Thursday, July 3, 2008

Phil Manzanera - Diamondhead

This is really a wonderful album, one of the not-so-well-known gems of the '70s Roxy Music-related canon. Despite not being a singer, guitarist Phil Manzanera put together a surprisingly coherent, witty collection of (mostly) vocal rock. Backed by the Roxy Music rhythm section (including the great drummer Paul Thompson) with plenty of help from Eno, Eddie Jobson, and Andy Mackay, this is the closest thing extant to a Roxy album sans Bryan Ferry. And that's actually not a bad thing.

Manzanera's guitar and compositional skills come to the fore here, but he rarely showboats as a lead guitarist, as one might expect in a solo album by a "guitar hero." As with Roxy, he's more interested in creating textures with his guitar, and he does it in many different styles: hard rock, funk, jazz, and more.

Still, it's primarily an album of songs. Even the instrumentals are more about composition and mood than chops, including the exceptional title track and the complex and riveting "East of Echo." The vocal tracks are highlighted by two cool Brian Eno songs: "Big Day" and the bizarre and rocking "Miss Shapiro." Robert Wyatt pitches in with the sung-in-Spanish but still catchy "Frontera." The usually horrid (as a singer) John Wetton even turns in a credible performance on the funky "Same Time Next Week." Few albums featuring multiple, unrelated vocalists come off as consistently listenable or coherent as this one.

Get it for "Diamondhead" alone. You will not be disappointed.

1. Frontera 2. Diamond Head 3. Big Day 4. The Flex 5. Same Time Next Week
6. Miss Shapiro 7. East Of Echo 8. Lagrima


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