These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
"It is impossible to talk about blues music in Australia without Phil Manning being mentioned in the first sentence." - [Blues Train] .. .. .. "Phil Manning is undoubtedly one of the finest guitarists ever seen in Australia." - [Laneway Music] .. .. ..
This is album review number 214 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Phil Manning is an icon in Australian music. His name will be forever bound with the brilliant group Chain!
However Phil has released a significant number of albums both as a solo artist and with a range of other bands.
This retro-review is of his 1978 album, simply titled – Manning. Released on the Indigo label it has the catalogue number – INL 001.
It has ten tracks of which two are solo compositions by Phil, seven co-composed with Jim Keays and one by Lewis & Wright.
There are many people that are called “icons” of Australian music. Some I would question, others are really obvious. When it comes to guitar work and blues, then in my mind Phil Manning is a real icon.
Philip John Manning was born in Devonport, Tasmania in 1948. He finished year 12 and decided to undertake a course in Art/ Teaching while being a member of a local Hobart band that often supported bigger acts from the mainland, such as Bobby and Laurie.
He was 17 years of age when and on reading in Go Set that Tony Worsley had lost Vince Melouney to the Bee Gee’s, that he decided his moment had come.
Knowing Tony was in town playing with a backup band, Phil approached him to apply for a job as his guitarist. He scored an audition and was quickly snapped up by Tony and became a member of Tony Worsley & The Blue Jays and within a very short time found himself in Melbourne.
It was late 1966.
However, that gig didn’t last long and before long he joined a Brisbane based band, the Bay City Union. They were an electric blues band that had formed in Brisbane and relocated to Melbourne in December 1966.
He left by 1968 to join the Laurie Allen Revue but it wouldn’t be long before he was reunited with Matt Taylor in a group that was arguably Australia’s foremost electric blues band.
So it was in late in 1968 that he joined a relatively unknown Perth group, who were in Melbourne. The group, in addition to gaining Phil, also recruited Wendy Saddington(ex-James Taylor Move) on vocals.
The group changed its name to The Chain and later to Chain and began to provide audiences with “hot” electric blues-rock.
Some 31 fantastic musicians passed through Chain but arguably the primo lineup was Phil Manning on guitar, Matt Taylor vocals and harp, Barry Harvey on drums and Barry Sullivan on bass guitar.
Chain’s January 1971 single, “Black and Blue” reached the top 20 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart, with Phil Manning co-writing the song with fellow members Harvey, Sullivan and Taylor, proving that he was not just brilliant on guitar but quite adept at writing.
In December he joined Mighty Mouse which at various times included Harvey, Sullivan, Ian Clyne on keyboards, and Mal Capewell on sax and flute. By February 1973, Mighty Mouse was renamed as Chain (their 15th line-up) and Phil left by July 1974.
By now Phil had the taste for doing some solo work and released his first solo LP – I Wish There Was a Way.
In July 1977 Phil was the driving force behind the formation of the Manning Keays Band with Jim Keays on vocals (ex-The Masters Apprentices) and Peter Cuddihy on bass guitar (ex-Space Waltz), John Grant on keyboards (ex-Freeway), Andrew Kay on violin and keyboards, and Robert Ross on drums.
At this point I asked John Grant about what happened in regard to the development of the groups album, titled Manning.
First rehearsals/recording were in the 2nd half of 1977, in Studio 2 at TCS studios with the album eventually being released in 1978.
It was the intention of recording the album before working live. To hit the scene with a strong product before publicising the duo. It was kept quiet that they were working together.
Barry Coburn, the manager, wanted to promote the album internationally. Jim and Phil were still big stars here, of course, or had been only a few years beforehand, but he was only interested in the Aust/NZ market as a stepping stone to larger overseas success.
That was the dream for the Manning-Keays Band.
To support an international outlook, Barry engaged UK producer David Hitchcock, who duly arrived and recording started at TCS with John French engineering, Tony Beuttel assistant engineer, around Sept 1976, or thereabouts.
The album was not completed by the time David had to return to the UK, probably Oct-Nov 1976. Partly because Jim and Andrew “left”, and it was no longer a Manning-Keays project and of course, and any marketing opportunity for two stars of Oz rock coming together was lost.
