DV Mark 2015
Italian guitar virtuoso enters international orbit and invites stellar guests for a space jam.
This artist may not care about adding English pages to his website, yet Ciro Manna’s second album expands the promise of his 2007 debut, even though “XY” suggests both venture into the unknown and a two-dimensional jaunt. Both aspects are fully manifested here, as the riffs that Ciro and his friends’ solo passages spin on sometimes run repetitively for the whole of four bars, thus testing one’s patience and undercutting fine melodies such as one on the bluesy title track. Still, there’s a deliciously dark depth to the opening triple “X” suite, where Leland Sklar and Simon Phillips unfold a powerfully pulsing groove, as Manna fleshes it out with infectious funk and tickles shredding with strum, and Andy Timmons’ fluid lines on “X2” weave lyricism into a hard rock carcass.
Landing on dancing ground, a nice momentum is being built here, and the flamenco-tinctured charge of “Mosaiko Rock” could bring it to a nice resolution if not for Ilaria Palmieri’s soulful voice on “Fear & Fire” which breaks the tension, especially once Ciro snaps out from acoustic texture into electric chorus. So “Drivin’ On” leads to a showcase, rather than an adventure, whereas “Bad Brakes” sees Phillips and Sklar back for a joyride, “Wheels On Fire” finding them in the company of the piece’s composer Paul Gilbert who flicks the flurry of notes in its middle. But Guthrie Govan’s part fails to make “Secret Potion” special with its “I choose to paint my style with the power of my guitar” braggadocio.
A fusion vibe which is threaded through it all is fully realized only on a bonus track “Just in Time,” thanks to its freefall sensation and Angelo Abate’s keyboards flash. That’s the direction to take for the next walk in space.