CD Review: Chris Manning “Symmetry”

Good instrumental rock albums only get produced once-in-a-while. One of the most recent additions to that list of albums comes from Chris Manning, a musician who makes his home in the area of Dallas, Texas. The new instrumental rock album produced by the musician is called Symmetry.

While the majority of Symmetry was created with the foundation of Chris Manning on guitar, Bryan Plemons on bass, and Jerome Howard on drums, the album sounds a lot more complex than having been created by only three musicians. For most of the tracks on the album, Manning created a layered effect on the songs by recording multiple parts for the guitar to fill out the sound. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Devil Dogs,” the first track of the album.

From the first measure of the song, the listener is exposed to Chris Manning creating a three-part harmony using the guitar. Having established the style of the piece, two guitars remain in harmony for the majority of the piece while one is used as the “solo” instrument. This arrangement of the instruments remains until the last few moments of “Devil Dogs” when the harmony that began the song is brought back to close the song out. The song “Devil Dogs” is dedicated to the U.S. Marines, which includes Chris’ son, Michael Manning.

The album’s next track, “Purple Funk,” finds Chris Manning pushing the layering effect even further: Two guitars begin the song, creating a bed of harmonized guitar onto which Manning creates a “solo” part that adds to the melody of the song. A third guitar part (played by more guitars) is brought in to add even more texture to the piece. While too much of a good thing can kill a song, the layering effect used by Chris Manning helps to fill out the songs and does not overwhelm the listener.

For the most part, Symmetry by Chris Manning was created as an instrumental album. Manning created nine of the ten tracks without the addition of any lyrics. The only song on the release that features lyrics is the only song on the album that Chris Manning did not have a hand in when the song was created. That song is the track “Strange Ways, “ written by Ace Frehley. On “Strange Ways,” Sean Cloutier joins Manning to provide the words to the song. And while the track isn’t the strongest song on the release, it does add a nice change of pace to the otherwise instrumental album.

“Waiting,” the second-to-last song on Symmetry by Chris Manning, is the track that sticks out the most on the album. When the rest of the tracks feature both a full band as well as dramatic production values, “Waiting” is simply a song with two-part harmony played created without much in the way of production. The simplistic approach on the song gives the chance to hear the talent of Manning as he plays his guitar in a very intimate setting with just a two-part harmony and some bass guitar in the background.

On Symmetry’s last track of “Dallas City Limits,” Chris Manning changes directions, as well as musicians. For the last track of the album, Manning is joined by Chris Cloutier on additional guitars, Mike Price on bass, and Chad Crutchfiled on drums. The quartet laid down a track of hard-hitting instrumental heavy metal. While Bryan Plemons and Jerome Howard are talented musicians and help to fill out the sound on each song that they perform, Manning, Chris Cloutier, Mike Price and Chad Crutchfield sound like a band. And with Chris Cloutier helping to compose the track as well, there is the added dimension to the writing that makes the track feel like it came from a band.

It takes a lot of talent to be able to play the guitar well. And it takes a lot of talent to be able to compose an entire album of instrumental rock music. But when that album of instrumental rock music demands repeated listening, then you know you have something special. And Symmetry, the new album from Dallas, Texas musician Chris Manning, is the type of album that you’ll want to listen to over and over again.   To discover the music of Chris Manning, check out his website at www.chris-manning.com. You can also find him on MySpace at www.myspace.com/chrismanning3.

To discover the music of Chris Manning, simply click on the album cover below: