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Friday, June 27, 2014

Roger Manning - s/t (SST #203~) (Shanachie #5718*)

Name: Roger Manning
Album(s): s/t & s/t (SST #203~, Shanachie #5718*)
Year(s): 1988~, 1997*
Style: Anti-Folk singer/songwriter, Blues
Similar Artists: Bob Dylan, Jad Fair,Neil Young, Violent Femmes
"One Word" Review: Nasally-Energetic-train-riding-solos
Based Out Of: NYC, NY
Labels: SST Records~, Shanachie*
 SST - Cover, CD
 SST - Liner Notes & Back
 Shanachie Cover, CD, Promo Mailer
Shanachie Liner Notes, Back, Mailer
S/T [SST #203] (1988)
  1. The #14 Blues 2:23
  2. The Pearly Blues 3:46
  3. The Lefty Rhetoric Blues 2:19
  4. The Hitch Hiker's Blues 3:10
  5. The West Valley Blues 4:02
  6. Strange Little Blues 2:23 / 
  7. The Airport Blues 2:42
  8. The #16 Blues 2:33
  9. The #17 Blues 3:58
  10. Blues For the Chosen Few 2:58
  11. The 1010 Blues 2:47
  12. The Sicilian Train Blues 3:59

S/T [Shanachie #5718]
  1. Grand Teton Blues 0:15
  2. The Driving Blues 3:43
  3. The Pearly Blues #6 4:39
  4. Loisaida Covers Billy Syndrome 0:30
  5. The Bohemia Blues 3:36
  6. The East 5th St Blues #5 3:30
  7. The War Museum Blues 3:21
  8. The Driving Blues #2 5:07
  9. The Driving Blues #3 4:18
  10. The Rearview Mirror  Blues 2:59
  11. The Pearly Blues #8 3:52
  12. The Hitchhiker Blues #5 (Midnight Blues) 3:32
  13. The Hitchhiker Blues #4 3:36
  14. The Projection Blues 4:10
  15. Homer's Backyard 0:15
  16. The Ios Blues #2 4:28
  17. The Hitchhiker Blues #3 6:02

Album Rating (1-10): ~6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Roger Manning - Guitar, Vox, Producer ~* Engineer* (Young the Giant)
Steve Dansiger - Drums~
Jason Goodrow - Bass~
John Gurrin - Producer~
Veronica Toole - Assistant~
Brenda Kahn - Assistant~
Patricia Lie - Cover Design~
Ilana Storace - Photo~
Ken Greenboy - Drums*
Laura Elmina - Bass, Word*
Conrad Cooper - Bass*
Casey - Word*
Amy - Voice* (Nausea)
Sasha - Fiddle*
Fly - Artwork & Design*
Joe Folk - Engineer*
Richard Joseph - Editing~*

Unknown-ness: Back in 1998 or so, before I had the internet to research or review things, I bought these two albums thinking I was buying Roger Joseph Manning Jr's (from the band Jellyfish) solo albums. I knew I was wrong nearly right off the bat, but I have since forgot what they sound like. I remember being disappointed, but that was just because whatever these are, they were not up to the catchy psychedelic power pop style I was expecting. All I can predict here is that these are not that.

Album Review: Manning is a subway troubadour, playing his acoustic anti-folk, folk songs on the streets, and these recordings pick up as you’d expect to hear him live, with a little drums and bass added sparsely. His website is pretty detailed and complex: he even offers capsulated movie reviews of everything he’s seen and he promotes inline skating.

~“The #14 Blues” Acoustic jangley guitars with minimal drums and simple bass line filling in the gaps. There are some progression changes in the song, but it is a straight driving song. Nasally vocals and fast sung lyrics drive this forward like a train.
“The Pearly Blues” is slower, but still has the same acoustic guitar and nasal vocals. No backing percussion and bass on this one. The song tries to capture a youthful intelligence and folksy plays on words, all the while depicting living in a white man’s idea of poverty. Saying this is not a folk song does not make it NOT a folk song. Because that’s what it is.
“The Lefty Rhetoric Blues” brings the driving guitar back as the percussive element to accompany the melody. It is fast sung to keep up with the guitar, and it rises and fades in nasally energy. This one is politically charged, as identifiable by its name.
“The Hitch Hiker's Blues” carries along with it the driving style of a few lyrics and a short guitar hook. But it quickly blossoms into a pretty catchy hook for its chorus. I don’t listen to much Neil Young, but from the little I've heard, his voice reminds me of Neil’s here. But phrases of lyrics are framed by music, which makes this a little different than the rest of the album.
“The West Valley Blues” has a bit of a waltz tempo. The lyrics are staggered along the melody of the song. The message is a personal and political history of the area Manning grew up, concerning nuclear testing, which ultimately is blamed for his father’s (and others’) passing.
“Strange Little Blues” drives from the get go, reminding me of the verse from Violent Femmes song “Lies” without the catchy chorus. Instead the chorus here is a Ho-Ohhhhh, similar to that of a train whistle.

