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The latest release from the prolific ‘Manning’, One Small Step, sees the talented troubadour in a more thoughtful and dare I say artistic mood.  Fear not, all the usual Manning trademarks are still here, superb melody, strong rhythm, vocals with feeling, yes it certainly all here, just presented in a slightly different way. 

Opening track ’In Swingtime’ is classic Manning fare, subtle guitar with more emphasis on the acoustic side, a more classical guitar sound.  The strings also add that something extra, dare I say class?  Laura Fowles demonstrates her marvellous ability to make the sax sound, oh so sexy, without dominating proceedings.  Add to this the solid rhythm and engaging melodies and you have a perfect whole. 

‘Night Voices’, has one of those wonderful, (but annoying at times), catchy chorus lines that you will find yourself humming and singing at various random moments.  This is an arm waving, lighters aloft live classic in the making; an audience participation sing along if ever there was one.  Oh, and just to put the icing on the cake, a beautiful classical guitar break. 

The album goes back into the more powerful side of the Manning experience with ’No Hiding Place’.  The electric guitar adds that extra bit of power for the introduction, continuing with a subtle presence throughout the song.  Another strong song with all the right ingredients: a catchy tune with interesting interludes and additions from the band. This track is interesting to the progressive rock fan but wholly accessible to the fan of thoughtful rock. 

‘The Mexico Line’, seems to have many influences and styles mingling easily, folk, country, rock and maybe even a hint of bluegrass, with the usual Manning high standards of voice, melody and rhythm.  Here the fiddle of Ian Fairbairn does add something special, again with out dominating the whole, a magnificent blend. 

So to the title track, ’One Small Step’. To me this represents a brave move by Guy.  We all know he can write, (and perform) the more powerful side of Progressive Rock.  Here he has stripped down the ’prog epic’, concentrating on the emotion, feelings and his inner thoughts.  The ’story’ of the song is engaging from the start, this is one of those tracks that you must sit and listen to with an open mind as well as receptive ears.  It isn’t the sprawling, powerful, ’in yer face’ type prog epic, but it is quietly dramatic with subtle rather than bombastic time changes.  Having seen Guy and the band perform this track live, I can honestly say that I think that this is the most engaging piece of music Guy has written thus far.  So to sum up this epic, thirty minute plus, track, it is a gentle, though engaging soundscape of thoughtful and thought provoking observation, painted in impeccable musical detail by a master of his craft.

Paul Baker
ARFm Soundscapes