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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Guy Manning

One Small Step...

Review by Josh Turner

Guy Manning makes intriguing music every time and this won't be the one to let you down. At this pace, he may never slip or fall. He's surely made steps in the right direction.

While his albums are broken into tracks, they usually follow one long theme. The whole album could be seen as one single epic. Here he takes the talents that have been developed in The Tangent and brings them into his parallel project. The music probably sounds most like The Tangent's Gap in the Night where his potent and passionate vocals trade off with ardent instrumentals. This is extremely blissful music from a very talented Brit. I guess you could say he puts the pound in the progressive.

While you won't really encounter anything outlandishly different that what's been done before, he takes his familiar formula to the next level. Everything is fine-tuned and refined. Every edge is sandy smooth and every plane is shiny as glass. With each listen, I'm more and more impressed with how he's integrated the tricky instrumental passages with the subverted vocal verses.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In Swingtime
There will be no surprises found in the opening. This is just a continuation of the melodic joy found in his previous work "Abel Mann."
Night Voices
Guy is back in storyteller mode in this balladic and charming cut. There is something holy and wholesome in this song. The chorus in particular flows like a prayer.
No Hiding Place
Here he plays hide and seek with fellow countrymen U2. In this neighborhood the Streets Have No Name. The cut concludes with some wild instruments that feature jazzy saxes and rocking guitar solos. The keys it encounters are symphonically charged. Then it returns to the restrained chorus one last time. The jolly games he plays in this piece exhibit creative songwriting and will give progressive fans a substantial sensation to marvel in.
The Mexico Line
This has one of the more memorable lines on the album, which makes it an obvious highlight. It features subtle, but sophisticated pianos mixed with various other spices thrown into the instrumentals. There is also a fantastic solo on the fiddle that crops up in the middle. When the piano joins in, it becomes an old-fashioned hoedown. The sax returns and then it becomes down-home blues. The quick strikes on the electric piano will bring back the happy days of Aykroyd and Belushi's Blues Brothers. Lyrically, it's like that Whitney Houston song, "I Will Always Love You." Instrumentally, it couldn't be any more unlike that sappy track. It's homemade salsa with the hottest and freshest ingredients. It appears to be innocent, but one bite and you feel the fire on your lips. It also leaves one hell of an aftertaste.
One Small Step... Parts (I-VIII)
The rest of the album, which is actually a big chunk of it, is spent in epic-fashion.
Star Gazing
The opening to this complex composition is a dreamy ditty that's both slow and introspective.
For Example...
The space in this song is lent to a lecture on society, politics, and various environmental observations. The content is neutral and doesn't really point any fingers. It just about the rat race and how money makes the world go round. To make mention of the melody, it's carved and whittled from the wood of Neal Morse's "Sweet Elation."
At the end of my rope
The most succinct song on the album is also one that is savory. It's very similar to the last. While there's not much on the plate, it will make you salivate.
Man of God
We get another short song in succession, however, this is incompatible to the previous preponderance. This is the most abrupt change on the album. The settlers storm the coast and change the landscape. When it's not being torn up by the talons of an acoustic guitar, it's a vicious flute and violin that are making their mark.
A blink of the eye
The fiddle makes another featured appearance. The material is never too bland, but each shake of these salty strings contributes seasons that are quite complimentary.
God of Man
When we make the turn to take this path, it's a frictionless transition. It's so smooth; you may not even realize the railway car switched tracks. Regardless, we are definitely headed for a much different destination. This train will screech as it ascends up the bumpy hillside.
Black and blue
In this piece, Guy pushes the envelope with psychedelic blues. He hangs a sign from the single and opens up a business in the country of Canterbury. He commences his commerce with the community. The Tangent is first in line to be enlisted as their earliest charter member.
Upon Returning
Guy goes to the magical forest and taps into the most sacred trees. This combines Spock's Beard "Stranger in a Strange Land" with peaceful passages from The Flower Kings. He ends on a homecoming celebration. Our protagonist is greeted with a display of streamers, champagne, and a scaled-down symphony. While he may have set out to make a simple step stool, he winds up building a tall sturdy ladder. With it, you take it to a stairway to heaven and encounter giant song structures. By the time it's done, you'll feel as overwhelmed, relieved, and rich as the hero from Jack and the Beanstalk. For this reason, One Small Step is a major trip and a huge accomplishment.

 
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