Ciro Manna has spent the last 20 years dedicating himself to the guitar, first classical before switching to electric when he started to play live. In 2007 his debut album Feel ‘N Groove was built on rock-funk and jazz featuring drummer Antonio Muto, Marco Galiero on bass and Angelo Abate’s keyboards, all of whom return for this second album with variations injected via the use of other basic instrumental formats.
Ciro has played widely in Italy and featured on a number of TV specials but 2015 saw his band support former Danger Danger guitarist Andy Timmons on an extensive European tour. The opening three ‘X’ tracks here show his versatility as a guitarist, from the hard-edged in an almost ’80s way X1 through X2 which is more of a ballad, melodic and highly accessible, with soloing of the highest quality and Timmons’ bluesy contribution forming a good counterpoint. These tracks also feature the legendary talents of Simon Phillips and Lee Sklar, and when they are involved you can’t help but sit up and take notice. They appear together on six of the tracks, adding Abate for a quartet formation with Manna on four of these, the rhythmic support as exemplary as you might expect with both highly visible whilst allowing Manna the space to solo freely but never ostentatiously.
Ciro himself is a new name to me but his skills are undeniable and he is in no way overshadowed by his esteemed company. His playing is all over this album with an easy charm that makes for an engaging listen. For this second album Ciro has certainly pulled out the big guns in support and as well as the above Guthrie Govan appears on Secret Potion, Ciro matching his playing with confidence.
And there is variety too, as can be found in Mosaiko Rock, a fantastic fusion workout, again featuring Sklar and Phillips with Abate’s keyboards. Trio track Bad Brakes is a blast and the addition of Paul Gilbert on Wheels On Fire is incendiary with some great duelling in probably the most guitar heavy outing on the album. Elsewhere, the long experience of playing with the rhythm section of his live band comes through in a smoking Drivin’ On and the soaring title track, a “live” feel to all of the recordings making the musicians sound fully involved and playing off each other. The bonus track, Just In Time, stands slightly apart with some great keys from Abate and a jazzy style with Galiero subbed for bassist Dario Deidda, a worthy way to finish.
Given the inclusion of so much guitar firepower in the guest list it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a shredfest of over the top plank spanking wankery, but nothing could be further from the truth as the writing is very good with a melodic approach that serves the material well and enough professional discipline, as you would expect from those involved, to ensure that this is a quality release through and through. Also the two vocal tracks break up the instrumental thread of the album and both work well, the lovely voice of Ilaria Palmieri on Fear & Fire adding a new dimension with Manna choosing acoustic guitar in part, and Patrix Duenas gives a high energy performance of note on the aforementioned Secret Potion.
Although well known in guitar circles, Ciro may be unknown to many but he can be justly proud of the results here, a highly satisfying listen that should make his name much more familiar to fans of instrumental rock which is nothing more than he deserves.
Surrounding himself with quality sideman has done Ciro no harm at all on this release and having them aboard underlines the esteem with which he is held by his fellow musicians. He would certainly shine in whatever setting and this set of hard-edged pieces with jazzy elements here and there should appeal to anyone with an open mind for high quality guitar instrumentals that don’t venture down the treacherous road marked “pastiche”.
The quality is undeniable and the skills on show testament to the ability of Ciro Manna, not just in his playing but in the writing too. Well worth a listen.
01. X1 (4:15)
02. X2 (4:53)
03. X3 (5:03)
04. Fear & Fire (5:10)
05. Mosaiko Rock (4:39)
06. Drivin’ On (4:51)
07. Bad Brakes (4:57)
08. Secret Potion (4:56)
09. XY (5:33)
10. Wheels On Fire (4:58)
11. Just In Time (5:57)
Ciro Manna – Guitar
Leland Sklar – Bass (1,2,3,5,7,10)
Simon Phillips – Drums (1,2,3,5,7,10)
Guthrie Govan – Guitar (8)
Andy Timmons – Guitar (2)
Paul Gilbert – Guitar (10)
Antonio Muto – Drums (4,6,8,9,11)
Marco Galiero – Bass (4,6,8,9,11)
Angelo Abate – Keyboards (1,2,3,4,5,11)
Ilaria Palmieri – Vocals (4) & Lyrics (4,8)
Patrix Duenas – Vocals (8)
Dario Deidda – Bass (11)
Record Label: DV Mark
Country of Origin: Italy