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Manning - The Ragged Curtain CD (album) cover

THE RAGGED CURTAIN

Manning

Eclectic Prog


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5 stars A great, sometimes acoustic based, proggy album, warm and lush keyboards, Guys voice is in shape, accompained by flute, acoustic & sliding guitars, just a perfect rhythm section and a key-role for Laura on sax. Accessible complex music with great proggy beats, sometimes leaning to very good singer-songwriter-songs; go buy this album and see them live!

And bye the way this album is to short and so is this review; there so many more to explore and to tell about this (partly) concept-album!

see www.mostlypink.tk for more info!!!

Report this review (#4759)
Posted Thursday, October 30, 2003 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Guy Manning has a very interseting, lispy voice. He sounds like a cross between Ian Anderson and the singer from Canada's Tragically Hip. This album has a very "old" sound to it. Very seventies, however clear and beautiful in technique. The prog sounds are verty subtle. I got a kind of Boz SCaggs vibe out of some of the tunes, mainly "What is it Worth." Well done, and gets better with repeated listening.
Report this review (#4760)
Posted Friday, January 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another superb album. Like the previous Manning albums,this one takes time to be absorbed as it is subtle and operates on a number of levels. The poetry of the lyrics plus the delighful and beautiful ensemble arrangements are great. Once again Manning surrounds himselff with gifted musicians and gets great performances out of them, especially laura Fowles on Sax and vocals. A must own - get a copy!
Report this review (#4761)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well how do I describe my album of the year? The latest album from Manning takes you through a musical journey, the trials and tribulations, the joys and sorrows of relationships, with powerful, sentimental, moving, exciting music, in the finest tradition of quintessential English Progressive Rock. Hold on a minute though, this album is not 'retro' or 'dated' in any way, the style and influences are all there, if you really need to listen for them, but this music can stand alone, it has something different in every song, it's new, it's real.

The album opens with the wonderfully gentle acoustic opener, 'A Ripple (From Ragged Curtains)'. Then the pace quickens somewhat with the fantastic foot tapping rocker, 'Tightrope'. A superb driving keyboard undercurrent, good solid guitar breaks and wonderful sax incursions, always done to perfection, adding to the mood but never dominating. The instrumental passage with 'Hammond' keys and laid back sax leads you into a false sense of calm before the song builds itself back up to a fitting conclusion.

'A Place to Hide' is probably the best gentle song I've ever heard. A deceptively catchy melody, delivered in the unique Guy Manning style, through the vocals, that rich powerful voice. The song may have that laid back feel but I soon found myself humming the catchy chorus.

'Where do all the Madmen Go?' is another superb song, with a slightly funky feel, constantly changing and building to a great guitar moment. Powerful yet wonderfully melodic, never hard on the ear, with a hint of something strangely familiar during the terrific guitar close out.

'Stronger' is another quieter track, but don't let that put you off, there is so much going on. The ever-changing backing sits effortlessly with the powerful but subtle vocals. A wonderful guitar break cutting through the laid back sax.

'What is it Worth?' glides along with interest all the way through, as does 'The Weaver of Dreams', the flute work from Angela Goldthorpe adding that something extra, but not taking away that typical Manning feel to proceedings.

To the final masterpiece, 'Ragged Curtains', what can I say? twenty five minutes of wonderful progressive music, Pink Floyd meets Mostly Autumn with a dash of early Genesis and a huge chunk of Manning. Wonderful quiet, almost electronic, ambient moments, some great time changes and subtle shades, bursting into life for an exciting, driving middle section. Then gently moving from full on to a gentler yet still powerfully emotive closing section.

This album has something for everyone, go on treat yourselves.

Report this review (#4763)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another great listening experience for me.

Although the first opening snippet of the album is in fact a teaser for the long epic Ragged Curtains which concludes the CD, this is an album of 3 parts, made up of two large suites of songs which are bridged by a shorter central piece.

The first suite The Marriage of Heaven & Hell (taken I guess from Blake) is an ambitious set of segued songs relating to the journey taken on our pursuit of love/relationships. Ripping an idea directly from Pink Floyds Dark Side..., the songs are interwoven with short soundbytes of interviews with various people about this topic. The suite is made up of some quite diverse tracks.

