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manning - The ragged curtain
Cyclops CYCL115

This, the fourth and latest release from Guy Manning and his band,
continues to show the development of one of Britain's best songwriters.
Manning 's music is an emotional, warm and lush combination of keyboard dominated tracks set against Guy's well sung and often catchy lyrics, demonstrating classic song writing with progressive sensibilities. 
In overall feel the new album falls somewhere between earlier albums 
"The Cure" and "Cascade", being not quite as progressive as the former, but much more cohesive than the latter. After a brief acoustic prelude, the album continues with 3 main pieces "The Marriage of Heaven & Hell", 
"The Weaver of Dreams" and "Ragged Curtain". 

The first of these is actually 5 different tracks linked together by a common theme of relationships; the music being interspersed with voice over descriptions of relationship experiences. 
Of these tracks, several will already be familiar to Manning fans having been played live for some time; for instance powerful opener "Tightrope", reggae influenced "Where do all the Madmen Go" featuring 
a great new guitar solo finish and bluesy "What is it Worth". 

Most significant with this album is the key role that has developed for Laura Fowles. She is heavily featured on saxophone both in solos as on "A Place to Hide" & "Stronger" and as part of the overall lush band sound. 

Title piece "Ragged Curtains" is a long 25 minute epic, with more progressive overtones in both format and sound, themed around the interface between sea and shore and how they affect us. 
Special guests Andy Tillison-Diskdrive from PO90 appears here on organ and analogue synth and Angela Goldthorpe of Mostly Autumn features heavily here on flute and recorder and indeed forms the basis of several sections of the piece. 

This is definitely one of the major album releases of this year and deserves a listening. 
Hopefully we 'll see the band back at the CRS sometime next year.

Paul Allwood
(CRS November 2002)