'The Cure' is Guy Manning's second solo release to date, the
first being the 'Tall Stories for Small Children' album.
As I have not heard the earlier album I am not in a position to
make comparisons, but my impression of this piece is that it has
far more in common with the music of the seventies and
progressive music in its original sense than with the current
neo-prog scene which it seems to be invariably mixed in with.
Guy is clearly a man of many talents and supplies vocals,
guitars and keyboards, as well as some bass, mandolin and
drum/percussion parts. He is joined by a number of other
musicians, most notably Andy Tillison-Diskdrive, of Parallel or
90 Degrees fame, who plays additional keyboard parts as well as
further drum work and who co-wrote the track 'Domicile'.
Also appearing are Jonathan Barrett - bass; Simon Baskind -
drums and percussion; Laura Fowles - saxophone; and finally Ian
Tothill and Ian Fairbairn, both on violin.
Despite the fact that 'The Cure' is reported to be a concept
album it's not one that is easy to interpret and, I must confess
that, even after many listenings I am still trying to unravel
it. Don't mistake me, this album is really very good
indeed, but I have not got a clue what a lot of it is about -
but then again to some extent the uncertainty somehow adds to
Thankfully, whatever your views on concept albums this should
in no way detract from the level of enjoyment that can be
derived from this work since all the songs work on a number of
different levels, and for the most part work equally well in a
stand alone environment. You can either listen to the
album as a series of often quite inspired songs, or if you want
to search for a deeper meaning it is there to be found.
There are three major sections to the piece, 'Syndrome',
'Therapy' and 'Prognosis', definitions of which can be found in
the sleeve notes. Further clues to the underlying plot are
provided by a number of quotations about the effects of total
sensory deprivation, while the associated art work contains
various pictures of sensory deprivation tanks - presumably the
'strange place' referred to by one of the songs.
The first section, 'Syndrome', comprises a single track,
'Domicile' which at its simplest level deals with environmental
issues and looks at how mankind destroys his home planet without
a care for tomorrow. The instrumental opening is quite
complex and varied and from the outset we are made aware of
elements of disharmony an disquiet. Once the vocal starts
there is excellent support from both the guitar an keyboards.
During the breaks from the vocal section the instrumental themes
are developed further and the keyboards run through a range of
styles from symphonic to almost jazzy at times. Inclusion
of saxophone to the track adds much the the spirit of the piece.
The second section of the album is 'Therapy' and this is the
longest of the three, comprising five tracks in all, opening
with 'Real World'. This is a relatively short song which
acts as an oasis of calm and tranquility. The vocals are
very mellow an the instrumentation is subtle and subdued,
producing a wonderful calming effect on the listener.
By comparison, 'A Strange Place' starts with a strong
percussion and pulsing bass line which ironically quickly brings
the listener back to their senses. Once more the vocal
line holds the attention and the acoustic guitar accompaniment
works well. As the track develops the keyboard sound
builds up gradually but just as one expects a final climax the
theme changes altogether and the tone becomes at once soft and
subdued. As we mover ever closer to the finish a vocal
chant slowly starts up, initially with an almost tribal feel but
gradually changing in character until we get something more akin
to Gregorian chant. This transformation is
wonderfully executed and is one of the high spots of the album
'Whispers on the Wire', like the preceding track, has an all
consuming beat and the 'Click Click' theme developed in the
vocal - and touched upon again later on the album - dominates
the proceedings. There is a real sense of urgency to the
instrumental break and both keyboard and guitar seem to feed off
each other. At the end of the track the cohesion is
starting to break down and in amongst the other sounds we can
here snippets of radio broadcasts worked into the instrumental
Next up we have 'Songs of Faith', which has to be my
favourite of all the tracks. The song tells the story of
an astronaut whose space ship has been damaged and, having no
means to return home, is resigned to dying alone in space.
From the start the listener may be tempted to think in terms of
David Bowie's 'Space Oddity', and this comparison is clearly
intended as borne out by the lyrical reference to Major Tom.
The track opens with extracts of radio and TV broadcasts which
seem to all relate to the Apollo 13 disaster, creating a nice
contrast in view of the fact that the astronauts in that
instance had the eyes of the world on their every action (mine
included). Despite the subject matter this is a really
inspired and uplifting piece, which while starting with a
resigned and sorrowful air gradually builds up to a great
outpouring of hope as the protagonist finally comes to feel that
maybe he is not alone after alone after all! Throughout
the track the guitar and keyboard work is powerful and emotive
yet and while wonderfully restrained in the earlier stages they
eventually find more freedom to break out towards the final
This section of the album is brought to a close with
'Falling' and the nature of the track is similar to 'Real Life'.
Instrumentation is peaceful and soft and instills a feeling of
inner peace while the vocals are superbly delivered with a soft
timbre and occasionally with a slightly 'folky' character.
As the track starts to wind to a close saxophone and violins
come in to great effect, although I felt it was a shame that
their parts were not developed a little further.
Finally we come to the last section 'Prognosis', which like
the first only contains a single track, 'The Cure'. The
initial vocal section seems a little forced but this soon passes
and there are some nice supporting harmonies. Furthermore
the strength of the playing here is superb and again the styles
seem to vary widely covering everything from symphonic to an
almost big band sound. I am still a little bemused by this
track as it clearly attempts to wind up the work from a
conceptual point of view, but since for me the concept is still
unclear, I cannot really comment on how well this is achieved.
Regardless of that point however, I have no doubt at all that
this track is a great finish to what to my mind is a great
In the final analysis this album is strong on both
composition and musicianship, and it is well worth checking out
and because of the enormous variety shown in the music there is
something here that is sure to appeal to a very broad spectrum
of listeners. If you have not already had a chance to
sample Guy Manning's work I would strongly recommend you start
now with 'The Cure'.
Simon 14th January 2001