Guy Manning: Tall Stories For Small Children (1999; Cyclops CYCL 078) 69m
(the label has a homepage reachable from my bookmarks)

Line up:

1) The last psalm 14.07
2) The voyager 5.22
3) White waters 5.46
4) The candyman 7.07
The fall and rise of Abel Mann?
5) Grand fanfare 2.02
6) Waiting on a ledge 4.42
7) Grand fanfare (reprise) 0.43
8) 3 score years and 10 2.18
9) In my life 5.06
10) Castaways 4.25
Holy Ireland
11) The land 2.40
12) A soldier's story 3.21
13) The widow's tale 4.42
14) Priest's song 4.01
15) The land (reprise) 2.58

Summary of history:
From Gold Frankincense And Diskdrive, now back with Parallel Or 90 Degrees and a solo album out. Bust times for Guy Manning who with a little help from his friends (and family) releases his first solo album.

The album:
The album opens with the epic The Last Psalm. Somewhere Over The Rainbow resounds out of the radio in a mid-fifties version. A gale is blowing and church bells are sounding. It's christmas time one might say. Some organ, punctuating percussion and rather slow singing. The music owes quite a bit too Pink Floyd but is more singersongwritewrish. Maybe the correct reference here is the Rick Wright solo-album. Then we come to the second part, Windows. This is a rustic piece with tinkling sounds and whispered vocals. The comes beacon with its melodic, sad melodies and suddenly the sun seems to come out as me move into the hairraising reprise of the first part, Last Psalm.
The vocals of Manning are quite strong, especially when he sings a bit louder. the following three tracks are of more standard length: the first of these is The Voyager in which the acoustic guitars figures a lot. The music reminds me at first of Roy Harper (Burn The World), but there are some Turkish sounding interludes.
White Waters is up next, a rather subdued track with low noisy guitars. The music sounds a bit eighties, probably because of the keyboards. Not very progressive this, more up the alley of solo Geoff Mann and Rog Patterson and the few names I've already mentioned. In addition, like those artists, the lyrics are quite important.
The Candyman is a rather straightforward friendly acoustic track. Rather long though.
The next epic is The Fall And Rise Of Abel Mann. The opening is clear singing with piano with a good melody. The next part is Waiting On A Ledge which features acoustic guitar, but later the organ sets in in the background and we get some playful keyboards and ehm harmonica? It all stays a bit laidback though. After a reprise of melodramatic Grand Fanfare we enter the Post-Mortem which is divided in again two parts. The first part is a bit Floydian with softly bluesy guitar work and nice bass work. The final part is In My Life, a very nice acoustic piece with good melodies.
Castaways is the last short piece. It is again very melodic with some orchestral ingredients in the middle to lighten up this mainly acoustic track.
The last track is Holy Ireland, almost 18 minutes long and in five separate parts. Maybe more a collection of songs under the same umbrella and encapsulated between The Land and The Land (reprise). The Land itself is a peaceful but powerful track with mainly keyboards. A Soldier's Story is an fast paced acoustic piece. The vocals are very good here. In my opinion the piece is the best since the opening track. The Widow's Tale is a sadder piece, again acoustic with a low humming bass. The Priest's Song is part merrily folky, but also has a great chorus. Some organ and military drums are thrown in for good measure. The synthetic strings, the organ and the nice spaceous guitar solo of the Reprise of The Land round the album off well. When I played this album a bit loud, it turned out to be relatively noisy.

This is not typically progressive. Sure, there are some ingredients, but instead of the all-too-familiar names such as Genesis, you'll hear Roy Harper here, and Geoff Mann and Rog Patterson. This means singersongwriter music, but more tailored to a progressive audience. Interesting, personal lyrics round it all of. There are some epic tracks here, but do not expect long instrumental meanderings, loud keyboard or guitar solos or complex signature changes: they are not here. There are some good honest compositions here though with best (and coincidently the most progressive and longest) songs being the first and last.

Jurriaan Hage