Tree" presents a fictitious family
tree for Dr. Jonathan Anser who lives in the not-too-distant future. The concept came to Guy as he imagined stories of people from the past and people in a rather watery future. The homonym concept driving "Anser’s Tree" is "Ancestry." The album presents our collective search for meaning and belonging as a part of a vast pattern spanning several hundred years and ending with the same search. Far from a fruitless journey, the search reveals many revelatory and mysterious, narratives that coalesce into the existential fabric of existence.
Ranging across a
wide spectrum of sound, "Anser‘s Tree" grants the listener a "feel" of each era
through clever inclusion of Canterbury thematic elements, mature song writing
and a balanced presentation of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. The CD
is truly a delight for the ears.
While Guy Manning plays Acoustic 6 and 12 String, Classical Guitars, Electric Guitar, Mandolin, Keyboards, Basses, Drums, Percussions and provides Samples and Vocals, he is joined by Andy Tillison on Moog, by Ian Walter Fairbairn on "Fiddles," by David Million on Electric Guitars, by Stephen Dundon on Flutes, by Neil Harris on piano and ARP, and by Laura Fowles on Saxes and Vocals. Manning’s sound is so mature at this point in his career that the album sounds like a true band, even though the CD is really a solo effort with guest musicians.
Manning continues to establish himself as the "Troubadour of Prog," emphasizing the importance of a well-crafted melody. "I’m working with good musicians…but I do not build songs for extensive solos. There are little solos here and there, but we’re not like (other bands) that can simply jam along and dazzle the audience for hours." The "dazzle" here lies in the solid, consistent song writing abilities of Manning himself.
Guy Manning has a prolific career. As a solo artist, he releases a CD roughly every year. This incredible output is tempered by a cycle of activity and emotions in Guy’s "fiscal year," a year that commences around November. In classic sardonic tone, Guy relates how his family "helps" him: "It’s usually about that time that I start to whine and moan that I don’t know what I’m going to write, and my family look at me and say ‘Shut up.’… Around January or February, I’ve started to work in my home studio, and my family come into the studio and ask me what I’m doing in there, and I tell them, ‘Shut up.’" By about August, Guy has written and recorded the majority of the work. The next two months are devoted to the details of the album, like artwork by Guy’s friend and artist Ed Unitsky.
Sometime in October, the CD is out and Guy starts the whole process over. As he attests, "You either can write songs and produce them with ease, or you can’t. In my case, the yearly cycle seems to have been something that works for me." His plans may change for 2007. "Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll give you a break. I may be collaborating with a band. Not sure yet, so I can’t say who." Whether or not Guy decides to collaborate or release another solo effort, if the results are similar to "Anser’s Tree," we are all in for a great ride.
If you have a prog fan in your home, "Anser’s Tree" should be under your Christmas tree. A fantastic listen, this CD will probably wind up as one of my top picks of 2006.
By the way, the bonus poster showing the Anser family tree is quite helpful, so try to order it through Progrock records (https://www.progrockrecords.com/) or through Manning’s website, www.guymanning.com.
Manning: "Anser’s Tree"
Progrock Records, 2006
1. Margaret Montgomery (1581-?)
2. Jack Roberts (1699-1749)
3. William Barras (1803-1835)
4. Diana Horden (1900-1922)
5. Joshua Logan (1990-2048)
6. Prof. Adam Logan (2001-2094)
7. Dr. Jonathan Anser (2089-?)
Total time: 63:32