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TONY McMANUS - "Tony McManus" - Greentrax CDTRAX096

This is quite simply the best guitar album I've heard in ages - probably since Gaughan's "Coppers and Brasses". High praise indeed!!! This is Tony's first album and what a gem it is. He shows both sides to his art, as a solo performer and as an accompanist. The timing of the release is good too, coming at a time when the guitar is enjoying increased popularity in another form of music (?) with the likes of Blur, Oasis etc.

The CD opens with Tony as part of a band including Brian McNeill, and shows how the guitar can be used to drive the tune along without the thrash which is often the case these days. Soon we hear Tony as a solo guitarist showing just how talented he is. Listen to the excellent interplay between the harp of Patsy Seddon and the guitar on "Gavotte de Marcell" whilst enjoying the new life breathed into J. Scott Skinner's, "Hector the Hero".

The CD ends with a version of "Wonderful World" - yes, the Louis Armstrong signature tune - that is, well, just wonderful. In the notes he says it was recorded with a feeling of despair at the nuclear vandalism of some politicians, and optimism at those working against this. No words are used just a tune full of feeling.

As with the playing, the recording and production are both done sympathetically, the latter in the hands of Mr. McNeill. I'm sure there is a touch of electronic trickery used but nowhere does it get in the way.

Something new is noticed every time I play it, and it's a really enjoyable CD which would be among my contenders for album of the year (yes I know it's only March) and I'm really looking forward to seeing Tony live, Gosport, I think. But don't just take my word for it ...

The great Phil Cunningham is quoted as saying ... "A great accompanist? Maybe! A musical Tour de Force? DEFINITELY!!!"

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 16 of The Living Tradition magazine.