Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
Barbara Manning is a wolf in singer-songwriter clothing. Too edgy for Lilith, too sophisticated for the sorority of riot grrrls, Manning's recordings consistently simmer with a nervous energy that tends to (alas? thank go... more »
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Barbara Manning is a wolf in singer-songwriter clothing. Too edgy for Lilith, too sophisticated for the sorority of riot grrrls, Manning's recordings consistently simmer with a nervous energy that tends to (alas? thank goodness?) keep her out of the commercial spotlight. On 1997's 1212, Manning continues to refine her somewhat spare, melodic songcraft. Like Yo La Tengo, Manning makes good use of sustained, fluttery distortion and droning keyboards. At the shining center of it all, however, are her well-sculpted vocals. Whether covering Richard Thompson's "End of the Rainbow" or weaving slow-burn ballads like "Isn't Lonely Lovely?" Manning has a way of sneaking up and running off with your heart. --Nick Heil
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An overlooked classic
James Carragher | 01/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This has to be the most neglected album of '97; a great collection of original songs and covers by a fiercely independent artist who was around long before all the current wave of "angry women" rockers (Liz, PJ, Alannis, etc.--one could argue that Phair stole most of her sound on "Exile in Guyville" from Barbara) and will probably outlast them all. Manning's inability to sell out to a major label is the reason you probably haven't heard of her. But you're missing out if you haven't.This album is Barbara's finest work since her '92 release "One Perfect Green Blanket/Lately I Keep Scissors" (an essential purchase that combines two earlier discs). The highlight is inevitably the 18-minute plus mini-rock opera "The Arsonist Story," which alternates effortlessly between Manning's patented frenzied-strumming guitar and slower, more solemn interludes...and the story is better than anything Pete Townshend ever came up with! After that, the album settles into a slightly more conventional mood, with cool cover versions of songs by Richard Thompson, Tom Lehrer, the Bevis Frond, and more (does Barbara have the coolest record collection on the planet or what?) alternating with her own melancholy originals like "Blood of Feeling" and "Isn't Lonely Lovely?". Just to confuse things, she ends the album with the strange, mostly German "Stammtisch," which adds some DJ and dance elements never before heard in her music.Warning: Buy this album, and you'll have to get the rest of the Barbara Manning catalog. And no, this reviewer is in no way affiliated with Ms. Manning."
Barbara's, and Barbara's alone
Mark | Hillsborough, NC | 02/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having been a fan of Ms. Manning's for ten or eleven years now, and having met her several times, I must say she is an an absolute sweetey, though very much in her own way.She has a cat-like sense of individuality and going her own direction which has emphatically served her well musically though not commercially. 1212 is a perfect example of this. It is a cohesive, highly personal record from someone who is the template for all the lesser, but better-known, copies like Morrisette, Phair and Mclachlan. Barbara was, and is, the real thing. 1212 is a record by someone who has a real record collection, and is intimately familiar with it, and grafts her own experiences onto the best of it. This record also is a showcase for someone who is has an unparalleled ability to make care- fully-chosen covers sound like her own writing. Maybe someday the world at large will discover Ms. Manning's body of work, and maybe that's too much to expect (is it even desirable for anyone except Barbara?) but for now , it's the world's loss."
A fine example of Kiwi pop-rock transplanted to Golden Gate
John L Murphy | Los Angeles | 07/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Added to the other reviews below, which convey the feel of this album, one of my top ten from the 90s, is the craft Manning and her mates bring to the sounds as well as the lyrics and vocals. The extended guitar riffs crest and swell and shimmer, like those of Graeme Downes' in his NZ band the Verlaines. Her next work, the "In New Zealand" e.p., less well-known than "1212" due to its distribution on a smaller label than Matador, was recorded with Downes and other luminaries of the Kiwi/Flying Nun constellation.
For those seeking a less treacly, creepier female singer than her more famous counterparts, Manning's almost innocent style may seem coy at first (compare Mary Timony), but careful listens to this, her best effort of her career, show an appropriately almost hesitant, deceptively disguised to be as if off-hand, haunted campfire aura. This could lead to novelty tunes, but even "Rickity Tikity Tin" (barely) avoids this by counterpointing to the cartoonish percussion a crying, faintly sorrowing violin and a sprightly, insistent beat that carries the tune. Her version of "End of the Rainbow" by Richard & Linda Thompson after her own four-part Arsonist Story again shows how confident she turns her own songs out, pitted against the two of the best songwriters that precede her.
The songs here progress rather stately and saunter rather than rush or rock, but the melancholy pacing of this record, as on many NZ albums of the same period that have influenced her, show that her arranging abilities match her musical savvy."