Wednesday, 14 December 2016

M is for Music and also for Manning

Bernie Manning's seventh album is quite a departure from his previous work. Heroes is a tribute to, as the name suggests, Manning's own heroes. The lineup is an eclectic one: there's one political hero (Gough Whitlam, of course, who else - the hero of every thinking Australian), but most of the lineup is from the arts: a painter (Albert Namatjira), a filmmaker (Alfred Hitchcock), an author (Philip K Dick) composer George Gershwin, singers Billie Holiday and John Lennon, and the fictional James Bond.

The album opens easily with a spoken introduction by Manning, just as if it were a book, and this literary feeling persists through the album. Spoken tributes read by Manning are backed by music and sound effects, in each case reflecting the flavour of the subject. The artist's feeling for his subjects comes through loud and clear, but Manning is never mawkish; his love of his heroes is expressed throughout with dignity and restraint.

Several of the tributes include a tribute song, and these are so cleverly done, reflecting the unique styles of each artist, but never copying. I was particularly struck by the deft way the characteristic feeling of Hitchcock's theme tune was evoked. 

I don't share myself all of these heroes, but one whom of course I do share is that great man, Gough Whitlam, and his tribute brought tears to my eyes. My personal favourite, though, was the James Bond one. It has the unmistakable Manning humour; that same sharp, but ultimately kindly, humour that brought us Men's Secret Business. Those who have come to know Manning through his earlier work will not be disappointed.

Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volumes One, Two and Three, are available from  Bernie's own website, however I could not find any links to the later volumes in the series. The site does have a contact form, however, and the records are also available at Readings bookstore.

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