The decision was taken to name the album, and the band, Manning. David returned in Feb/Mar 1978 to complete the album, but in the meantime, the band needed to work, and so we hit the road.
Later in 78, the band morphed into the Phil Manning Band featuring Midge Marsden (NZ), which released a rare live album in 79, recorded in Christchurch. I left the band around that time.
So to the album!
The first thing that is noteworthy and before we get to the music is, that the album, has two covers! It has both an inner and outer cover.
Now this may not be the first LP to do this, but it’s the first I’ve seen
The album credits are as follows:
Phil Manning – Lead and harmony vocals, lead guitars
Peter Cuddihy – Lead and harmony vocals, bass guitar
John Grant – All keyboards, harmony vocals, recorders
John Ballard – Lead vocals, guitar
Robert Ross – Drums, percussion
Thanks to: Andrew Kay – piano on “Loudspeaker; Kim & Lindsay Field – vocal backings; Meryl Petein and Olga Bitos – Vocal backing on “Roll of Love”; Stephen Cooney – didgeridoo on “Last Days”; Denis, David & Lance from ‘Fullhouse’ for the brass on “Roll On Love”
1. Call Me *
2. Loudspeaker **
3. The Other Half To Come *
4. The Kid Ain’t Happy **
5. Last Days **
1. Roll On Love **
2. Hear It Calling **
3. Play For You **
4. Survivors **
5. When A Man Loves A Woman ***
* Composed by Phil Manning
** Composed by Phil Manning & Jim Keays
*** Composed by Lewis – Wright
Now if you were expecting a blues/electric blues-based album you will be disappointed. Now the album was originally conceived to be a joint project with that other icon of Australian music, Jim Keays.
Manning – the Album, certainly has a more progressive rock feel about it, although it would not be wise to use that label too broadly.
As we listen to the vocals it is clear that the tracks co-written with Jim Keays were probably meant for Jim to sing. In fact, there are a variety of stories that tell a variety of tales about why Jim’s voice never appeared on the album.
I have no idea if any of these are correct but there are two versions that could make sense.
The first is that Jim was excited to be involved but after the album had been finished, those involved discovered that Jim was contracted elsewhere and his voice couldn’t be used and it was stripped off.
The other is a variation, where it was learned after much rehearsing that Jims voice couldn’t be used and it was then recorded without his presence in the studio.
One thing is for certain, musically the album loses nothing for not having Keays involved, but vocally, I think it would have been a lot stronger.
Side 1 – Track 1.
Call Me. One of two tracks written by Phil.
Now I have to say, if track 1 of an album is the “calling card”, then the track tells us immediately that this is not, a blues album.
We need to go back to the period when this album was recorded, 1978. In this period the dominant music styles were hip hop, New Wave and elements of Punk.
This track doesn’t fit Hip Hop or punk, and it even struggles to fit into New Wave, where that style was focussed largely around the use of synthesisers and electronic instruments blended with conventional instrumentation.
It is late 1980’s pop! In retrospect when I look at the quality of the musicians involved I was tempted to ask, why? Why more “pop”?
Again, let’s not forget, that at this time the commercial radio scene was becoming more conservative and certainly less open to “new styles”, and I can only assume that it was the best pathway to success.
The track bops along and while it’s not a challenging piece it it is well crafted and well played.
Track 2 brings us the first of the many Manning/Keays compositions.
Loudspeaker kicks off with a great guitar riff and what sounds like timbale’s. This is a hot guitar piece and certainly reminds us how good Phil Manning is. This was the best side of the released single featuring this track and track 1 – Call Me.
Great vocals – but man oh man – this was written for Jim Keays voice.
Overall this is a shit-hot track and deserved commercial play and success. I love the keyboards, the drums and bass push it along and the guitar takes it into the stratosphere.
Track 3 – The Other Half To Come. A more down-tempo track that features some most excellent keyboard work by John Grant.
Track 4 is The Kid Ain’t Happy. This is the second of the tracks written by Phil. Out of the two Phil wrote, this is my favourite. The pace picks up and I can see it having been very popular live ,as it’s a “get up and dance” track.
