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Manzanera & Mackay - 1989 Up In Smoke

ARTIST: Manzanera & Mackay
ALBUM: Up In Smoke
LABEL: Relativity
SERIAL: 88561-1010-2
YEAR: 1989


LINEUP: Phil Manzanera - guitars, synthesizers * Andy Mackay - sax, oboe, vocals * James Wraith - vocals

Additional Musicians: Steve Gadd, Gerry Marotta, Blair Cunningham - drums * Guy Fletcher - keyboards * Tony Levin, John Mackenzie, Alan Spenner - bass * Paul Carrack - piano * Tessa Niles, Carol Kenyon - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Black Gang Chine * 02 Free Yourself * 03 Lorelei * 04 Every King Of Stone * 05 I Can Be Tender * 06 Prussian Blue * 07 Ship Of Fools * 08 Venus De Milo * 09 Many Are The Ways * 10 Breath Of Life * 11 Dreams Of The East * 12 You Go Up In Smoke

Art rock connoisseurs may remember the 1985 self-titled album from The Explorers. Comprised of former Roxy Music alumni guitarist Phil Manzanera and horn blower Andy Mackay with Bryan Ferry sound-alike James Wraith in tow; The Explorers never took off in a big way despite a well-publicized UK tour. The trio recorded a second album but their record label - Virgin who was far from impressed with the debut's sales would have none of it. Wraith left the band in 1987 and like The Explorers was never heard from again, but here's where the story becomes slightly complicated. The previously vaulted second album 'Crack The Whip' appeared on the small Relativity label in 1988 under the Manzanera & Mackay moniker; giving the long dead project greater name recognition is my guess. 'Up In Smoke' made its retail debut a year later and featured cuts from both records and one that appeared on neither, making for a nice compilation of sorts.

The Songs
Musically we have an AOR version of Roxy Music although within the material's arty context your mileage may vary. The previously unreleased 'Black Gang Chine' opens the proceedings and it's a beauty really, majestic with great depth and probably the least Bryan Ferry influenced vocal from James Wraith. From here on the music ping-pong's between Spandau Duran pop on 'Free Yourself' and 'Lorelei' to near Starship-like greatness on the catchy 'I Can Be Tender' yet it's the progressively based Roxy influenced material that saves the comp from becoming just another '80s pop album. The driving Roxy doppelganger 'Venus De Milo' and the seamless 'Dreams Of The East' bring to mind Roxy Music's 1982 stone-cold classic 'Avalon' not forgetting 'You Go Up In Smoke'; a liltingly gorgeous and moody piece of heaven that could have easily fit on that band's stylish wonderwork.

In Summary
On the downside Phil Manzanera's elegant guitar work is noticeably absent, providing atmospherics and very little in the way of solos which are more often than not left to Andy Mackay's classy wind and brass. Still, it's all good, even better 'Up In Smoke' is easy to find cheaply. As a top notch overview of one of art rock's all too numerous commercial failures it can't be beat.

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