On Firebird VII, the Roxy Music guitarist returns with drummer Charles Hayward to the territory they staked out as jazz-rock outfit Quiet Sun in the mid-Seventies, here accompanied by bassist Yaron Stavi and pianist Leszek Mozdzer.
The Gibson Firebird VII is Manzanera's signature guitar, which he's used since For Your Pleasure, here offering the double benefits of a wiry high register and the kind of hefty, limitless sustain of which Nigel Tufnell might fondly fantasise. Besides Manzanera's title-track, each band member contributes a composition apiece, along with former Quiet Sun alumnus Bill MacCormick, with a seventh track, "Mexican Hat", improvised from 16 chords drawn from the hat in question, four per player. Like Manzanera's "Cartagena" and Hayward's "After Magritte", MacCormick's "Fortunately I Had One With Me" was written for Quiet Sun; here, it opens the album like The Stooges playing art-rock, before settling into a jazz-rock riff of dark urgency. Mozdzer is outstanding on "Cartagena", scattering little piano runs over Manzanera's rising guitar figures, followed by scurrying clusters of furtive, mouse-like synth as it gathers momentum. It's an impressive piece of work overall. So: is it time for the Stomu Yamash'ta revival yet?
Pick of the album:'Fortunately I Had One With Me', 'After Magritte', 'Cartagena', 'Firebird VII'