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Phil Manzanera - Manzanera Mackay: AM . PM CD (album) cover


Phil Manzanera

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Timeline: July 1972 Place: Sankt Gallen, Switzerland Situation: Summer school, learning German Discovery: I received the yet still unreleased debut Roxy Music album, straight from EG Records, as a fellow student came back from London with a few copies. I fell in love there and then, and has not waned after 51 years, listening, and owning all the relevant solo and offshoot albums.

Destroying this silly notion that musicians reach a creative peak in youth and then sort of slack off as they supposedly strive for the dolce vita, is the purpose of reviewing this gently scintillating 2023 album, from two British bandmates whose lifelong friendship and collaboration has survived many Bryan Ferry mood swings (and there have been many). Phil Manzanera is a creative guitar legend of the very highest order and Andy Mackay remains arguably the most well-known and loved saxophone player outside of Mel Collins. With "Am.Pm.", they have created a rather exhilarating all-instrumental release that truly deserves more than cursory acknowledgement, perhaps even tossing in massive applause. Bringing on board 'The Great Paul Thompson' on the drum kit was a great move, as he is surely among the powerful three with Bonham and Moon! He is very present when needed on a few tracks requiring some oomph! For some, focusing on a wordless albums may seem to be an unsurmountable slope but there is a huge difference between tunes and music, though the latter will demand more imaginative concentration as well as personal interpretation. I happen to love that freedom of thought, especially from musicians I have ingrained in my DNA! As is always the case with these seasoned pros, you never quite know what to expect, as it can easily veer into jazz, pop, ambient, electronica, latino, rock or even classical orchestra. Suffice to say, that adventurers of this calibre do not need to rely on anything else but fascination for new textures and sounds, maintaining a half century of a most original sound that is so obviously theirs. The thrilling "Blue Skies" sets a torrid mood right from the start, as the Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson trio lay down an intoxicating horizon of sounds that is very true to their early roots, where screeching guitars ratchet up the electricity, insistent organ churns and swirling synthesizers bubble from Mike Boddy, a suave saxophone adding that lusty sensual innuendo and a nice tight beat keeping everyone muscularly athletic. A volcanic opening wake up call. Perfect breakfast soundtrack for "Mat1", the bright morning sun illuminating the sound kitchen with an assortment of tasty delights, nothing hurried or frantic (no pun intended), the heady aroma of Colombian coffee brewing awakening the senses, ready to tackle the day. "Yazz" is oboe central, well-rested serenity in an ambient soundscape, all about detail and ornamentation, the ideal platform for a slow duet between the suave guitar and the sexy horn. Anymore relaxed and it would serve as meditation before any hard work can begin. When the lads meet up for their Extraordinary General Meeting, aka "EGM", the time has come to discuss some creative energizing, the positioning of a fundamental beat and applying a wide palette of experimentation on the saxophone, improvised smoothness in the arrangement and echoing guitar slashes. "Ambiente" is, as the title would imply, smooth as dulce de leche, a sweet excursion into the vestiges of calm composure and inner resonance, real musical exploration with a purpose. The caring "Newanna" is like a floating swimming pool of recently inflated plastic dolls, without providing either a dream home or even a heartache. Just calm observation, acoustic guitar arpeggios and a reflective sax that lets the mind wander, deluxe and delightful. Meandering into the next vignette, "CC" is slow and gentle, sentimental, like a sorrowful memory of a time gone by, the images still oh so vivid, with Mackay glowing like the brass he caresses. The insightful "Ambulante" offers a sonic travelogue of softly shifting vistas, another example of exceptional musical restraint as Manzanera patiently emotes on his fretboard, often in harmony with the ambient saxophone. The tonal dexterity displayed by both is phenomenal. Now the party's over and I'm so tired, we reached the final bend and the jazzy tenderness of "Seth" glows like a vigilant candle as the sun goes down on another life. Urbane, classy, delicately powerful, a perfect au revoir! Is there a heaven? I'd Like to think so!

4 still beating hearts

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Posted Sunday, December 3, 2023 | Review Permalink

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