"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Word AUGUST 2004 - by Paul Du Noyer
PHIL MANZANERA: 6PM
6PM exemplifies the Roxy man's way with tasteful understatement. But more va-va-voom would be good.
The solo albums of Roxy Music's former guitarist remind you what a vital element of the band he was, but also that he is not one of rock's natural frontmen. True to form, 6PM cannot be faulted for its well-constructed instrumental layers but it can struggle to command the centre stage of your attentions.
The record was apparently prompted by Manzanera's memory of London's late-'60s psychedelic scene, and reunites with him some long-standing friends of that period including Dave Gilmour and Robert Wyatt, as well as Roxy alumni Brian Eno, Paul Thompson and Andy Mackay. There is even a bravely prog-rock gesture in the form of a five-song cycle, The Cissbury Ring, hymning that prehistoric and Tolkienish Sussex site.
But the most effective moments are the simplest - specifically his openly romantic songs Love Devotion and Always You. And the record's heart-rending farewell to the late journalist Ian MacDonald, Wish You Well that tenderly invokes its subjects spiritual leanings; the track is augmented by MacDonald's brother Bill on bass and Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals. Nowhere is Manzanera more a diffident, politely English sort of singer, but the material at its best is strong enough to carry some serious emotional freight. Roxy Music showed how rock'n'roll irony might delight the mind, but in the end it's always sincerity that touches the soul.