The more prog oruentated Tightrope is a tight rocker with plenty of solo opportunities for the lead instruments. This is a perfect candicate for a live rendition. It punches and delivers, guns blazing!

A Place to hide could have been a 'boy band' ballad! A quite infectious chorus delivered in a mellow jazzy way by Guy Manning & his players.

Where do all the madmen go? is a reggae tinged pop song which in its outro pays homage to All the young dudes which is a nice humorious touch. This 'guy' obviously does not take himself too seriously all the time!

Stronger is a more 80's sounding (synthetic drums) Howard Jones-esque type of affair which has nice evocative lyrics and is packed with emotional content.

The suite ends with the thoughtful What is it worth? which is one of the more jazz based songs on the album featuring nice cool sax parts from Laura Fowles.

A very full and rewarding set of linked pieces

The 'shorter' piede of teh album is The Weaver of Dreams a fantasy based lyric with a absolutely lovely middle section featuring Angela Gordon (guesting from Mostly Autumn) and Gareth Harwood (the excellent electric lead guitarist on this album). This instrumental centre build beautifully in a old school Genesis sounding arrangement - superb..

The album concludes with a lrge epic constructed piece Ragged Curtains which seems to deal with Sea, Stone, Sand as elements of mans development and history. I am not too sure what the 'Ragged Curtains of the title (andn in fact album titles) are however (anyone care to enlighten me?)

This a wonderful long series of movements with a big rock based feel (except for the 'Sand' section which returns us to a more rustic and folk tinged performance). The opening is quite wonderful with its haunting vocal and keyboards section before the band arrive full on with a riff that would have made Jethro Tull proud! Andy Tillison (guesting from the Tangent) lends his synthesis wizardry to to piece mixing in swirls of synth white noise and wind fx to colour in the atmosphere. 'Sand' features Angela Gordon again,s this time on recorders plus there is some lovely acoustic guitar work. Not alot of praise comes Guys way as to his acoustic playing, but there are plenty of maestro moments on all the Manning albums.

The album 'Ebbs' way with a large symphonic arrangementn reminiscent of a 'Suppers Ready' feel (or the like)

What a ride! Another absolute winner as far as I am concerned with lots to get the listener into here. The players/band perform to the max from the very solid rhythm section of Jonathan MacDonald Binns of drums and Rick Ashton on the Bass up to Laura F., Gareth H. and Neil Harris (main keyboards player) The song writing, lyrics and melodies are top notch and the production is clear and crisp

What more could we ask for?

Report this review (#161009)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars "The Ragged Curtain" has Manning drawing from a much wider palette than in his prior efforts. From the hard rock of "Tightrope" to the ballad "A Place to Hide" to the reggae tinged "Where do all the Madmen go", the start of this album takes us on wild ride. As I have said before, his impact seems stilted when playing the hard rocker, but the other two forays are both confident and marvelously realized, down to the circus like break in "Madmen".

"Stronger" continues to stretch the horizons with an ambient jazz mood. Manning's voice at times reminds me of a huskier Al Stewart meets a more listenable Ian Anderson, including on "Weaver of Dreams", which is otherwise somewhat lacking in excitement. Then we come to this album's epic, the title suite. The melody that had been introduced in the brief opening track is expounded upon at the start, and it proves a winner. Unfortunately, most of the rest does not measure up, as we get bogged down in more faux hard rock, until the gorgeous "Sand" segment. This ethereal ballad style seems to suit Manning much better. The main theme returns for "Ebb". So, again, a somewhat uneven extended piece.

"The Ragged Curtain" is aptly titled, containing highs and lows for Manning. Another good album, but not more.

Report this review (#168848)
Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A truly Eclectic Prog album.

So much that I have found it hard to put down on paper what I feel about it. This is a very complex album and the most multi-layered Manning album I have heard so far. Guy Manning went deep into the world of music on this album.

