Manning - Anser's Tree
Year of Release: 2006
Label: Progrock Records
Catalog Number: PPR 270
Total Time: 63:32:00
Having never listened to the Tangent, etc., Anser's Tree is my first exposure to Guy Manning's music and I'm glad to finally be in the loop. I know I've been lavish in my reviews this year - hell, a lot of great music as been released, lately - but I can honestly say that Manning's newest release will definitely reside in my Personal Favorites list for 2006, alongside Iona, Zombi, and Frost*.
Like many a prog-rock staple, Anser's Tree is a concept album that recounts the story of Professor Jonathan Anser, a 21st-century scientist, researching his roots by tracing the family tree. We join Anser's search with "Margaret Montgomery (1581-?)," a 17th-century Scotswoman accused of being a witch, and leave off with the professor himself, still very much alive and alone with the awareness that history repeats itself time and again, however different the actual events might be.
The concept itself is appealing enough, but the first strains of "Margaret Mongtomery (1581-?)" really set the proverbial hook. It's been a long time since I last listened to Jethro Tull, a lifelong favorite of mine, but Manning's folk-rock stylings reminded me of just what I was missing - until now, anyways. Manning's singing closely resembles that of Ian Anderson and the featuring of more traditional instruments - flutes, fiddles, saxophones, piano and acoustic guitars - invokes head-spinning deja vu circa Thick As A Brick. All that said, however, Manning is not just a Tull knock-off by any means. Anser's Tree is a collection of excellent songs that reflects Manning's singular persona and vision. Each song is essentially epic, ranging between 6-15 minutes, and effectively evokes visions of the story being told. Especially affecting is the boyhood curiosity of "Joshua Logan (1990-2048)," whose questions remind us that we all are constantly searching for answers, and the sinister tale of "Diana Horden (1900-1922)," whose pursuit of a mysterious serial killer brings the young detective too close to her prey for her own good.
A fine album then, and one that's remarkably unique among modern progressive rock. There's plenty of sweet fruit hanging from Anser's Tree, enough to satisfy even the most persnickety prog-fan, so pull down a branch, pick a favorite and enjoy.
Margaret Montgomery (1581-?) (7:13) / Jack Roberts (1699-1749) (6:39) / William Barras (1803-1835) (14:45) / Diana Horden (1900-1922) (7:47) / Joshua Logan (1990-2048) (7:58) / Prof. Adam Logan (2001-2094) (11:59) / Dr. Jonathan Anser (2089-?) (7:07)
Guy Manning ? guitars, mandolin, keyboards, samples, basses, drums, percussion, vocals
Laura Fowles ? saxophone, vocals
Ian Walter Fairbairn ? fiddle
David Million ? electric guitars
Stephen Dundon ? flutes
Andy Tillison ? Hammond organ, Moog, Rhodes (2)
Neil Harris ? piano (2), ARP (5)
Tall Stories For Small Children (1999)
The Cure (2000)
The Ragged Curtain (2003)
The View From My Window (2003)
A Matter Of Life & Death (The Journal Of Abel Mann) (2004)
One Small Step (2005)
Anser's Tree (2006)
Songs From The Bilston House (2007)
Number 10 (2009)
Margaret's Children (2011)
Genre: Progressive Rock
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