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Manning - The Root, The Leaf & The Bone CD (album) cover

THE ROOT, THE LEAF & THE BONE

Manning

Eclectic Prog


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kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars In late 2012, Guy started formulating the idea about writing a concept album about a faded village that has become lost beneath the march of progress, and started creating pieces based around these themes. However, he soon found that if he kept tightly to the theme then he was too restricted, so instead moved away from the original idea, although many of the songs are still about the nature of change in one way or another. When I played this for the very first time I was surprised how 'warm' the album is, almost like a wonderful comfort blanket, and all I wanted to do was to wrap the music around me. Guy will always find himself compared to Tull, due both to his vocal and musical style, and if I was to think of this as something from Ian Anderson then this would fit right in the middle of the Seventies, although there is much more saxophone used and not nearly as much flute.

On this his 14th album, Guy provides Acoustic 6, 12 & Classical Guitars, Bass, Diddlybow, Drums, Incantation Bell, Keyboards, Mandolin, Percussion, Samples, Lead & Backing Vocals and as well as his band of David Million (Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Banjo), Julie King (Vocals), Kris Hudson-Lee (Basses) and Rick Henry (Percussion) he has plenty of guests to further assist him in filling out the sound.

It took me a while to get used to the keyboard sound, which is often like that of the old electric pianos, and in turn this gives the album quite a dated feel. But, the more I played this the more I found that instead of being a detraction it instead became an integral part of the whole sound. Each of the nine songs has a real story to tell, but the one that really hits home for me is "The Forge" which muses romantically about the loss of craftsmanship in favour of mass production. Lyrically the song is wonderfully evocative, "The bellows & the furnace dance in furious harmony, Wind & flame on a bed of earth in elemental symmetry, Born out of sweat in a battle to commence, Grappling with the raw flow with just his implements". Musically the rhythm and cadence of the song also makes one feel that they are in the presence of the blacksmith, hard at work with his iron and fire. In many ways this reminds me of Show of Hands, although more proggy and less folky.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to hear all of Guy's solo albums, plus of course those he has recorded with groups like The Tangent, and this stands up as one of his finest releases. He brings together classic songwriting and great lyrics, with emotion and drive, creating music that takes plenty of influences from the Seventies but making them relevant for today. Although the songs contain many different styles and instrumentation, they are tied together with Guy's soft vocals as he brings the listener in closer and creates an intimate experience. Superb.

Report this review (#1044423)
Posted Thursday, September 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I thoroughly enjoyed last years Akoustic CD from Guy Manning the stripped down versions of his songs from his catalogue admirably highlighted Guys proficient and melodic song writing skills Although owning and enjoying all of Guys releases his most recent releases of ' Charleston' and 'Margarets Children' did not really connect with me. Would I be enchanted by The Root , The Leaf And The Bone ? This album is a series of compositions that reward the listener as it reveals its many facets. I have heard this CD on a number of occasions and each play has provided an extra nuance or subtlety to be appreciated. It has many references to a wide variety of musical genres and artists ,but is totally unique in its breadth and execution . 'The Root , The Leaf And The Bone' is adventurous in its musical vision and takes the listener on a journey that is never predictable, but often memorable and exciting. One of the major and most apparent differences to much of Guys previous compositions is the dominant part that keys play throughout the release. I have recently been revisiting Guys first CD 'Tall Stories For Small Children' . In ' Tall Stories For Small Children' acoustic guitar creates the framework for many of the tunes in 'The Root ' the acoustic guitar has been replaced by a large extent by various keys. The other notable difference in 'The Root ' is that Guy has chosen the Saxophone to be the means to usually carry the melody and explore the themes that he has created.

Here are my thoughts on the nine tracks that make up this wonderful and highly recommended release.

The title track 'The Root , The Leaf and The Bone' is an inspired piece of work and one can only begin to imagine the time that Guy must have invested to create a piece that is both complex, and melodically accessible at the same time. It is an intriguing piece of music that incorporates so many different styles and moods. This piece starts with a beautiful pastoral introduction featuring flute and keyboards Guy gently sings 'Strip away the layers overgrown , down beneath the underside it lies alone ' In this track words such as Down and Underground are sung with double effect vocals which add to its atmosphere and are used to create rhythmic sections. The subsequent parts of this track are very reminiscent of William Barrass from Ansers Tree. I especially liked the keyboard section at 5.02 which moved into a memorable instrumental break featuring the organ and flute.The piece includes a very inventive section using the words ' tic toc' , before the main melody of the tune is reprised. The latter stages of this lengthy piece features some great fiddle playing and synth accompaniment before a repeat of the spoken words ' tic toc' ? with flute. The piece climaxes with a slow organ and flute section reminding of the opening melody before pastoral choir vocals take over. The title track is probably one of Guys most progressive pieces. It epitomises what Manning is about : superbly crafted melodies and a totally eclectic style that cannot be categorised

Deconstruction Blues Imagine hearing a fluteless Tull playing with Buddy Rich. 'Decon(struction) Blues' might well be the nearest that you will ever get to hearing such a thing. It starts with a riff that a Benefit era Anderson would have been envious to have written. It has great brass instrumentation and a killer chorus and if that was not enough David Million comes to the fore with a excellent guitar break This is another five star tune and it will go down a storm if it is played live

