Phil Manzanera '6PM' - Wed 30th Jun

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Phil Manzanera '6PM'
30 June 2004

Phil Manzanera '6PM'
by John O'Brien

Since the release of his first solo album 'Diamond Head' in 1975, Phil Manzanera’s output has been prolific. As well as his work with Roxy Music he has been a member of other bands and a main collaborator on projects such as: Quiet Sun, 801, The Explorers, Manzanera MacKay, Phil Manzanera & Sergio Dias, Moncada Manzanera, Wetton Manzanera, 801 Latino, Nowomowa. '6PM' is the sixth album to be released as a solo Phil Manzanera project.

This is Phil’s first solo album release since the 2001 Roxy Music reunion tour in 2001. The album follows on from his 1999 album Vozero with Phil taking lead vocal. The album features an all star line up including: Roxy cohorts Paul Thompson, Brian Eno & Andy MacKay as well as Robert Wyatt, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, The Pretender's Chrissie Hynde, jazz double bassist Yaron Stavi and classical pianist Nigel Simpson.

Broken Dreams begins with what is described on the sleeve as Enotonic with delayed Brian Eno treated guitar over a piano reminiscent of Phil's N-Shift from 1978's K-Scope as the prelude to Phil's vocal entry. This song is a mid paced track driven by Paul Thompson's trademark drumming where the tracks conclusion has Paul borrowing his own drumming from the fade out of Bryan Ferry's One Kiss.

Green Spiky Cactus is the stand out track on the album. With the right promotion and airplay this song could be a hit single. Manzanera's distorted vocals (which sing of 'painted smiles,') are joined at the chorus with Claire Singers & Chrissie Hynde, who also plays a mean harmonica. The closing refrain has Paul Thompson, Phil and Andy MacKay all playing on the fade out like many classic Roxy tracks, particularly Prairie Rose and Both Ends Burning. MacKay's honking sax on top of Paul Thompson's heavy drumming and Manzanera's driving guitar gives an indication what a 2004 Roxy Music track would sound like and therefore the album is worth it just for this track alone.

Love Devotion's intro can't make its mind up if it is borrowing from Space Oddity or Ladytron, by no means a poor heritage. This acoustic guitar melodic ballad is Phil's most personal love song.

Wish You Well is the most moving track on the album. A delicate plucked acoustic guitar intro lays a foundation for Chrissie Hynde's harmonica. Phil's opening line, "Goodbye old friend, out on Flight 19, up with Saint Serene I wish you well," is the first hint of where Phil's inspiration for this song comes from. Dedicated to his friend Ian MacDonald (MacCormick) who co-wrote many tracks with Phil on many of his solo albums including the single Flight 19, the track also features Ian's brother Bill MacCormick dusting down the bass to play a bass solo (Sade 'Smooth Operator' style) on this tribute to his late brother.

6PM is Paul Thompson's finest hour (well 3mins 36 seconds anyway) on this 7/4 time instrumental. Despite the awkward time signature, 6PM flows along, effectively driven by Phil's guitar supplemented by the electric viola of Brendan Jury. Some of the pizzicato strings punctuating the piece are similar to Diamond Head on Phil's debut album.

Waiting For The Sun To Shine is a drum machine driven song with Phil's finest vocal on the album. This melodic track is underpinned with some typical Brian Eno sonic trickery. The guitar and sax by the Roxy duo Manzanera & MacKay blend with Eno's wizardry giving the track the sound of vintage Roxy Music.

Manzra is an instrumental featuring the classical pianist Nigel Simpson and jazz double bassist Yaron Stavi. Fans of Phil's Nowomowa project 'The Wasted Lands' will like this ethereal piece which meanders with Phil's guitar sounding more like woodwind.

Cissbury Ring opens with Robert Wyatt's trumpet echoing like a Diamond Dog on the hills at Cissbury. Manzanera's opening guitar riff is like a half paced 'Remote Control' and the closing fade out nods at La Nueva Ola from 'Primitive Guitars' The vocal arrangements are more dense than the other tracks on the album with Phil's multi tracked harmonies and Claire Singers blending with back up for the notes out of Phil's register. Phil's longest solo on the album is featured here, showcasing the quintessential Phil Manzanera sweet sounding, yet distorted guitar.

Porlock, at just over a minute, features the fine trumpet playing of Robert Wyatt and Andy MacKay's oboe work acts as a bridge between Cissbury Ring and Shoreline which is a short 3/4 song with Andy MacKay's haunting oboe and Phil's minstrel like storytelling vocals segue into Always You, a ballad that features Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on guitar.

Eno's lunar landing swirls at the opening of Roxy Music's Ladytron are the backdrop for some backwards guitar in the prelude to the most rhythmic track on the album. Sacred Days is a hypnotic dance track which also features the distinctive guitar of David Gilmour. Funky guitar, staccatto organ after beats presents a hybrid of styles which close the 50 minute album on a high and demands another listen.

Over all, this album is easily Phil's most consistent album throughout. In taking all the lead vocal duties, he gives the album a sense of cohesiveness that has been absent from earlier albums with several lead singers spread over the tracks. Phil has revisited the best parts of his previous rock albums for this one. Other than a few echoed whispers on 6PM there is not a word of Spanish in site which I presume he is keeping that for his other imminent release with Lucho Brieva entitled 'Corroncho'. Phil works together with Paul Thompson & Brian Eno on his solo work for the first time since 1977 as well as Andy MacKay but you don't need to read the credits to know there is a huge connection between this album and Roxy Music.

For anyone who buys this album as their first Phil Manzanera album they will be pleasantly surprised and those of you who have heard Phil's previous work you won’t be disappointed.

Phil spoke on the Roxy Music Live At The Apollo DVD of the things that go together that make 'the Roxy soup'. '6PM' stops short of being a full Roxy Music get together (a certain pit pony handlers son is the obvious missing ingredient). Green Spiky Cactus in particular is the nearest thing to a new Roxy Music track we are likely to hear and the best track from a solo member of the band since they last recorded together. What better recommendation is there than that?

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