Guy Manning’s first (mostly) unplugged return to musical pastures old was 2012’s Akoustik.
Given his lo-fi production of late, that and this follow-up aren’t too far removed from his elektrik milieu. Once again, Akoustik 2 is well worth the trip. Among the old glories unearthed is the insistent White Waters. In Marek Arnold’s call-and-response sax, there’s a hint of the resolutely un-prog Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden. This pared-down setting is all the better for hearing the lovingly crafted lyrics of, say, Songs From The Bilston House, lifted here by Steve Dundon’s jaunty flute. Relieved of its dated synths and witha superior vocal Flight 19 (from 2001’s Cascade) is a highlight, and three new songs bode well too. The mid-tempoYesterday’s Hero is freighted with Manning’s trademark fatalism and adorned by Ian Fairbairn’s fiddle. The similarly thoughtful Moorland Skies sees the hero ‘crossing mansions of ragged stone’, with a modulation evoking a Boulders-era Roy Wood perhaps. The sweetly nostalgic Saturday Picture Show sees him reminiscing about cosy weekend telly watching, from Grandstand toDoctor Who. If he’s softening with age, it suits him. GRM