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Tony McManus

Mysterious Boundaries

(Compass; US: 25 Jun 2013; UK: 15 Jul 2013)

Beautiful music

There’s a thin line between the functions served by classical solo pieces and New Age music in this digital age. They both operate as calming sedatives when the instruments are played slowly, with an emphasis on the beauty of the notes and the simplicity of the melody. The music relaxes the listener, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does dilute the strength of the compositions. Tony McManus is a wonderful acoustic guitar player. His arrangements of 10 well-known classical music pieces allow him to bring out their inherent loveliness. He masterfully picks and strokes the strings with precision and finesse. The title tune, Francois Couperin’s “Les Barricades Mysteriouses” sets a high standard for music that could best be described as beautiful. However, that is also the album’s greatest failing. All of the songs are impeccably played and share a radiant gorgeousness. But even sunny days can last too long. There is no tension here; no contrasting moods. Some of the tunes may start out reflective but too soon begin to shimmer. The overall effect is, well, the same as New Age music. If that’s your bag, this record is highly recommended.

Rating:

Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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Tony McManus on his new album
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