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ANSER'S TREE

Manning

Eclectic Prog


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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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Send comments to platform (BETA) | Report this review (#90528)
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an absolute 'grower'.

I bought it at the recent Rotherham concert where Guy and friends played some of his own tracks and then he participated in a truly magnificent Tangent set.

At first listen, admittedly crossing the Pennines on a dark and wet night, I thought 'OK'.

However, with every new listen it just got better and better and continues to do so.

I will not detail every track as the previous reviewer has already done this very well.

To get the best out of this CD, you need to know the background of each track so read the sleevnotes very caefully beforehand and if you can, buy the CD asap to receive the free 'family tree' which also very much enhances the experience.

Quality yet again, Guy, can't wait for the next!

Steve Adamson

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Send comments to progadder (BETA) | Report this review (#91336)
Posted Saturday, September 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is only my second posted review, the first also being for a Manning album 'View from my window'. I cannot recommend this disc enough, even though when I first heard it I was not immediately taken by it. I found it a little disjointed & awkward, not as instant as his previous albums.

If you are familiar with any Manning albums (if not then shame on you!) you will know that the man gives superb value for money in the creativity stakes, each album not just being a repetition of the previous formula but something totally different & original. You really don't know what to expect when the new one arrives, from a 3min pop song to a 33min epic & everything between. This is certainly no bad thing & a major draw of any Manning album.

As I said this album does at first feel a little disjointed & may frighten off the casual listener. Please do not let that be the case ! The more you play it & the more familiar you are, the better it gets. It took me about 6 spins to really appreciate the whole album, for each track to reveal it's glory & detail.

Each track is like an epic all of it's own, he is not shy about trying new things & this really shows, as he tells the stories of the characters found in 'Ansers tree'. From the bursting flute in the folky opener, to the grand marching beat of the finale this album is a real winner.

I would recommend this disc to anyone's ears, give it time & you won't be disappointed. If you are new to Manning's work, you will be back for more. guaranteed.

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Send comments to Simon Jackson (BETA) | Report this review (#94714)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With album number 8 in as many years, Manning has produced an excellent release for anyone into keyboard-dominated musical explorations of the prog variety.

This isn't a keyboards only thing though; Manning is a multi-instrumentalist that handles just about any instrument that can make a sound, so there's a plethora of other instruments to be heard here as well. And all songs have foundations the keyboards accompany, from the folk-inspired opening to the more modern sounding last tracks on the album.

Mostly mellow and dreaming though; this is not for fans of music with hard edges. My closest description of this music would be mellow, symphonic rock.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#127053)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I agree with most reviewers here. This is surely a grower. It wonīt grab you at first, but after repeated spins youīll find an excellent concept work that holds probably Guy Manningīs most ambicious prog work ever. Every track is a mini epic on its own and should be judge separately, such are the many shifts and turns the music goes throughout each tune. I thought initially Anserīs tree would be a kind of folk oriented album since much of the songs deal with people from the past, but thatīs not really the case. Sure, there is lots of folkish stuff here but there also jazz, rock and symphonic prog influenced parts all over the place. Itīs hard to pigeonhole Manningīs music on Anserīs Tree and thatīs something good.: itīs Manningīs own music. It sounds like nothing else, like it or not.

To fully appreciate this strong efford you should read carefully the bookletīs notes and lyrics. They will lead you through the story and clarifies the whole plot. As it is usual in Manningīs CDs, production, arrangements, cover art, etc, are expertly done. Of course some songs are better than the others, but there are no fillers. Highlights? Iīd pick up Jack Roberts, a brilliant song with great keyboars, flute and sax solos, while progheads probably will favor the complex, 14+ minute William Barras. But thatīs just a personal choice. All tracks are very elaborated and they all have their merits.

Conclusion: Manningīs boldest and most progressive work Iīve heard so far. This a labor of love and again no small detail seemed to be overlooked. Very well craft. Anserīs Tree is an excellent addtion to any prog rock music collection. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#235522)
Posted Friday, August 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars A solid collection of tunes.

This album was my introduction to Manning's solo output (it was the only album available to me to purchase at the time) and I have to tell you straight away that this is not the place to begin. I must admit that initially, when playing this album, all I could think was "is this really what the great, prolific Manning sounds like?". I was expecting more, that much is certain.

Starting with this album almost stopped me from exploring further, which would have been a tragedy, so again, I strongly recommend starting somewhere else. There are some serious gems in his discography, both before this one and (especially) in the albums that were still to come.

Back to this album though, as many have said in previous reviews, it is definitely a grower. A little bit of patience and multiple listenings (and further explorations into Manning) have sort of tempered my initial distaste for this recording and now I appreciate it much more.

The album is very much a concept album, with a strong focus on narrative and story-telling. The liner notes reveal that each track has rather a dense back-story, and you begin to realise that the story was perhaps the main focus of Guy's attention at the writing stage. This helps the album feel quite cohesive, and gives you something interesting to concentrate on as Guy sings. The problem with this approach (at least on this particular album) is that you are left with few standouts or highlights, though there are a couple.

Opening track Margaret Montgomery, the most obvious highlight, is a very appealing Jethro Tull inspired track (yes, the flute makes an appearance) with a simply wonderful, dense arrangement featuring a wide variety of folky instruments, of which the violin in particular impresses.

Elsewhere on the album, Jack Roberts has a very powerful instrumental mid-section with the sort of keyboard work that really appeals to readers of this site, and the last few minutes of closing track Dr. Jonathan Anser are very stirring, indeed.

A word on the production. It's not quite terrible, but it's close. There's some nice separation between the instruments, so everyone's part can be heard, but that is the production job's only saving grace. It sounds incredibly thin and weak, like a much older recording. It's also unusally quiet, to the point I had to turn my player up much louder than I normally would. By comparison, A Matter Of Life And Death, which was recorded two years prior (!!) sounds fuller, sharper AND clearer. Bizarre.

All in all, a very good album (with a weak production) that is quite definitely recommended, but only to the Manning initiated.

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Send comments to Eapo_q42 (BETA) | Report this review (#324931)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
4 stars This is my first acquaintance with GUY MANNING's solo albums (his band Paraller Or 90 Degrees I haven't yet listened to. He appeared on a TANGENT album I've heard, and on the "Spaghetti Epic" anthology together with his bandmate Andy Tillison). I was happily surprised about the quality of this album. And not only music is good, also the visual and narrative level is interesting: each track is about a character (some of them may be real historical persons, I'm not sure, but the living years of the last few ones go to the future so obviously they are fictitious!) and their stories are printed after the lyrics. For example: woman in the 16th century presumed to be a witch; a miner in a mining accident; New York's first woman police who gets killed by a criminal; scientists dealing with the environmental crisis.

Songs are longish (7 tracks make 63 minutes) but not very symphonic or Neo-Proggish in structure; there appears refrains and choruses to some degree and there are no notable solos. But they never get boring, and they are clearly progressive rock with a rich instrumental pallette featuring e.g. mandolin and reeds. Jethro Tull -reminding folkish touch is present throughout the album. Which leads to the thing that was circling in my mind right from the start...

Boy, he sounds disturbingly much like Ian Anderson! No, his voice is not as distinctive and warm, but his way of producing the sound is very close to Anderson's. If you like Tull, that shouldn't be a problem per se, but it may feel slightly annoying. Does he imitate Anderson consciously?

Another thing that decreases my rating a little is that the songs don't differ VERY much from each other. For example the tempo is more or less the same; I was hoping for either slower or faster tempo here and there. But still, recommended and easily worth four stars.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#462623)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink

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