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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Phil Manzanera

Diamondhead

Review by Gary Hill

This is the reissue of the 2000 reissue of Phil Manzanera’s 1976 solo album. The 2000 reissue included one bonus track, and there is a second bonus track here. The music here is often like Roxy Music, as one would expect, but it also borders on King Crimson and other more traditional progressive rock sounds. The lineup is also pretty amazing, including Brian Eno, Eddie Jobson (UK), John Wetton (UK, King Crimson, Asia, Uriah Heep) and many more. This is a highly recommended release. It should be noted that I reviewed the first two tracks recently on a Phil Manzanera compilation and the track reviews for those were copied or adapted from that review for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Frontera

There’s a cool prog meets space rock and Roxy Music elegance here. The lyrics are in Spanish and this is an extremely tasty number. There are some intriguing changes and alterations.

Diamond Head
An instrumental, this is a tasty prog rock jam that’s quite cool. There are some rather symphonic elements built into the mix.
Big Day
A jangly guitar section leads off on this piece. As the rest of the instrumentation and vocals join, this feels quite a bit like Roxy Music. There are some tasty overlayers later in the piece as the arrangement is made more lush.
The Flex
There’s a lot of funk on this cut. It’s got plenty of smoking hot jazzy jamming, too. It’s a killer tune that combines Roxy Music with something more akin to fusion. I can even make out hints of King Crimson at times and some Frank Zappa. This is one of the highlights of the set and a scorching instrumental rocker. The saxophone seriously screams on this thing at times, but every instrument gets an opportunity to shine. It’s amazing, with as much great music is packed into this, that’s it only three and a half minutes long.
Same Time Next Week
A funky, but slower, bass line starts this and the cut grows out into something that really calls to mind Brian Eno, but also King Crimson and Roxy Music. In fact, in many ways, this feels a lot like Red era King Crimson, but with a very different vibe added to the mix. Of course, the fact that John Wetton provides the bass and the vocals accounts for that Red era element.
Miss Shapiro
This powers in with a raw, hard rocking sound, but works through several variants before moving out into the vocal section. That vocal section has a strange motif that seems to combine something like Gentle Giant with more RIO sounds. This is a powerhouse cut that works through a number of changes and alterations. It’s catchy and yet very far from mainstream.
East Of Echo
A rather raw, but quite cool jam, this is a tasty progressive rock instrumental journey that’s close to space rock in some ways. In fact, comparisons to Hawkwind are, at times, warranted. This is a cool piece.
Lagrima
Backwards tracked guitar soloing makes up the intro on this cool piece. Other elements are added after a time. When I say “backwards tracked guitar soloing,” I can’t really say for sure that all the guitar sounds are backwards tracked. Some sound normal, but then it feels like others have backwards tracking. So, it’s a clever bit of production that creates an unusual and intriguing sound. This is a mellow balladic instrumental that’s both short and Latin in nature.
Alma
As this fires out it has a powerful, triumphant sounding progressive rock texture that calls to mind Hawkwind, but also other acts. When it drops to the vocals it feels a lot like early Pink Floyd. The bulk of the piece moves through alternating between those sounds, but there’s a smoking slow moving jam later that’s a bit like King Crimson, but when the organ joins somehow feels almost like something from The Yes Album. Then it shifts to Red era King Crimson from there.
Carhumba
This piece combines jazz with reggae, flamenco and other sounds in a cool instrumental that’s not the most progressive rock oriented thing here, but is certainly progressive in nature. It’s just missing the “rock” end of the equation. It’s certainly got common ground with RIO music, though, and there is a more rock oriented jam later. When the album was first released on CD, this track was a bonus above and beyond the songs from the vinyl.
Corazon Y Alma
New for this release, comes a ten-minute plus epic. This comes in rather raw and very much like something from the Red era of King Crimson. It transitions to something a bit more psychedelic as they continue. When the vocals join the cut retains that bit of psychedelia with also some fusion. This is very much a retro sounding tune, but in a very cool way. There’s a jam later that almost feels a bit like very early Yes or Emerson Lake and Palmer. Around the five and a half minute mark it drops to a stripped down arrangement and grows out from there in more psychedelic ways. It continues from there with the vocals coming over this new arrangement and then they work out after that into another jam. That one turns harder edged with a real old-school rock and roll vibe to the guitar. It becomes a bit noisy at times, but this is some really killer progressive rock.
 
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