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|Creem, August 1975.
Okay, straight out, who's the premiere British guitarist of the 70's? Eric Clapton? (A great cure for insomnia.) Jimmy Page? (By the sounds of Physical Graffiti he's running out of riffs). Jeff Beck? (Blow by Blow merely pays tribute to Roy Buchanan and Jeff's favourite songwriters.) All out of Yardbirds, how about Mick Ronson? (His live gig with Hunter almost restored my confidence in him. Almost.)
How about Roxy's own Cuban flamethrower Phil Manzanera? Remember "Remake/Remodel" those psychedelic gearings that shot out of the past right into the future like the present didn't even exist? Well, this is a guitar player's solo album. Full of passionate chops and shattering leads. Four solid Manzanera instrumentals, two Eno songs, a Robert Wyatt song sung in drunken Spanish, a John Wetton song (all co-written by Phil) and a song that reveals what his prior band the Quiet Sun was all about. I call that one hell of a package, and yes he gets my vote.
Record World 10.5.75.
Roxy Music's guitarist extraordinaire makes an impressive solo start, assisted by Roxy regulars Paul Thompson, Eddie Jobson, guest bassist John Wetton and former Roxy-ite Eno, among others. The sound is exotic rock, with "The Flex", "Same Time Next Week," "Miss Shapiro" and "Alma" being the sparklers.
Angus Mackinnon, Sounds, 10.5.75.
Now here's a bright hand-ful of gold thrown in the faces of those who maintain that solo albums (guitarist in name band produces own record and fails to convince, etc) are largely unnecessary. I've always found Manzanera's guitar the most intriguing element in Roxy; it's never over-stated, solos are invariably short and controlled, and it creates layer upon layer of texture: tight rhythm chording, a cluster of notes at the end of a phrase, and of course the Manzanera (and Eno) treatments. It's not how many notes you play, but how and where you play them.
Naturally, Manzanera's well in evidence here, and he's written all the music himself. There are four instrumentals, whilst Robert Wyatt Eno, John Wetton and Bill MacCormick (remember Matching Mole?) contribute lyrics to the five other cuts. This arrangement has worked very well. Wyatt sings in Spanish on 'Frontera' the wistful opener, Eno pulls out two sets of phonetic-collage, 'Big Day' and 'Miss Shapiro', and so on. Manzanera spent much of his childhood in Latin and Southern America hence the ethnic orientation (rhythmic and modal) of much of the material.
Support comes mostly from Roxy's past and present. Mackay, Eddie Jobson, Thompson and Wetton are as dependable as ever, with Mackay playing tremendously on 'The Flex'. 'Quiet Sun', Manzanera's band prior to Roxy, have been gathered together for one number 'East of Echo' - it's really strong, with keyboard and fuzz bass themes extrapolated over a kicking rhythm. (Island intend to release an album's worth of their material - watch out for it.) Manzanera impresses throughout, with his usual good taste and flawless technique. 'Diamond Head' itself boasts an infectious melody, heightened by Manzanera's lead, as does 'Lagrima', with just acoustic guitar and oboe. My personal favourite's 'Alma', with tender lyrics by MacCormick, and a powerful arrangement from Manzanera. Overall the mood's very different from Roxy, being warm and affectionate; there's a whole lot of everything here, and very engagingly presented. Investigate soonest - it'll grow right into you.
Max Bell, New Musical Express, 19.4.75
Nice One Peruvian Pedro
PHIL MANZANERA'S first foray into solo territory should help emphasise just how great his contribution to the sound of Roxy really is, while allaying any fears that he's cashing in on a Godsent opportunity to do his thing. "Diamond Head" is, for the most part, a polished set of classy, lovingly constructed songs.
