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(THE Hairless heart HERALD

Manning is of course multi-instrumentalist, Guy Manning, whose previous album The Ragged Curtain more than impressed us when we reviewed it a couple of years ago.

The View From My Window was released back in late 2003 and features Guy on, well, almost everything except saxophone (Laura Fowles), flute, fiddle, cello and whistles (the renowned Tim Moon).  That said, Guy is also ‘aided and abetted’ in the execution of his compositions on this album by Rick Ashton (bass), Gareth Harwood (electric guitars), Andy Tillison (keyboards, drums), Pav Chana (percussion) and Hugh Whitaker (drums percussion). 

The first of the six tracks has a similar but slightly faster tempo to Chris Rea’s On The Beach and is consequently very catchy and memorable.  Tempo and elements of the melody apart, Guy’s distinctive vocal and arrangements incorporating ‘growling’ organ, soundbank orchestration, and some seriously excellent guitar and saxophone, smack of Tull to a degree.

I know that
Guy will be sick of being compared with Ian Anderson but his vocal, compositional and lyrical style is incredibly akin to that of the legendary Tull front man, shrieking quality and inventiveness, things this album are full of.  The beginning and end of the title track, The View From My Window, invokes momentary thoughts of the very start and end of Tull’s A Passion Play although the song is actually quite different, a gentle view on life one often gets when in a pensive mood gazing at nothing in particular.

The Rut
has to be a firm favourite for the set list when Manning give their (I use the collective term deliberately) all too rare live performances.  The keyboard work on this largely instrumental piece is a real treat, and the use of orchestrated sounds and bass and percussion arrangement is truly inspired.  The addition of cello in After The (Tears In The) Rain provides contrast to Guy’s gentle acoustic guitar, and I am fearful of mentioning it again but this is a great song that would be something I can imagine Ian Anderson would be proud of.

A change in tempo and style follows with Blue Girl, which brings
Sadé and Beverly Craven to mind given the jazzy feel and saxophone punctuation.  Again, Guy uses a synthesised ‘strings’ sound not far into the track though this time it is reminiscent of Caravan (Cunning Stunts album and the odd earlier Caravan tune).  Nice.

Final track is Suite: Dreams, a work seamlessly divided into six movements encompassing lounge jazz (Dreamian Rhapsody), a seriously (and I mean seriously) good prog instrumental (On The Carousel), a little ditty touching on folk and prog (In Slumbers), a semi-classical flute-heavy instrumental (A Visit To The Sandman), an amazing
Passion Play style instrumental to die for (REM), closing or ‘awakening’ with a typical Manning flourish (From Slumbers).  Never has twenty minutes, the length of this track, seemed so short.

If The View From My Window happened to be by
Jethro Tull it would, justifiably, sell thousands of copies.  Unfortunately, Manning is not as widely known as Tull so only those in the know will pick up a copy.  Be one of those lucky ones because Manning is just too good to overlook.

 Jem Jedrzejewski