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manning - cure
(2000; Cyclops CYCL 082) 64m

(they have a homepage reachable from my bookmarks)
(the label has a homepage reachable from my bookmarks)

Line up:
Guy Manning - guitars, keyboards, vocals, bass, mandolin, drums, percussion
Andy Tillison -Diskdrive - additional keyboards, drums
Jonathan Barrett - the bass
Simon Baskind - drums, percussion
Laura Fowles - sax
Ian Tothill - violin
Iain Fairbairn - violin

Soundscapes by Dan and Julie Lyons and Guy Manning


1) Domicile 10.18
2) Real life 3.59
3) A strange place 6.48
4) Whispers on the wire 7.33
5) Songs of faith 11.44
6) Falling 6.38
7) The cure 17.34

Summary of history:
Used to be called Guy Manning, but now for some reason under the name of
Manning, still on the Cyclops label.

The album:
The previous record yielded a combination of folky singersongwriter music and symphonic rock. On this album the balance is quite a bit more to the symphonic rock side with extensive tracks such the opener Domicile. Softly brimming organs, a humming singer, orchestral voices and effective percussion make for an opening that has both good atmosphere as well as being interesting musically with some catchy themes. Manning's own  sharp guitar playing leads up to the vocal part. Manning has a very pleasant melodic voice, very English, somewhat in the style of guys like Roy Harper and yes also with a tinge of Ian Anderson. A very distinctive voice.
In the middle we have an organ solo that might remind some of that related band Parallel Or 90 Degrees (some people, like myself, thought that he had become in fact a member of said band, but that is not that case) followed by hammering piano solo. In some places the drums sound a bit mechanic, so it might be that not all drumming is live. On the whole a very "electronic" sounding rock track compared to the songs on the predecessor.
The second part of the album consists of five tracks, of which Real Life is the first and shortest. Compared to the first track it is an oasis of peace and quiet, with soft vocals, subtle keyboard playing and some cosmic sounds in the back. A bit of a lullabye. A Strange Place is next up and this is different once again. The music is mid-tempo, a bit bouncy with some folky leanings with prominent basswork and a focus on the vocal part, which is melodic, clear and somewhat loud. Orchestral keyboards in the middle of this one, take this impression away again. The song ends with waves upon a shore and some sampled voices in world music style (including church music).
Whispers On The Wire is one of the most distinctive tracks, because of the repeated Click Click, which has a Genesis sound in the organ work. It's not just the Click Click, but the vocal melody accompanying sticks easily to one's mind. The final part of the track features some meandering guitar soloing and some groovy organ playing. Most notably however are the very sharp keyboards, slightly before. Made my ears ring. We are not the end right then, because the music falls away almost entirely then but the song hasn't finished. Like in the previous track it is time for some experimental sounds on a metronome ticking and later on the violins join in. This part refer mostly tobut contemporary film music (but when the rest falls awat I'm reminded of Hammills Fall Of  The House Of Usher), something encountered more and more in progressive rock these days. Songs Of Faith is with over eleven minutes the next major track. Astronaut time on this track, and we open with spoken voices introducing the story of the astronaut in trouble. The vocals of Manning are very sad here, giving me goosebumps. 
A melancholy track. After some relaxed piano and violin take over we come to the part of the patient and the click click returns with some more symphonic arrangements such as loud keyboards and a wailing guitar solo. The song ends quietly with a softly crying bass. A very good track.
Falling is the penultimate track and it opens a bit mellowly. Later on the violin and the sax come back in. Another reference I might mention here (and it holds quite generally for the music of Guy Manning) is Strawbs in their more definitely progressive time. In a way Mannings voice is as distinctive as that of David Cousins.
The final track The Cure is by far the longest. Opening slowly with keyboards the first part is called Dawn. We move then into an organ dominated part with some cutting guitar work in between and some sax as well. In Hello Dr. Strange I'm reminded of Supertramp in their old days (the vocals of the Doctor). A Dream and whatever comes after is quite spacey, but continuing the orchestral sound. People might be reminded a bit of Tangerine Dream here. Some of the samples here are downright hard on the ears (the bees for instance). From then on the music starts to wind down with some Hackettish guitar work, acoustic guitars in the accompaniment and cosmic  keyboards in the back. After a bang the Epilogue closes it all down.

I like this concept album. It is not great, but certainly worth your attention.
In some cases I think the sound is a bit too cold (those drums again, some of the percussion sounds warmer) and sometimes the music could be a bit more concise. The vocals I really like a lot, Manning has a flexible, interesting voice. Compared to the previous album the music is more varied, more "prog" and there are some memorable melodies on here (Whisper On The Wire). In some cases the performance gives the music something extra (goosebumps in the opening of Songs Of Faith). At first this album seems louder and less singersongwriter directed as the previous album, but the album does have its share of quieter moments (Falling, Real Life), but in a way there are always aspects  that make the track  sound less ordinary. In many places a more orchestral approach is taken (The Cure).

Jurriaan Hage