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Phil Manzanera - Diamond Head CD (album) cover


Phil Manzanera


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4.11 | 74 ratings

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5 stars Diamond Head was not only a solo album for Roxy Music's supremely talented guitarist but in retrospect a certainly defining groundbreaking recording. In many ways, the creative ideas that wouldn't or couldn't fit into the Roxy mould were simply retooled into a precursor of future genres that would soon pop up with vigor. On one hand, as with Eno's two first solo albums (on which Manzanera was heavily featured), the tone is a wilder, punkier , way more raw effect than the sleek velvet of "For Your Pleasure" or "Stranded". Some may even label it pre-New Wave. Secondly, Phil's childhood roots in Colombia and Cuba are clearly introduced front & center with Spanish lyrics sung by the masterful Robert Wyatt on the opener "Frontera", as well as on titles such as "Lagrima" and "Alma" .At the time, Hispanic rock had only the American Santana and little cousin Malo as spokesmen, yet this album is loaded with latino winks and nods (even on "Big Day", Eno sings about "gay Peru", pun central, if you ask me), opening the world music door even wider. This recording also highlights the incredible drumming prowess of the inimitable Paul Thompson, arguably the paragon of rock solid drumming with lots of substance and very little flash. Brian Turrington (as on Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy) keeps his bass busy, drilling deep markers on the musical road. Oddly, Eno is featured on the same album as the one who replaced him in Roxy Music, the illustrious Eddie Jobson. Both shine brightly. Throw in the trusted Andy Mackay on saxes, Ian McDonald of King Crimson fame on bagpipes and the afore mentioned Robert Wyatt and you have a sizzling lineup that can turn a tune. The title track showcases Manzanera's typical unpretentious take on instrumentals, veering into the deepest realms of originality, full of effect-laden sounds that can only delight. His guitar experimentations are his hallmark, with no finer examples than on this recording. "Big Day" is more typical Eno of the time, full of playful doo-wop backing vocals and a lead mike that truly surprises, the man can sing convincingly. "The Flex" is propelled by tons of jaunty clavinet, a long wailing saxophone solo, choppy guitar slashes, beefy drums beats, bouncing congas and this effortless feel that is truly stunning. John Wetton also supplies his usual stellar bass work, having toured with Roxy at the time and tossing in a typical bluesy vocal duet with the famous session singer Doreen Chanter on "Same Time Next Week", a Manzanera solo killing this one off nicely. "Miss Shapiro" is a superb classic driving track that sounds amazing even today, supremely drum driven, Thompson doing his Bonham thing (big fat beat) , Manzanera's rhythm guitar weaving a jangled architecture, setting up the greatest monotone Eno vocal with the funniest lyrics ever ("Pom-pom charmers"). You sort of wonder how deeply the emerging New Wave artists were influenced by this very off -the-wall material and style. "East of Echo" is another driving, heat-seeking instrumental that combines all the various ingredients that make Manzanera so charming: quirky riffs, strange tones, effects galore, tons of experimentation, brief sumptuous lead bursts, all held down by that masterful and relentless Thompson beat. "Lagrima" is an acoustic guitar exercise, full of dreamy bravura and the supreme Mackay oboe, combining to exude images of Andalusian pain, musical tears welling restrained. "Alma" is a six-minute sweeping tale with lead electric guitar leading the melodic charge, growling, howling, searching and beseeching. Frankly, this is a needed cornerstone in any prog, rock or guitar fan collection. 5 smoky windows in the square.
tszirmay | 5/5 |


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