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Jason Bermiller Host, “ProgDog” radio show

Songs From The Bilston House by Manning 

The Troubadour of Prog takes a journey to Bilston…

 Guy Manning strikes a personal, authentic note with his new release. Songs From The Bilston House collects 9 works by Guy Manning under one roof. A songwriter at heart, Manning continues his journeys into Canterbury Prog with this amalgam of songs. The listener is “guided” through the “rooms” of the house, sonically and, with the help of a cleverly designed liner booklet, visually. Guy is humble and matter of fact when commenting on his music. “Look, at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter. So, an album of songs is what comes out. …Bilston is a series of songs reflecting the lives of several people that I just happened to place in this house that I saw.” The CD is quintessential Guy; Bilston is a songwriter’s gallery.

Poetic and sensibly constructed, the songs on this Manning CD stand as a great reminder to his fans about why they like Manning in the first place. Boasting a clean, strident production captained by Guy’s long time friend and musical cohort, Andy Tillison, Bilston, perhaps more than any previous Manning release, avoids any homage to bands to which Guy has been paralleled (pun intended). In fact, the visual component also speaks of Guy’s refreshed approach.

The opening and title cut opens the CD with a bright bounce. The line “just another story from the Bilston House where the rooms are tumbling in” welcomes the reader into the front foyer of the now-dilapidated house where “the last person died.”

“Lost in Play” starts with a crackling guitar and sets into a driving, piercing melody reminiscent of Manning’s strongest work. Biographical to a degree, “Understudy” launches into a driving rock hook and never relents, as the song delves into Guy’s ejection of his family’s contentions about spiritual matters.

During my interview with Andy Tillison and Guy Manning, Tillison described “Antares” as one of the great songs on the album, with “fantastic images such as the salt barrels, wind, water… a lovely song.” Yet Tillison is quick to note, “Guy cheated a bit on this one. The sea is over 70 miles away from the actual house” that inspired the CD. Guy counters, “The CD title is Songs From The Bilston House, not Song AT The Bilston House.” Regardless of the cogency of the argument for artistic license, the song is beautiful and a major highlight on this disc.

One of the more interesting cuts from this effort by Manning is “Pillars of Salt.” Sung with “a bit of a sneer,” Guy reflects on the failings of the 60’s “revolution.” Cleverly weaving traditional 60’s pop sounds, including a Beatlesque “oh boy,” “Pillars of Salt” lets in the groovy sounds of the late 60’s without sounding a scrap sycophantic.

Songs From The Bilston House may loom as one of Manning’s best efforts. With an ever-expanding syllabus from his incredible output, the Troubadour of Prog has once again released an album that ranks in the Top CD’s of 2007.      

Jason Bermiller

Host, “ProgDog” radio show.