Friday, 18 May 2012

Review: Phil Manzanera and Anna Le

Phil Manzanera and Anna Le – Nth Entities (Expression Records)
Back in the good ol’ days, musicians who accompanied poets usually stuck with the bongos. Actually those days weren’t that good, though the quality of the poetry was often sublime. Things changed in the ‘70s with the punk poets, and if you’ve heard John Cooper Clarke’s recordings from the period, the music was more considered and formed, though even less compatible to the spoken word. Lazily bypassing the last three decades brings us to the present and “Nth Entities”, an album of poetry and music, with Anna Le providing the voice and words, and Phil Manzanera the tunes.

Thanks to the handsome packaging, first impressions are overwhelmingly positive. They were going to have to screw up big time to change my mind, and of course, they didn’t. Phil Manzanera has loomed large on my musical landscape from the first time I heard Roxy’s “Pyjamarama”, and I’ve always found something to like in his various musical excursions. Whether it’s a straight rock walk, progressive fusions or jazzier world pieces, there’s always a way in, and so it is with “Nth Entities”.

Le’s subject matter is almost wholly concerned with black male heroes, mostly musicians. “The Wonder Of Wonder” is perhaps the finest piece, though Jimi Hendrix (“Jimi”) and Lee Perry (“Scratch”) are both well served. Manzanera’s backing covers as many styles as Le’s subjects, without ever coming on too strong. It’s the words that continually take centre stage, which is as it should be, though fans of the guitarist may feel gently underwhelmed. Accept the project for what it is and there’s much here to enjoy. Not least a poet with genuine fire in her guts and the talent to communicate her message.
Rob F.

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