This album has everything from reggae to hard rock. Most of all; it has the 1970s sown up on one album. From Yes through Fairport Convention and Genesis to Bob Marley and Bad Company. I am sure there are tens of other bands I can mention here too. But I guess you get my drift. The music is mostly multi layered and very difficult to penetrate for a relative newbie like myself. I therefore regard this album as a bottle of wine I need to store for the next five years and then open. In other words; this review will be amended in August 2014. The things that binds the melodies into an album is melancholy and Guy's melancholic voice. The rest of the album is a pretty wild ride from the rather catchy opening song Tightrope to the twenty-five minutes long hard rocker Ragged Curtains.

Quality wise, I think this album is a good album. The songs are all good. But the main problem is the lack of a killer signature tune. The album is also too fragmented to really keep me interested throughout the almost seventy minutes it last. It is obvious that this is Guy Manning's most ambitious project ever. In anyone's standards; it is a very ambitious project. Guy Manning just about pulls it off.... just. It is a very good album, but not his best. This review will be reviewed and amended again in five years time because I think I need that timespan to let this album mature.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#235036)
Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is Guy's fourth studio album released in 2002. Several guests help out including Andy Tillison on one track. Guy dedicates this recording to his dad "For his love of life, the sea & stone". His father passed away the year this was released. As usual Manning writes and composes everything. Every album of Guy's I have heard has impressed me.There's depth and class to his work that stands the test of time. And I know as I get older these albums will become more appreciated.

"A Ripple (From Ragged Curtains)" is a short intro track then things kick into gear with "Tightrope" where the electric guitar and a full sound arrives. Spoken words in this one then the tempo picks up followed by vocals. Catchy stuff. The tempo slows after 3 minutes but it continues to shift. Nice sax 4 1/2 minutes in followed by organ.This is great. Themes are repeated and the sax is back late. "A Place To Hide" is a relaxed tune and vocals arrive before a minute. Sax before 3 minutes followed by guitar. "Where Do All The Madmen Go?" opens with spoken words and music. Almost a reggae vibe here. Some raw guitar too. Organ before 2 1/2 minutes. Some good guitar late.

"Stronger" again opens with spoken words as a beat with synths comes in. Reserved vocals arrive, then later we get some sax before 4 minutes. "What Is It Worth ?" opens with horns before the vocals take over. Mellow guitar after 4 1/2 minutes and spoken words end it. "The Weaver Of Dreams" features flute and a light beat. Guitar comes in then it settles as the vocals arrive. Contrasts continue. "Ragged Curtains" is the almost 26 minute closer. It's pastoral to start with what sounds like mellotron. Then we get flute as reserved vocals continue. It kicks in after 2 minutes.It then settles back 5 1/2 minutes in with strummed guitar and flute. Organ before 7 minutes. It kicks back in at 9 1/2 minutes then settles back as the tempo continues to change. A calm before 16 minutes with vocals.

As usual an enjoyable and rewarding listen. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#299323)
Posted Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars This is the fourth album from Manning (as this is really a full-blown band now, and not just Guy Manning solo) and sees the song writing take on a more mature angle, moving away from the progressive scene into one that is far more British in outlook, almost as if Richard Thompson has been involved with Grace. There are also small passages where people are talking about relationships, which does give the album something of a 'Dark Side Of the Moon' feeling. Although the album does contain strong musicianship it is geared towards providing a strong backdrop for the emotive vocals and it is these that drive the album ever onwards. Of the musicians, special mention must be made of Laura Fowles whose sax playing has taken the songs into another area.

It is the album closer that shows Guy at his most inventive, as at 25 minutes long "Ragged Curtains" allows him to bring together styles from the early Seventies up to the present day. It starts gently with keyboards and woodwind, vocals murmuring gently over the top, and then it becomes a vehicle for sax/guitar interplay before going off again onto another tack.

All the way through is the impression that this is a 'grown up' album, and although Guy has temporarily lost some of the band they are still playing some dates in the near future. Guy will always be associated with Parallel Or Ninety Degrees and with Andy Tillison-Diskdrive guesting on this and temporarily covering live keys that association looks set to continue. An album that is much more than 'just' prog.

Originally appeared in Feedback #73, Jun 03

Report this review (#978691)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2013 | Review Permalink

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