting with the '60's so the music has a dominant psychedelic atmosphere to it. Unless I missed it in the liner notes, Phil is not only the lead vocalist, but the lyric writer.

A nice array of musicians have come along for the ride on this one: Paul Thompson, Brian Eno, and Andy Mackay from Roxy Music; Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders (you can always, uh pretend she's not here if you don't like that group); Robert Wyatt, from Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt; David Gilmour from that Pink band. Sorry if I've overlooked anyone else I know of or should have.

The opener Broken Dreams is a song about uhm, broken dreams. I'm not sure what the Enotonic is all about, but I think I like it.

Green Spikey Cactus. Should have had some commercial potential, but not in this and that day and age (2004). Hynde on backing vocals and harmonica. Mackay shows up for some sax action. Nice rocking little piece.

Love Devotion is a nice mellow sweet song about what, I don't know, might be a clue in the title. Phil takes on piano and keyboards in addition to guitar. You have to admire the multi talented musician. Andy M.'s oboe is a rather nice touch.

Wish You Well, sentimental, ethereal background vocals, I do believe it to be about someone departed, who is not apparent so it could apply to someone you might know. Phil's featured on acoustic, something you'd rarely hear with Roxy if at all.

6PM picks up the pace with some uncredited vocals in Espanol. Mostly instrumental, very rockin'.

Waiting For The Sun To Shine is a nice optimistic song. Phil decided to mess around some electronic drums rather than have an actual drummer. Still it's all cool. Andy sax and more Enotonic, whatever the hell that is.

The instrumental, Manza, wraps up what would have been an LP in the olden days and sets us up for what would be the second side. For all I know this album might have been released as such in a limited expensive edition, but I expect not.

The Cissbury Ring is basically a concept album side, five tracks meant to be taken in as a single unit.

Cissbury Ring is a nice intense instrumental that kicks off before Phil ads his singing. Very psychedelic and reminiscent of old times, Beatle-esque. Porlock is a nice short instrumetal interlude with Phil, Robert, and a double bassist by the name of Yarron Stavi, then the mood gets rather somber with Shoreline: "And as the sun sets, The sound of darkness, Is there evermore." Always You is about who I don't know, just another sweet song about you whoever you are. Gilmore gets in on the action for this one and hangs around to wrap up the album with Sacred Days. More homage to the late '60's. "Some things are meant to be."

One of those largely undiscovered gems that I think should appeal to many a prog fan.

Report this review (#202732)
Posted Saturday, February 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The best so far! Why? Phil Manzanera cuts it short with the insisting and somehow cliched "Latin" flavors of most of his songwriting. This guy may not be a "natural" songwriter but in the proper atmosphere he can work out some great songs, scarce, but great.

In 6PM he manages to hold an entire album without the aid of some of his known "solutions" to music composition. Of course there are latin touches and of course he surrounds himself with a great group of very well known musicians (as usual) and this work is no exception. But what really makes it tick, is precisely that in this project he lets others make full uninhibited participations all along the way.

So it feels more surprising when you in contrast listen to some Latin-fusions here and there, in between other musical stylings. In my opinion his best songs except for "Southern Cross" are usually non Latin fusioned based or at least more balanced in that regard.

So... polished songs, oustandind musicians, nothing could go wrong, but with Phil you never know and "6:PM" proved me wrong from start to finish.

Yes! Phil Manzanera is able to run through an entire album with grace and restraint, in an all great songs and inspired performance project, To be honest, I never thought he could pull it off , less for a whole album, but he certainly does!

****4 "well worth the wait " PA stars.

Report this review (#979713)
Posted Sunday, June 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars In Phil's words. "6PM is my sixth studio album but unconsciously it seems to be allied to my first in "Diamond Head" (1975). A lot of the same people play on it and the inspiration seems to come from the 60's." The two studio albums Manzanera mentioned are the only two I have but man what a couple of great albums. The man is so talented being a multi-instrumentalist plus he owns his very own recording studio and has helped Robert Wyatt in that regard. Oh and speaking of Wyatt he adds trumpet and drums on here, no vocals as Phil takes care of those. Phil of course has been on so many albums and has been a big part of 801, QUIET SUN and of course ROXY MUSIC. Other guests include Chrissy Hynde adding backing vocals and harmonica. David Gilmour guitar, Brian Eno electronics, Andy MacKay sax and oboe, Bill McCormick bass, Paul Thompson drums and many more.

This is melodic and commercial sounding at times but man it's all good. So many interesting tracks and some that I'm singing along with. The opener "Broken Dreams" is so uplifting despite being about his father's sudden passing. Just a feel good song. Chrissy is showing her talents on "Green Spikey Cactus" which is about social injustices. "Love Devotion" is folky with strummed guitar but man I'm just belting it out with Phil. "Wish You Well" is about his friend Ian MacDonald's death. Clearly a subject he and Phil discussed when you hear the lyrics. A very cool piece that is melancholic. The title track is another great sounding tune. Some energy here and I like the guitar a lot. "Waiting For The Sun To Shine" features another catchy chorus with lyrics I have to sing to along to. "Cissbury Ring" signals the start of five songs blending into each other to the end of the album as we hear this psychedelic short story. That opener is so 60's sounding and one of my favourite songs.

This will sit proudly beside "Diamond Head" on my shelf despite being recorded some 30 years later. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#2608253)
Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | Review Permalink

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