Multi-instrumentalist and composer Guy Manning has certainly asserted himself in the Progressive Rock community and in the process has become quite the prolific writer, musician and contributor. Between his solo efforts that date back to 1999, his work with the band Tangent and other compilation projects he has been one busy guy (no pun intended). I was actually surprised to see his latest release Anserís Tree hit my mail box because the first question that came to me was when did he have time to do another whole album? Perhaps the amazing thing is Anserís Tree is no throw-away recording. This is a well thought out release from the exquisite CD graphics to the immensely pleasurable 64-minutes of music.
Iíve said this before, but when I listen to Guy Manning I canít help but think of the many other British singer songwriters such as Roy Harper or David Cousins because I think Manning clearly builds on that history. His writing and vocal style clearly retains echoes of that very established folk-influenced style. Musically however Manning takes those influences and really kicks-it-up-a-notch. Naturally there are songs which revolve around a simple acoustic riff, but in almost every composition that little riff is enhanced and built-upon to become a much more powerful and dramatic piece. What is never lost is that strong sense of melody or it might be better described, multiple-melodies. There are seven compositions here, the shortest being 6:34, four in the 7-minute range, and then a 12-minute and 15-minute piece. The lengths alone allows for some very crafty musical arranging, where the song builds layer-upon-layer becoming more powerful with each passing moment. Itís almost magical how Manning is able to direct the emotional strength of these compositions with a very accomplished arranging style.
As on previous outings Manning handles the bulk of the instruments from guitars to drums to keyboards as well as the vocals. He is assisted once again by Laura Fowles (sax, vocals), Stephen Dundon (flutes), David Million (Lead guitar) and Ian Fairbairn (fiddles). The story thread running behind Anserís Tree is about an individual looking back at his family history to uncover not only the secrets of his own past but to perhaps discover some answers of a more universal nature. As such itís an intriguing story that is played out through the lives of seven different individuals.
If you are already familiar with Manningís work, Anserís Tree will be an easy purchase decision in that that itís everything heís done and more. If you are new to the music of Guy Manning or are only familiar with his work with Tangent, this would be a good place to start. Anserís Tree is a very satisfying listen, displaying a wide range of musical styles all wrapped up in an interesting story. Anserís Tree gets an A+ in my book.