Manning: The Cure
Cyclops (CYCL 088)
Guy Manning was one of the founder members of
Gold, Frankincense and Disk Drive, a duo with Andy Tillison, which evolved to become
Parallel Or 90 Degrees. Guy continues to work with Andy and PO90 on a casual basis but has also built his own career as a singer/songwriter. In 1999, Guy released his debut solo album
"Tall Stories For Small Children" and - apparently after having so much fun in the studio - has gathered together a band to record his second album,
"The Cure", under the name Manning. The line-up is quite similar to his last - Guy on guitars & bass, vocals, keyboards, drums & percussion and mandolin, Andy Tillison on additional keyboards and drums, Jonathon Barrett on bass guitar, Simon Baskind on drums and percussion, Laura Fowles on sax, Ian Tothill and Iain Fairbairn on violin.
Unlike Tall Stories, which was primarily an acoustic singer/songwriter album with added instrumentation, The Cure has a definite 'band' feel about it and is certainly a lot more up-beat and rocky than Tall Stories ever was. The album seems to be divided into three sections: Syndrome, Therapy and Prognosis with seven tracks, five of which are part of the Therapy. Syndrome is a ten-minute track entitled Domicile, which is an neo-prog as you will get. Although there are musical elements of PO90 in there, the whole thing has a much more contemporary sound to it. Intriguingly complex, it also remains very accessible, catching your attention from the first time the CD hits the deck.
The Therapy consists of Real Life, A Strange Place, Whispers On The Wire, Songs Of Faith and Falling. Real Life is a very quiet and mellow track with Guy's voice accompanied by organ and guitar; very subtle and ambient. This segues into a rather seventies A Strange Place which seems to combine elements of King Crimson and Pink Floyd in a moody atmospheric ballad. Whispers On The Wire is a more aggressive song with lashings of Tillison-infected Hammond keyboards. I also suspect that this is heavily Hammill-influenced although maybe that's just me and the retro organ sound! Songs Of Faith is the track most like what most of your will recognise as having the Guy Manning sound. A haunting song accompanied with acoustic guitar and lush keyboards, this is most like Guy's previous CD. Therapy ends with Falling. This gives the impression of being a simple acoustic song, quite and mellow again, but evolves into a stunningly effective composition with the whole band involved.
After Therapy, we get the Prognosis and the title track of the album, The Cure. Obviously any track with this name immediately summons images of half-starved Goths with permanent Bad Hair Days and the thing about cats. Don't you worry yourselves though, Guy hasn't gone down this road; instead he presents a lush and mature coda, dripping with symphonic class and quality. This is without doubt my favourite track on the album. It has everything, pretty much all happening at the same time. Scorching guitars, gorgeous harmonies, and of course lashing of Hammond; what more can a man ask for?
After Tall Stories, you might be forgiven for having written Guy off as just another singer/songwriter with no interest to the sympho rock fan. Well, think again; The Cure is a horse of a totally different colour. This is a top quality rock album with much more than just one guy's acoustic noodlings. The instrumentation is excellent, showing that Guy is fully capable of putting his own compositions into to a band setting. When I first got the CD, I assumed that we would be hearing a very PO90-influenced album; after all Guy is almost a paid-up member of PO90, and with Andy by his side what else would you expect? But it isn't. I guess Andy can express himself on his own albums, and is more than willing to play second fiddle (well, maybe second keyboard) on Guy's projects. The Cure came as a breath of fresh air. It wasn't at all what I expected, and was a genuine pleasure to listen to.
The Cure (CYCL 088) is released on Cyclops Records. You can contact Cyclops at 33a Tolworth Park Road, Tolworth, Surrey KT6 7RL, UK; tel: +44 (0)181-339-9965, fax: +44 (0)181-399-0070; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out the Cyclops/GFT website at http://www.gft-cyclops.co.uk.
For more information about Guy Manning, check out his website at http://www.burnsidesystems.demon.co.uk or email him at