Multi-instrumentalist/solo artist Guy Manning's latest album The Ragged Curtain is a convincing mix of symphonic prog-rock, jazzy pop, and folk influences. Divided into three main parts, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", "The Weaver of Dreams", and "Ragged Curtains", Manning unravels his thickly textured arrangements and charming melodies to form a mostly endearing and entertaining platter.
You've got all sorts of styles here, from the decidedly British sounding prog-rocker "Tightrope" , to the schmaltzy Air Supply pop of "A Place to Hide", to the majestic grandeur of "Where Do All the Madmen Go?" (complete with a tribute to Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dude's") Symphonic fans will revel in all the vintage keyboard sounds (organ, Mellotron, synths) that flow through "The Weaver of Dreams" and the multi-part "Ragged Curtains" , as well as plenty of acoustic & electric guitars, all played my Mr. Manning. He's got a host of musicians who contribute sax, flute, bass, drums, percussion, and extra guitars & keyboards, but Guy is clearly the star of the show. Lyrics deal with the complexities of life, inner human turmoil, and the characteristics of some of the Earth's elements, all woven together with the upbeat musical passages and sung by Manning. Guy's vocals are probably the weakest part of the album, not that he has a bad voice, but at times his style doesn't seem to fit the songs, as he has a sort of "lounge singer" type style that clashes with the symphonic nature of much of the material here. Perhaps someone with a more powerful, less crooning vocal style would fit these songs better .
With the exception of my one complaint, this is actually a very enjoyable CD of solid neo-progressive rock, filled with driving instrumentation as well as atmospheric and lulling interludes. There is certainly plenty of hot keyboard and guitar playing to go around, which in my book is always a good thing. Fans of IQ, Marillion, Twelfth Night, Pendragon, and Grace would be well advised to investigate this CD.