Autumn Song This is great tune featuring some tasteful bass and a Flute and bassoon accompaniment I enjoyed the repeated ripple like keys in the chorus. This is one of the few tracks to feature some very tasteful acoustic guitar. It is memorable The Instrumental outro with the sax was beautiful and at times it reminded me of Jan Garbarek's work. Marek Arnolds sax work throughout this release is outstanding and fully compliments Guys vision. The decision to end the tune on a hum was inventive and worked really well

Forge The piece begins with a metallic beat providing a musical link with the title track that once again reminded me of Ansers Tree . This provided an excellent way to build the track as the organ and rhythm section combined to give this opening section a feel of ' money' from Pink Floyd. The backing vocals of Julie King worked particularly well as the track progressed .The track repeats its rhythmic start before continuing with a synth and an instrumental interlude featuring the flute. The extended sax solo within this piece is also very enjoyable and helps to reinforce my view that this album may well be regarded as Mannings most accomplished yet. Old School I was surprised by the beginning of this track. The discordant background of kids voices gave me an audible reminder of the intro of the title track from Alan Gowen's Before a Word is Said. The opening part and the vocal and backing vocals work well to create a sinister atmosphere in this tale of repression and school. The track features a wonderful sounding guitar tone at 5.20 and an inspired organ solo from John Young at 6.54. Another very enjoyable track, although at times I thought I was listening to Klaus Doldinger as the repeated sax phrasing reminded me of Passport.

Place of Delights Although Guy is not known as a fusion or jazz rock musician sections of this excellent composition had me thinking about two giants of Jazz Rock Weather Report and Return To Forever This track features a great opening riff that could have been something that Weather Report featuring Wayne Shorter might have played . The saxophone parts and chorus with backing vocals by Julie King reminded me of the Music Magic era of Return to Forever. The bass playing of Kris Hudson Lee is a feature of this track. He lays down a great groove at before Marek Arnold once again shines . The piece concludes with a wonderfully constructed guitar solo and ends with a thunderous drum and percussion conclusion

The Huntsman and the Poacher This is a tune that has a memorable chorus and is a testimony to Guys abilities as a tunesmith. It is a classic 'folk rock tune' featuring lots of solo fiddle and great lyrics The chorus of 'At The end of the day' has been my ear worm all day. The production on this tune is very good, it includes a section that has handclaps and the staged introduction of different instruments in a way that had me thinking this is Guys 'Velvet Green'

Mists of Morning Calling To the Day I enjoyed the opening bass section and the repeated riff that dominates this track. Stephen Dundon is featured in the early parts of the tune and provides some lovely flute before a change of tempo occurs and a Floydian guitar sound gives this track a vintage feel.

Amongst The Sleepers This track features some of Guys best vocals on the album and some warm acoustic guitar. Its pastoral end with a whispered vocal reprise 'caught in deep contemplation of all the people I have known' was a fitting end to a fine album.

Overall , this is a stimulating , innovative and thought provoking release. It will be interesting to see how Guy arranges these tunes in alive setting and I for one am looking forward to his forthcoming gig at Rotherham to see this work performed.

Report this review (#1056270)
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This band is so prolific... You could think ...albums so near one to each other...it can affect music quality ...but no... A must is to congratulate Manning for being so original......a kind of symphonic pop folk prog... Sometimes Jethro Tull. (vocals in the Ian Anderson way)..sometimes Spocks Beard...Neal Morse ,Kansas......or other classic symphonic or folk prog. So a very sweet, delightful album ..with so much variations...so innovative ,creative... Compositions and instrumental arrangements are excellent Very good musicians .. So is very impressive how taking out in so less time albums plus albums...they can get so much musical quality.. For me is a 5 star piece...in this times of so repetitive and lack of originality prog....
Report this review (#1076503)
Posted Thursday, November 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A very difficult album to review, this one. After no less than 4 masterpieces in a row, I was not that excited when I listened to this new Manning CD. So I decided to wait a little longer and listen some more so I could give it more chances. But, alas, my first impression didnīt change much. Donīt get me wrong: this is a very fine work. As usual youīll get a lot of 70īs references and sounds, tasteful arrangements, a near perfect modern production, stunning performances and lots of good melodies. It is just that those songs didnīt captivate me with the same power as his previous works.

There are no real lows, but also neither there are anything that stood out as well. Like if a little something is missing, you know? Maybe a more uptempo tune of sorts? Something simpler and more direct? On the other hand, all tracks are of merit and have good moments. Some are excellent like Old School. I really canīt put my finger on it.

Maybe I was expecting too much, specially after the ambitious and more symphonic Margaretīs Children. I still like The Root, The Leaf & The Bone a lot, but clearly this change of musical direction didnīt strike a chord with my tastes as much as Number Ten (2009) for exemple. Maybe next time. However, even if I didnīt appreciated it that much I still do recommend you listen to this CD carefully. Manning is one of those rare cases when an artist so prolific never released a bad album.

Final rating: 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1431681)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2015 | Review Permalink

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