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by paul baker

Well here goes then.

The latest release from Guy Manning, 'The View From My Window' carries on in the Manning tradition of being quality accessible but at the same time challenging rock.

The opener 'Phase (The Open & The Widening Sky)' draws you in with a powerful start before Guy's distinctive come in. A good solid foot taper to start the album, 'hook' laiden, with something for everyone. Which 'hook' you end up humming or singing aloud to in a traffic jam on the M1 is up to you, (yes it was embarrassing, I'm sure everyone was looking, should have shut the window I suppose!). There are many textures to this song, a terrific seven minutes.

The electronic opening, with dark brooding drums and synth, gives way to some of the increase orchestration that Guy has mentioned, on the second and title track, gives way to the gentle sound of Guy and his acoustic guitar.
The song flows and begs you to listen, the quite underpinning keyboards adding to the feeling of depth. The drums towards the end do have a slightly familiar feel, interest and gently powerful, without ever going
'full tilt' an engaging song.

'The Rut' opens with a driving bass beat, settling down with a not quite tranquil guitar sound, keyboards layering effortlessly to build the sound picture. The instrumental middle conjures visions of the skyline on the album cover with a slightly eastern feel. A complex sound that demands
close attention without ever getting over the top in the 'rock out' stakes.

As for 'After the (Tears in the) Rain', achingly beautiful, this should be a single, in a world where real music is appreciated. Gentle but never dull, a sudden increase in intensity builds the tension before slowing back down to a gentle but intense ending. Marvellous!

'Blue Girl' continues with the laid back style, Laura Fowles putting a wonderful laid back jazz feel to the opening with some splendid sax. One to lie back in the chair with the headphones on and a good single malt in the hand! ;-)

Next the 20 minute master piece, 'Suite: Dreams', good use of keys brings the listener into the opening sequence, 'Dreamian Rhapsody', Guy's making full use of the haunting quality of his voice in gentle mood. The laid back jazz
feel of 'On the Carousel' may not be to everyone's taste but it fits well with the opening before bursting to life with again a nagging keyboard 'twirl'. Picking up the pace subtle use of the guitar bringing the whole package together. A hint of King Crimson about this section, however, there is one section here towards the end, which isn't my cup of tea, everyone comes together in a strangely 'untuneful' (hope Guy forgives me!) section. However, this quickly fades into more standard Manning fare.

Great mellow keyboards with that acoustic guitar sound, underpinned by electric chords that never dominate but add to the sound during 'In Slumbers'.

Two instrumental passages follow, 'A Visit to the Sandman' & 'R.E.M.' Manning fans will not be disappointed. I'm not going to give the game away, you'll have to listen for yourselves. There is a moment when the ears think they might have detected a hint of some early Genesis, but then it's back to full on Manning.

The epic closes with 'From Slumbers' wonderfully orchestral, choral almost, climax to a stunning album. Intense, powerful, emotional, gentle, rocking, then soothing, a fantastic kaleidoscope of musical colours and textures.
Great guitar, keyboards and brass, interesting drums and percussion, solid bass, superb vocals. A real treat, what good honest, interesting, dare I say it 'progressive' rock is all about. A wonderful blend of all the elements with out ever sounding overblown and pretentious. A fantastic album, what's next Guy a live album? Please.