Fireworks

Phil Manzanera - 'Live At The Curious Arts Festival' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     January 21, 2018    
 
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This release is really for the Roxy Music / Phil Manzanera completists only.

Phil Manzanera is a name that should resonant with many 'Fireworks' readers, from his early days in Quiet Sun and his ground-breaking work with Roxy Music through to working with the likes of Pink Floyd, Eno and many others. Throughout this long and illustrious career, Manzanera has sporadically issued albums under his own name from 'Diamond Head' in 1975 to 'Firebird VII' in 2008 and all points in between.

For this set, Manzanera has assembled a band of young hotshots who have played with the likes of David Gilmour, The Stereophonics and Jools Holland. This album, rather than a true solo effort, gives second billing to the vocal talents of one Sonia Bernardo, a name up to now I was unfamiliar with. On further investigation I found out she is a British/Portuguese singer who has previously worked with Holland as well appearing briefly on Manzanera's 2015 album 'The Sound Of Blue'.

Recorded at 2016's Curious Arts Festival, hence the album's catchy title, this set is sprinkled with RM classics such as 'Love Is The Drug 'and 'More Than This', but rather than Manzanera being the full focus, it's Bernando's vocals that are pushed forward. Of course, the guitar is prominent in the mix, but it's on tracks such as 'Magdalena' that we finally get to hear Manzanera's prowess as a player and a delight it is too; languid, fluid and as sharp as a nail, he's surely one of Rock's most undervalued players.

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Returning to the vocals, I can't help think that Bernando sounds a little like Amy Winehouse, who was, without doubt, a fine singer but her style did nothing for me at all. This is most evident on 'Stormy Weather', however it's the Roxy classics that provoke the most interest and having a female voice performing these songs does put a slightly different twist on them, but I'm still not altogether sure Bernando's style fits the material... shame really.

As a live performance, it's been crisply recorded and shows that Manzanera still has what it takes. The material is always strong and the band have certainly helped in elevating Manzanera's playing. It's just in the vocal department that I have my reservations, they are simply not to my particular taste. A decent enough album but not one that will hold too much appeal for the passing fan. This release is really for the RM/Phil Manzanera completists only.

Malcolm Smith

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