one faint deluded smile

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Diamond Head

Phil Manzanera with the Bug Eyed Sunglasses

I've never knelt at the altar of the rock guitarist (unlike many men of my age). Hendrix was histrionic, Clapton was laid back and bluesy (ugh) and Santana was just too spiritual for me to handle. (And, yes, I do know that these are exactly some of the things that draw people to them). I can listen to their music and enjoy quite a lot of it but the whole guitar hero thing has always struck me as slightly ridiculous - as if hitting some strings with a plectrum is going to change the world or something.

But there was a small time frame in the mid 70s when I bought just about everything that Phil Manzanera played on and that was due in no small part to some kind of mystical transportation I received when listening to the sounds he (and Eno) were able to produce.

So please forgive me my little bit of 6 string worship - I was just a young thing after all.

mp3: Roxy Music - Amazona

This track always epitomised "Stranded" for me. The slightly funky verse section and the denser 'chorus' and break always seemed to perfectly encapsulate the mood of the cover (the red-haired model cast-away in the middle of the jungle - shouldn't she be on a beach?). There's at least 6 guitar overdubs that I can hear: from compact rhythm to dubby one-note counterpoint via synth-embelished washes and a longish solo that shows just how close Santana was to his own heart.

mp3: John Cale - Fear (ps - 8mg)

After Eno departed Roxy, Manzanera continued to be friends and they played on many of each other's projects. The most obvious of these is the guitar stuff on this track from Cale's 1st album for Island. It's completely over the top in all respects but fits the clasutrophobia of the song perfectly. Manzanera is everywhere again - the simple riff that slowly mutates into weird half tones, the heavy power chords on the chorus and then the two lengthy solos where all those years of Enosification on the road and in the studio result in something that sounded completely foreign.

mp3: Phil Manzanera - Frontera

This is one of the standout tracks from his 1st solo album "Diamond Head", co-written and sung by Robert Wyatt. There's a bell-like quality to a lot of the rhythm guitar that I hadn't noticed before and the chords are just lovely. Lots of overdubs again but, as always, they have a specific place and don't clutter up the mix one little bit. Nonsense lyrics, apparently.

mp3: Eno - The True Wheel

Most of this track from "Taking Tiger Mountain" is just Eno by himself (all those gorgeous modulated resonances). But Manzanera makes himself most obvious on the tripled riff in the middle section - a riff that none of my guitar playing friends could seem to replicate despite it's simplicity, damn them. His contribution to the whole of this album is extensive if settled into the background.

I lost interest in his playing after Eno went in other directions and left Manzanera standing there with just that damned guitar for company and with Ferry breathing down his neck to tone down his style for the new, MOR Roxy Music. He's released many solo albums since then, most of which are fairly dull, including his latest "6PM" even if this is a slight return to some sort of form (but, it must be said, he really shouldn't sing).

All of these albums are available at your local record store or via the internet - go get 'em.

7 Comments:

  • thank you. i hadn't listened to that taking tiger mountain song for a while. absolutely phantastic. the guitar play really makes me dizzy.

    By Blogger Alexander, at 6:00 pm  

  • Jeez, I never knew that Manzanera played on "Fear"! I put it on immediately and then read the booklet (sometimes I somehow fail to do this) of The Island Years double-cd set (first 3 Cale albums for cheaps!) to find out about the involvement of Eno/Manzanera.
    In there, John is quoted saying that the guitar-solo in "Gun" is actually a joint effort by those two. Apparently Eno filtered Manzanera's guitar playing (live) in the studio through his "old synthesizer that looked like a small briefcase". I like these kind of details.

    Roxy Music blasted into my life to me through my mom's music collection, somewhere halfway through the 80's. The first time I really became aware of Manzanera's guitar playing was when I heard Country Life, with those great echo/wind-like effects on "Out of the Blue".
    Fear hit me in 1990, during my first year in university, new friends, kindred spirits, new music: a great time. It feels great to find out these great pieces of music are connected on more than just a personal level.

    Last year I found a vinyl copy of 801 Live, the live album of the project/band Manzanera started after RM. It is clearly overdubbed but that's not a problem for me, the sound is amazing and the renditions of Manzanera (including "Diamond Head"), Eno ("Sombre Reptiles", "Baby's on Fire") and even Beatles ("Tomorrow Never Knows") songs are pretty amazing. If you don't have it I strongly stuggest checking it out.

    (this is almost a blog-entry in itself, sorry if it's a bit too long. talking about favorites I tend to get carried away a bit... also, nice to see Alex here. hi Alex ;-))

    By Blogger willem, at 2:46 am  

  • island years yep, that's the one i have now although i used to own the vinyl back in the day. i really only like fear (the LP) + a few tracks from the next one (especially mr wilson) - the rest leave me a bit cold.

    the eno / manzanera duet was a tried and true formula they used in roxy. eno's 1st role was simply to modify the output from the various other instruments in the band via his VCS3 synth. almost all the guitar solos on the 1st 2 roxy albums have his touch added to them. on 'amazona', eddie jobson (i suppose) has a go at the same idea with good results too. the only guitarist i've heard live who does something similar (but all by himself) is johnny greenwood from radiohead - he gets the most amazing sounds out of his massive rig of synths and effects.

    801 was always a favourite of mine too. if you get a recent cd version then beware as, very very dissapointingly, the last track fades out instead of stopping abruptly due to a mastering 'problem' (ie the mastering engineer thought that the abrupt stop was a mistake).

    glad that the connections shine through for you...

    By Blogger Phil, at 8:21 am  

  • Very nice blog, hard to come by these days,

    If you have a chance, can you visit my how to play guitar site

    It has all guitar related stuff.

    Thanks

    By Blogger TexasDude, at 2:25 pm  

  • you have great taste in music. the end of fear is a man's best friend has to be the greatest guitar/eno finale of all time. by the way, the true wheel - F#, E, B.

    jw

    By Blogger jw, at 5:50 am  

  • ooops! i meant the guitar/eno finale on gun.

    jw

    By Blogger jw, at 5:51 am  

  • china my china is another example of phil and brian working magic.adisl

    By Blogger jw, at 6:06 am  

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