In recent albums from this artist we have seen a shift in focus each time, and Songs From The Heart is no exception, with this album’s theme concentrating on the more personal aspects of life.
In this album we see the trademark Manning mix of soft, easy vocals, some spoken by Manning to a musical background, and others sung by long-time collaborator Bruce Haymes, whose light, soft voice works well with the gently contemplative tone of Manning’s lyrics.
The subject matter in this new compilation, though, has shifted from the externally focussed themes evident in the two previous albums, Heroes and Woodstock 2019, to the inner life of the self. In light of the five-song Prostate Cancer Blues Suite, one feels that this new direction may have been prompted by the author’s personal journey.
Following the suite, the album moves into a tone of gentle contemplation, with two tender love songs followed by the poignant melancholy of Best Friend and Nostalgia, and finishes as it began, on an upbeat note with the cheerful The Magpie.
Musically, the tracks deliver the same smooth rhythms we’ve come to expect from this artist, with the creative use of background sound that distinguishes his work. Traffic, voices, birdsong, weather effects, all are used as instruments in Manning’s compositions. In this album, the track Pain is of particular note; the harsh sounds that make up the track’s backing convey the idea of pain in a startlingly realistic way, beautifully reinforcing the theme of the lyrics.
A good choice for a long drive.