A number of years ago I went through a friend's CD collection and chose the album Feel 'N Groove as next to be played that evening. The pleasant sounding fusion and jazz guitar album, with a funky touch by Italian guitarist Ciro Manna became a regular one on the evenings we used to meet. Too bad the actual album never was added to my own collection. Today the successor for the 2007 album, called XY has been playing in my PC and is ready for review.
The previous album featured Antonio Muto on drums, Marco Galiero on bass and Angelo Abate on keyboards, as well as special guests Pietropaolo Veltre (bass) and Alex Argento (keys). On YX the core is still present on a number of songs, but is expanded with some of the best regarded names in the musical scene. Like drummer Simon Phillips; known from numerous albums and bands and Lee Sklar; the bass player who did countless studio sessions and played with Phillips in Toto, both of them can be heard on six songs on the album. Three friended guitarists of world fame added their signature soloing to one composition each on the album; Andy Timmons joins Ciro on X2, Guthrie Govan adds his chops to Secret Potion and Paul Gilbert shows his skills on his own composition, resulting in the heaviest song on the album; Wheels On Fire. Two of the compositions are vocal tracks; Fear And Fire is a fine relaxed composition in the smooth jazz vein with the addition of Ilaria Palmieri's nice jazzy voice, with a rough edge. The other is Secret Point, where Patrix Duenas' voice takes you back to the high days of funk rock/metal in the eighties and nineties. Extreme comes to mind, but I also hear Living Colour and Dan Reed's Network as influences.
All the info above already indicates the diversity of styles the album holds, from the technical, heavy fusion song Mosaiko Rock; which sounds incredible, perfectly highlighting Ciro's guitar skills in combination with a very experienced rhythm section, to the more bluesy Bad Brakes, with powerful riffs and melodies combined with delicate solos and Michael Lee Firkins reminding “slide” parts. The aforementioned smooth jazzy composition Fear And Fire is in total contrast to the heavy Wheels On Fire or the funky rocker Secret Potion. Some instrumentals have a noticeable Joe Satriani feel; X1 and X3 are samples of the way Ciro combines feel and technical skills, resulting in absolute interesting compositions. Equally interesting are the songs Drivin' On and the album's title track XY, both presented here as the Ciro Manna Trio, with the rhythm section of Feel 'N Groove backing up. Accessible guitar orientated music that is hard not to like, if you are a guitar fanatic like myself. The album's bonus track is something different, Just In Time is written by keyboard player Angelo Abate and should be defined as fusion, but highlighting the keyboards. Ciro adds a fine guitar to the intelligent fusion of Angelo, warming up the fusion spot in my heart.
It took quite a while to come up with this album, Ciro Manna has been working hard over the last years to compose and play music for several Italian Television shows, but nevertheless the album XY has been released. For this album I think it's a very strong point to use this wide variety of styles on the album. On some albums this just does not work and is only causing confusion, but Ciro Manna's guitar skills are ingredients to make XY a coherent album. An album that will find its way to my players very often, I can assure you! If you like guitar dominated music, just listen to this album and convince yourself of the talents of this wonderful player.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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