Perhaps the content here will disappoint those who expected Manzanera to use this chance to showcase his talents because it's generally a combined effort of ideas and playing abilities that ought to be judged on its own merits rather than against group achievements. Though four Roxies and an Eno contribute (guess who ain't singing) the result is very far removed from what we might have expected. Maybe the band is more flexible than Ferry. Opener is "Frontera" where Senor Wyatt burbles expertly paced dago vocals over a whirlpool of guitars timbales and a strolling cabasa. Nice one Pedro. 'Diamond Head" itself is one of four instrumentals and surprising with it. Eerie guitar treatment does gentle battle with Eddie Jobson's massed strings and Paul Thompson's ever so slick and complimentary drumming. Listen out for the piano fade too, which sounds like the ending to Stephen Stills' "To A Flame". A small moment of unforced magic.
Brian Eno puts a very typical stamp onto "Big Day", a tongue in cheek Peruvian paean-cum-travelogue. Brian Turrington and John Wetton's bass interplays are exemplary though the basic melody is too close to "The Nearest Faraway Place" for comfort. Manzanera plays a robust fuzz guitar and delicate twelve-stringed tiple, half cousin to the harpsichord I shouldn't wonder. Most immediate and conversely least impressive track is "The Flex". It doesn't get anywhere in particular and there's some unusually uninspired soprano and alto sax from the normally superb E. Riff. The number is pulled into partial shape by Junior Jobson who does the funky clavinet in true Stevie Wonder style.
"Same Time Next Week", a joint Manzanera/Wetton composition has the bass player singing a caustic Battle Of The Sexes duet with Doreen Chanter. Plush soulful guitar this time but, like most of the album, it's a degree more laid back than recent Roxy, owing nothing whatsoever to their studied urbanity, something which is getting a mite too overstated. Manzanera is in search of 'panache but he doesn't push too hard for effect. Eno flavouring again on "Miss Shapiro", a jokey intellectual ramble with a fair quota of daft puns and idiosyncratic lines such as: "Dalai Llama lama Puss Puss". Quite. The ex-Roxette strums a personable rhythm guitar here that reeks of "White Light".
Manzanera's old group Quiet Sun are featured prominently on "East of Echo", a neat amalgam of straight melody and distorted electronics. A prime and pertinent example of what can be achieved without ever resorting to cheap flash. Only "Lagrima" fits uneasily into the general pattern of the album, with its Spanish classical guitar plucked against moody oboe just lacking the invention that would prevent it from coming on like watered down Rodrigo.
Two things "Diamond Head" has in abundance are taste and variation. Distinctly clotted concentrated sounds appearing to be Manzanera's aim: something that really gels on "Alma", a (Quiet Sun original). Lovely tiple and ponderous sustained chords for the guitarist to slurp through. As a closer it's ideal. The finish to a record that, while not exactly exceptional is valid, listenable and satisfying. Definitely one for the gauchos meester Pheel. Gold fillings all round.
Al Niester, Rolling Stone, 31.7.75.
Phil Manzanera's first solo album features all the current members of Roxy Music, as well as ex-member Eno, with the very notable exception of vocalist Bryan Ferry. And yet, anyone expecting a new Roxy Music album will initially be disappointed. The album is an appealing mixture of fine, if occasionally bizarre, music from a cross section of some of the best current English musicians, but Manzanera does little of the riffing or modernistic playing that characterised his work with Roxy. Even the more spirited stuff clearly eschews the Roxy sound. While "East of Echo" admittedly harkens to "The Bogus Man" from Roxy's 'For Your Pleasure' album, it pales next to "Miss Shapiro," a fine workout headed by a very much in-control-of-his-senses Eno. It is Manzanera's show. His guitar playing remains subtle yet craftsmanlike throughout, never blatantly dominant but always apparent. His string synthesiser embellishments on "Alma" indicate definite talent as an arranger, as well. Even beyond Roxy Music, Manzanera is a talent in his own right.
PHIL - WEALTHY PLANTATION OWNER TURNS MAD AXEMAN
As we work our way through the solo albums from Roxy Music men, we come to "Diamond Head" by Roxy axeman Phil Manzanera. Manzanera's playing with the group has always been basic - playing for effect rather than acclaim as a flash-fingered virtuoso. His stylistic range has developed quite significantly during his association with Roxy and although on this album his dominant role is still one of establishing moods, the level of sophistication he has achieved permits him to subtly move in musical areas uncommon to Roxy Music, as well as throwing in some brain crunching solos.
The majority of the songs on the album are joint compositions - Phil sharing credits with the members of the influential little gang that includes Andy Mackay, Robert Wyatt and the omnipresent Eno. The opening track Frontera was penned with Robert Wyatt who vocalises the Spanish language lyrics to a jog-along semi-Latin tempo with Phil jangling Isley Brothers type chords in accompaniment. A soaring Manzanera solo breaks the number which gradually unwinds through Eno's backing vocals. The title track is a grandly rolling instrumental named after a mountain on Hawaii where Phil spent part of his youth. Eddie Jobson and Eno contribute, Jobson on electric piano and strings, Eno providing 'treatment' for the background guitar sound. Fave track is Big Day, a Manzanera/Eno composition which is typical bouncy Eno, and could almost be played by a brass band. The lyrics concern (the only place to go) Peru, and Eno sings longingly for its friendly climes. The next two tracks, the instrumental The Flex, and The Same Time Next Week (co-authored with John Wetton) are a very pleasant departure from the style of Roxy Music and show how well Manzanera can handle funk/soul material as both rhythm and lead guitarist. Nice solo on The Flex, Phil.
Side two opens with another Manzanera/Eno composition titled Miss Shapiro which features Eno singing characteristic, delightfully obscure lyrics over one of those pleasantly interminable rolling backgrounds punctuated by Manzanera's incisive, buzz-saw soloing a la Roxy. Another Phil-penned instrumental follows titled East of Echo and is grandly effective on the scale of Diamond Head only more sombre. The following tune Lagrima also composed by Manzanera features Phil on eerily, effective 'backwards' acoustic guitar and Andy Mackay on oboe. The closing track Alma marks the record debut of Manzanera as lead vocalist and the song is very Roxy Music, right down to the deviant, monster guitar passage towards the end that descends through Paul Thompson's power drumming and John Wetton's bass. On the whole the album is a far more memorable outing than "Eddie Riff' and a must for R. Music devotees. Not an album that leaps up and smashes you in the face, but then again, most of you are too ugly already.
LA Free Press, 6.26.75.
Solo debut of Roxy Music's lead guitarist bares a brave soul and Academic talent paving the way for a deserved success. Session-mates Eno, John Wetton, several Roxys, Robert Wyatt are given the frontline position making this a delightfully unembarrassing entrance. Cut after cut an absolute pleasure. More, more!
Phil Manzanera's forte is his axe. Given the right vehicle he can bend and shape a guitar line to fit any musical fancy. On hand, Manzanera does just that. Creative runs prevail on such cuts as 'Frontera' and 'Big Day' as Manzanera goes a long way towards proving that his well of musical ideas is far from drying up. Other curs worthy of your attention are 'The Flex' and 'Miss Shapiro'. Phil Manzanera's 'Diamond Head', it's worth its weight in gold.
If Bryan Ferry can make solo LPs, why not Roxy Music guitarist Manzanera? Why not, indeed. The guitarist has come up with a more than competent rock set, less campy than Ferry's solo ventures and more in the commercial stream than Roxy's. Emphasis is on good rock instrumental work with an occasional off the wall lyric to remind one that Roxy Music is the parent of all this madness. Tasteful, good but not too flashy guitar work and excellent sax from Roxy's Andy Mackay on several of the instrumentals. Vocals here from the likes of Robert Wyatt, Eno and an interesting lady named Doreen Chanter. Still, the instrumentals work best with the sax and guitar balance perfect. Even an oboe duet. FM play expected. Best cuts: Frontera, Diamond Head, The Flex, Same Time Next Week, East of Echo, Lagrima.
Western Evening Herald, 23.5.75.
At the flick of a plectrum this Roxy Music guitarist can create any of the many moods and styles embrace by that extraordinary band. Phil's talents have already been deployed outside the context of Roxy, on albums by Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Eno, John Cale and Nico and now he has made his own album full of self-compositions. The album ranges from up-tempo rockers like "The Flex" to the wistful melodic evocations of the title track. Phil has a star-studded line-up behind him and there is no reason why the record should not enjoy the same sales success as earlier Roxy LPs have.
Southern Evening Echo 14.5.75
Roxy Music's guitarist with his first solo album. He has built himself more than a solid reputation as one of Bryan Ferry lucid backup musicians but he is out to prove that he's got enough talent to stand on his own. PhiI wrote all the music on the album, and "guest artists" like Eno and John Wetton supply lyrics.
Time Out 23.5.75
This record by Roxy's guitarist although lacking the cohesive identity that B. Ferry gives Roxy Music, has its brilliant moments. Whether this is due to Manzanera or to his friends is a moot point. The material is varied and heavily influenced by the lyricist of the moment, be it Eno, Wyatt, Wetton or MacCormick and without the expected prominence of guitar noises except on Lagrima where he duets with an oboe to beautiful effect. The Eno song, however, ends on 1975's best line to date 'Oo-poo-Peru'.
Cliff Michalski, The Scene (NE Ohio), 15.5.75.
This album will move Roxy Music a bit further along towards capturing Jefferson Whatamacallit's record for the most solo LPs and extra-group combinations by members of any one band. DIAMOND HEAD is the first solo venture by Phil Manzanera, Roxy's guitarist, the sixth such record from past and present members of that group. It also happens to be the best of the lot, disqualifying Bryan Ferry's memory lane excursions. In fact, Ferry is the only member of Roxy who doesn't make an appearance on this album. Despite this family affair arrangement, only one track, "Miss Shapiro," could be described as sounding like Manzanera's parent band, a driving, "Thrill Of It All"-styled composition. Four of the cuts are instrumentals, the other five feature various guest vocalists, as Manzanera ranks among those people never gifted with a talent for singing rock (although that fact has never stopped the likes of Lord Sutch or Jim Dandy Mangrum. Or Bob Dylan, for that matter). A few of the cuts tend towards mediocrity, and considering the fact that Manzanera wrote only four of the songs by himself, calling this his solo album could be a somewhat dubious descriptions. But the man who stands as his group's best instrumentalist has still topped similar works from his band mates, and has produced what may be the most interesting of those albums for non-Roxy Music freaks.
The Outlook, West Long Branch, NJ., 2.5.75.
For his first solo venture Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera retains some of Roxy's identifiable textures on "Big Day" and "Miss Shapiro" (both with vocals by the highly ubiquitous ex-Roxy keyboarder Eno) while alternating a quartet of challenging instrumentals into the program: the title tune, Diamond Head". "The FIex" (highlighting the alto and soprano sax muscle of Roxy's Andy Mackay), "East of Echo" (with members of Quiet Sun, Manzanera's previous group), and a mysterious guitar/oboe duet (with Mackay) titled "Lagrima," Spanish for "tear". The Latin flavourings of the "Diamond Head" album, reflecting Manzanera's Cuban ancestry, peak in the feverish opener, "Frontera," with vocals by Robert Wyatt. An all-star British package and a must-to-own for every Phil Manzanera and Roxy Music fan.
Austin Sun, Texas, 29.5.75.
Another solo project by a Roxy Music-man. In his efforts, vocalist Bryan Ferry is able to take classics from the last decade and render them lifeless, which is no mean feat. Lead guitarist Manzanera takes the metal music of today and gives it spirit. Which is more difficult is beyond me. The performance by Roxy Music on a recent Midnight Special was both appealing and disturbing, making me think they really might be the band of the 70s.
The Ann Arbor News, July 1975
None of the nine tracks is quite like any of the others, and all of them are unqualified successes. While Manzanera clearly owes his heaviest debt to the Spanish rhythms he grew up with in Latin America, he is equally comfortable (and equally accomplished) with funk, hard rock or spacey sounds. And I can forgive Roxy Music all its sins for making Phil Manzanera possible.
Circus Raves September 1975
This is a subtle masterpiece, consistently inventive professional, entertaining, and diverse. Manzanera has definitely shown me something here - I'm going to watch for him in the future.
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