Phil Manca – Dancing Spirits
Tremelo Editions Productions
10 songs – 46 minutes
Paris-based blues-rocker Phil Manca hit the high notes a couple of years ago with Signs, a CD that let his high-voltage guitar work do the talking as he left the singing to others, and he follows the same formula with this powerful follow-up, which should please hardcore fans of the genre no matter where they’re based.
A native of the City of Lights, Manca’s been a fixture on the French music scene since the ‘80s both for his fretwork and his songwriting skills. Fans in the U.S. probably are most familiar with him because of his stint in eRa, a New Age project undertaken by composer Eric Levi that blended Gregorian chants with modern music that sold seven million copies of its debut 1996 release around the world.
Phil’s also composed the score for several films, produced a rock opera and Jack et Le Haricot Magique, a rock musical for children based on Jack and the Beanstalk that toured for ten years. More recently, he decided to start recording himself as a blues-rocker after spending two years touring in tribute to the late Northern Irish guitar wizard Gary Moore, who – along with Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and Jeff Beck – was one of his childhood idols.
This is the third CD Manca’s issued since 2018, when he made his debut as a front man with Signs, which featured a blazing remake of AC/DC’s “Down Payment Blues.” Like that, his new disc — one which features seven originals among its ten tracks — pushes the blues to the edges of heavy metal without losing its touch with the root. Josselin “JJ” Jabard returns to handle vocals with bassist David Jacob and drummer Eric Lafont powering on the bottom throughout.
“Crying for Freedom” opens the action with a brief, understated guitar intro before heating up quickly. Jabard joins the action delivering perfectly unaccented lyrics as Manca alternates between intense single-note accents and rapid-fire single-note runs that put him in the upper echelon of rock guitar gods worldwide. The title cut, “Dancing Spirits,” picks up where that one leaves off as it describes the entities breathing on the singer’s neck, and flows into the driving ballad “Talia,” which consoles a lady who still believes in happily-ever-after.
“Betty Blue,” a ballad with a much sweeter edge, offers up the most true-blue feel in the set as the singer promises lifelong devotion before the rocker “Sea of Stone” opens as an unhurried blues, but slowly erupts into a full-on rocker, yielding to “Mask of Snow,” which provides a little downtime from what came before with an extended acoustic feel and pleasant two-part harmonies.
A cover of Titus Turner’s familiar “All Around the World” follows with a driving, contemporary beat and fiery runs but original blues feel before the intense original “Got to No” and two more covers – a sweet take on the John Watson/Maxwell Davis penned “Someone Cares for Me” and a rapid-fire version of Brazilian rocker Nuno Mindelis’ “Motorhead Baby” – bring the disc to a close.
Available through several major online retailers, Dancing Spirits will be right up your alley – especially if you’re a metalhead from the ‘80s or ‘90s. If you’re a traditionalist, however, look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a rock-solid album, but there’s simply not enough true-blue meat on the bone here to fill your ears and belly.