Guy Manning - Tall Stories For Small Children

Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Cyclops
Catalogue #: CYCL078
Year of Release: 1999
Time: 69:20
Info: Guy Manning

Tracklist: The Last Psalm [ i) The Preacher ii) Windows iii) A Beacon iv) Last Psalm ] (14:07), The Voyager (5:22), White Waters (5:46), The Candyman (7:07), The Rise And Fall Of Abel Mann? [ Grand Fanfare (2:02), Waiting On A Ledge (4:42), Grand Fanfare (revisited) (0:43), Post Mortem { 3 Score Years and 10 (2:18), In My Life (5:06)} ], Castaways (4:25), Holy Ireland [ The Land (2:40), A Soldier's Story (3:21), The Widow's Tale (4:42), Priest's Song(4:01), The Land (reprise) (2:58) ]

Guy Manning, perhaps familiar to you due to some work he did with Parallel Or 90 Degrees, produces a fine solo album, a bit in the Roger Waters (Amused to Death) tradition, but more based on " mainstream prog ". No less than three "epics" can be found on this album!

The album focusses on lyrics and the music and soundeffects are used to bring over the story of the songs, like Waters does, so this doesn't neccesarily mean the music is second rank! In fact, there are a couple of real fine musical pieces on the album. I will focus on the music in this review, since Manning on his homepage already adresses the lyrics a lot. The first track opens with very Waters/Wall-like soundeffects (the song "Over the rainbow" from I believe The Wizard of Ozz is used in the background). The music can best be described as quite intense, with Hammond work by PO90 musician Andy Tilton and an a focus on Mannings vocals. But the guitar work is also very fine. All in all in this first epic it is clear that Manning knows how to find balance between all the instruments. The drumming on this album is rather uninspiring though. In this song, quite a lot happens, with musical themes appearing and re-appearing. Intruiging.

The Voyager has a very Middle Eastern feel to it. A man named Pav Chana plays Tablas on this track (no idea what those are...). Excellent keyboard work is the main attention drawing feature of this track. A little restpoint is White Waters, sounding like one of those modern Yes, even Jon Anderson tracks, the "easy listning" ones I mean. The Candyman is probably my favourite track, very intense and melancholic. Starting with hardly any rhythm, only acoustic guitar chords and vocal it grabs you by the troat. Subtle keyboards later lay the tapistry in the background. At points, David Bowie comes to mind. The Fall And Rise of Abel Mann? consists of four pieces, of which the first one is a male version of Kate Bush, with those floating piano pieces. Love this kind of music! The next part is simple guitar with vocals and some almost gospel-like hammond playing. The Post Mortem piece starts similar to Waters' Amused to Death album with soundeffects and a guitar improvising over keyboard chords. Very nice. The second part, In My Life features the strongest chorus of all, with a melody that sticks to ones mind.

Before the next epic starts, a quiet moment again with Castaways, featuring seagulls and a laid back melody. Nothing special. The album ends with the third epic, Holy Ireland. Of this epic, especially A Soldier's Story, being a letter of a frightened soldier to God, is of great strength. It has almost the feel of the protest songs of Bob Dylan to it. The very quiet The Widow's Tale is beautiful in its simplicity. Priest's Song is more of a march to start with, but transforms in a more powerfull song, with Irish infuences (the first ones in a song called Holy Ireland!) mixed with more regular rock. It merges into The Land (reprise), ending the album more bombastic then on any other track.

All in all, this is an album that you should really listen to. It is subtle in both music and lyrics, and people loving bombastic rock or really fancy prog may not like it. Maybe the mixing is also too subtle, a bit more dynamics might have done it good. Anyway, if you like any of the references quoted in the review, you will probably agree that this album may be a nice addition to your music collection.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers