Phil Manzanera K-Scope Review - Wed 30th Aug

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Phil Manzanera's K-Scope reviewed by  Joe McGlinchey for www,

Recorded in early 1978 at the home studio of Chris Squire (Yes), K-Scope shows a blending of friends old and new for the Roxy Music guitarist. Roxy Music at this point were in hibernation but would soon reform, after a four year absence, and release the very underrated Manifesto. Showing up on K-Scope are Bill MacCormick, acting as a main collaborator, and in cameos of one track each, Paul Thompson, John Wetton, and Francis Monkman (who played with Manzanera in the original 801). Kevin Godley and Lol Creme of 10cc are again on hand to lend their support, having been present on Manzanera's previous (Listen Now). Most interestingly among the 'new blood' were members of Split Enz: vocalist Tim Finn and keyboardist Eddie Rayner, with Neal Finn assuming a lesser role of backing vocals on one track. Veteran British session men Mel Collins and Simon Phillips are an omnipresence.

K-Scope reminds me of other solo albums (e.g., Steve Hackett's Please Don't Touch) where the artist begins to draw in a variety of other musical influences outside of that with which they are usually associated, and integrates these into the main sound for which they are known. Manzanera spreads his wings, attempting to go for more than just another stroll down the art rock block. "Remote Control," written with Bill MacCormick's brother Ian, is a terse, high energy track tapping into the post-punk sound that ruled the popularity roost in Britain during this time. The next two tracks, both benefiting from well-written lyrics and Tim Finn's lead vocals, are devilishly good. The sassy "Cuban Crisis" has a reggae shuffle sounding comparable to The Police, countered by quicker sections with the lyrics breezily dancing by like Fred Astaire. As far as meta-lyrics go (Adrian Belew take note!): "And she replied/ 'Well how can I live in such a light-weight song?'" is one of the best delivered I've heard. "Hot Spot" seems to be the album's attempt at a pop single, decked out with light rhythm guitars, disco drums, and brass section. The lyrics, also biting and witty, open up with "I just drove into town today/To sample the fleshpots" and, take it from there, telling a tale fittingly merging discotheques and post-nuclear imagery. The stand-outs on the second side of the album, both co-written with McCormack and featuring him on lead, are "Gone Flying" and "Walking Through Heaven's Door." With admirably subtle lyrics, "Gone Flying" on the surface at first seems to be either about falling in love or losing yourself to a good time, an illusion bolstered by ecstatic vocals and a carefree mood in the music. However, revealed in the last line of the song ("Take away your mind/ You'll burn up in the sun") is the strong suggestion of drug abuse and running away from things that should be confronted. Written in two sections, "Walking through Heaven's Door" is the reward thrown to those of prog proclivities, and actually seems to anticipate the artsier selections of early 80s Genesis. It is also quite possibly the best track on the album.

Among the lesser moments, the instrumental tracks once again generally don't cut it for me, and Wetton's showcase ("Numbers") is a disappointment. Also, a lot of the album sounds particularly dated to the late 70s. Like Diamond Head, I feel this one yields mixed results, but overall I would say it's the more consistent album.

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