~“The Airport Blues” breaks out the typical song style with obvious forward sounding drums, and a much more musical background, reminding me a little of the verse from James’ “Sometimes,” especially with the bass.
“The #16 Blues” starts with simple strummed chords with a bit of a sloppy sound. This song discusses escaping from NY, if there is perhaps even anywhere else to go for Manning.
“The #17 Blues” is another jangely story song with more dialogue than singing with some hippie contemplations and ideas.
“Blues For the Chosen Few” is a one dimensional chord change in the verse, and barely a difference for the chorus, which is mainly just an instrumental chorus. But the song is oddly relate-able and accessible.
“The 1010 Blues” starts off again, like James’ song “Sometimes” but the song does not paint the same lovely and deadly picture that “Sometimes” captures. And the song is all verse, split by acoustic sections.
“The Sicilian Train Blues” finally used the actual train lyrics over top a train, driving acoustic tempo & melody. The song is solid, featuring a fun, repetitive hook, with minor changes, before returning to the base hook. The lines and verses nicely complete themselves. The instrumental break is a country-ish jam, slightly changing up the familiar melody.

*“Grand Teton Blues” is just a couple of coyote howls
“The Driving Blues” Already this is a more ambitious album. The jangely guitar is less front and center, and the drums and bass take much more of a burden. The song still has a similar train, driving tempo, and yet his vocals have the same nasally tone. This feels like an introduction song, which makes it a good first real track.
“The Pearly Blues #6” ” has a smooth head-nodding rhythm for the intro, but the verses lack the music support, and are all percussive. But the song builds to an obvious chorus. The lyrics are more spoken than sung in this song, reminding me of Dismemberment Plan’s “The Ice of Boston” a little. 
“Loisaida Covers Billy Syndrome” is an answering machine recording with a lady’s voice, some guitar, and an explanation of “art” from Manning.
“The Bohemia Blues” picks up the driving baton and continues on with notable drums and a very Jad Fair/Gordon Gano style of singing.
“The East 5th St Blues #5” has a sleepy, slow start that matches the lyrics of 6am. Thing is, it never really gets going. It treads water in this anticipatingly slow stutter.
“The War Museum Blues” has a fuzzy acoustic strum melody, and a dark spirit. The fuzz makes the sound thick and complex, but really it is just a chaotic echo. Even the fuzz spills over to the vocals here and there, making the album really feel like it could have been part of the alternative craze a few years earlier.
“The Driving Blues #2” is a simple guitar riff with another answering machine message overtop. Then the music finds its hold and a catchy guitar loop plays through a few rotations. In this case, the momentum the beginning had is obliterated by the lyrics, as the song seems to take a different, generic folksy direction.
“The Driving Blues #3” starts with some electric guitar feedback, and then launches into a thick electrified acoustic jam. The music waits for the verse to finish before it kicks back in.

*“The Rearview Mirror Blues” is a catchy fast paced song that starts out promising, with the lyrics called overtop like an auctioneer. It is just not that complex, and leaves you hanging, waiting for a hook that never comes.
“The Pearly Blues #8” slows it down for a hand clap tempo song. But it never really goes anywhere, and hangs around in verse purgatory.
“The Hitchhiker Blues #5 (Midnight Blues)” has a pleasant driving melody, again, and I know I’m saying it a lot, taking me back to the jangle guitar of James’ “Sometimes.” Then a deeper bass line adds some darkness to the song, and the verse begins loosely following the melody. Suddenly out of nowhere there is a chorus of items followed by the phrase “Very Small” but it loses that momentum and steps back into the safety of verse.
“The Hitchhiker Blues #4” was theoretically written before the previous tune, but was placed on the album after #5. It begins like a ramble-y non-directional chain of thoughts. The music is a little of chaos in the fuzzed jangle guitars.
“The Projection Blues” is a liquid sounding, shuffling acoustic song. It too is kinda of directionless and ramble-y. I could even be interpreted as a little whiny.
“Homer's Backyard” is a home recording of one or two young kids singing, with a proud parental laugh to cap it off.
“The Ios Blues #2” is just acoustic guitar strummed and about 1:15, the drums kick in, but only last for a few seconds for an instrumental chorus before returning to the acoustic verse. The instrumental chorus holds a nice head nodding hook, but it comes off pretty typical.
“The Hitchhiker Blues #3”starts with a poetic verse rushed through by Manning for 1:15. There is then a break of silence, and by 1:50, a fiddle begins playing a nervous melody. It levels out into a melancholy display, as only a fiddle can portray. The tune is changed slightly by a higher pitched segment, and a brief moment of optimism comes in, only to be banished by a return to the same melancholy melody. The process repeats four times, and the instrumental ends with the fourth flourish of optimism. 

Stand Out Track: ~The Hitchhiker's Blues


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