Track 5 is the final track on Side 1. Last Days is the longest track on the album coming in at 6:03. In some ways, for me it is like track 1.
It’s not a fantastic track, but it is well played and produced. The use of a didgeridoo, as used on the track, was pretty innovative.
It is a cleverly composed track, at times the complexity of the changes are very nice and it smacks of class and, it is more of a “New Wave’ style than any other track.
You know, the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me . . . and that is the mark of a good track.
Now we turn the LP over onto Side 2
Track 1 is Roll On Love.
This track reminds me so much of 10cc at times, and I say that as a compliment.
Stylistically it moves and changes, but there are times to arrangement and harmonies are very 10cc. Nice guitar work by Phil, particularly around the 1:30 mark. I also have to say the brass work, while subtle, is excellent.
Roll On Love
Hear It Calling is track 2.
Change is good! This is a track that represents change and is really is quite different to all the other tracks on this album
Reggae? No, not quite – but it has some great Caribbean overtones. It is one of those songs that has a good vocal hook – “It’s a simple song, you can sing it long, you can hear it calling“.
Damn fine track!
Track 3 – Play For You
It can be described as “lay back”, “drifting”, but not aimlessly! The track features some great musicianship once again highlighting the quality behind the music on the album.
A nice late at night, sit back with a glass of red, or in those days maybe a joint, and reflect on life around you, as the lyrics tell a story we can all relate to.
Track 4 – Survivors. A nice mid-tempo piece.
To my ears while it is well played, it doesn’t really stand out like some tracks on the album. I hesitate to say it’s “fill”, because it isn’t. The keyboard work reminds me at times of YES – and one does have to marvel at some of Phil’s guitar work.
The final track is the only track not written by Phil or Jim.
Track 5 – When A Man Loves A Woman, is a track that is rightly called a “standard. Therefore if you are going to re-record it, it better be damn well good!
From the opening moment when the guitar melds so beautifully with the backing chorus, the track declares – it has class.
The lead vocals are by Peter Cuddihy and this is a wonderful version.
Everyone involved rises to the occasion and the end result is a track that may not be “blues” but by hell, it has SOUL!
What a great track to finish off with!
It epitomises everything that is good about the best of this album. Musicianship, Production and Engineering all come together in a piece that is an appropriate climax to this album.
When A Man Loves A Woman
As keyboard player John Grant told me – “The album was received well by critics, as I recall, but failed to excite much radio airplay. Play For You was one of the few tracks to be played by one station in Melbourne, I think When A Man Loves A Woman may have got some attention too.“
If you have made it through the review to this point, then you deserve to share in the thoughts of John on why such an amazing project failed.
John will be the first to say that others have different points of view, and even different recollections of events – but he has the right to have his recorded.
The Manning album producer, David Hitchcock, together with management Overeach, was responsible for breaking up the Manning-Keays relationship.
There, I’ve said it.
In the quest for an “international standard” album, the songwriting team was torn apart, together with the possibility of an exciting chapter in Oz rock history, and a real story to sell the album here.
would have worked in Australia, without doubt. But the album that resulted was compromised from the earlier vision. Originally, all songs were to be Manning-Keays compositions, they were all written before recording started, when I joined the rehearsal band.
But after the split, Phil was persuaded to write two songs that would be more commercial “single” material. Always a dangerous direction to push an artist. It didn’t succeed.
Phil remained a guitar legend, of course, one of the country’s biggest in the 70s, and the band kept touring, and racking up debts as so many bands did around that time.
So there we have it.
For anyone who collects Australian music, I think Manning – the album, while largely unrecognised is a must.
Phil, and indeed all those who played on this album, may have individually put out what might be termed as “better? music, but it is not just an interesting album that they add to their legacy, it is one that showcases some very classy writing, playing and production.
The album also reminds us that Phil also, has a voice that records really well, and he knows how to use it.
As an Australian album it is filled with wonderful musicianship and certainly for Phil Manning, it was a change in direction and it deserves more recognition.
Discogs had seven copies available from $30.00 upwards.
Sadly, although four videos were made of the band Manning playing tracks from this album, they are not available and so, we are unable to see the band in action.
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.