It has always been difficult to describe Michael Manring to friends... "he's a really great bass player"...just doesn't do it. There are many incredible bassists these days, but Michael Manring is most notable for his compositional skills, comparable to the greats of this era.
Early works for Windham Hill in the new age style helped defined the genre, though it was apparent with each subsequent release that he was destined for more significant musical accomplishments.
The "Thonk" CD (1993) again redefined the possibilities of progressive music with it's heavier, innovative compositions and brilliant performances by Michael and his guest musicians, Tim Alexander, Alex Skolnick, Steve Morse, and Steve Smith. Michael's "lead bass" technique and his continued use of unusual tunings, simultaneous multiple bass compositions and hyper-funk styles placed him in a class by himself, far beyond his previous work.
1998 has welcomed the return of Mr. Manring, first with "Attention Defecit", an experimental release, again employing the gifted resources of Tim Alexander and Alex Skolnick, and finally with "The Book of Flame", perhaps the finest offering to date.
On "The Book of Flame", Michael reminds us to check the calendar, again innovating with the use of carefully phrased and composed sample loops, along with his trademark hyperbass lines and E-Bow tracks, providing inifinte sustain and incomparable bass textures. Several solo bass tracks test the limits of modern stereo equipment ("help me", said my subwoofer...!) and again show that even without multi-track production, the man is a gifted solo artist. My favorite is "The Adamski Photographs", during which we are led down a serpentine musical path, only to arrive at the edge, where I believe we are introduced to the true Michael of the moment, shedding previous misconceptions, reaching deeply into the unknown, finding the new meaning and identity, and burning white hot, all at once.
"The Book of Living and Dying" is another solo bass piece, offered as a tribute to his great friend, Michael Hedges, who was killed in a car accident in 1997. Those of us who were fortunate enough to catch some of the Michael Hedges shows with his "most preferred stage mate", Michael Manring, can understand the depth of feelings being expressed in this piece over the loss of such an amazing talent.
Anyone with a desire to explore alternative realms of musical consciousness in an age of wildly conflicting plastic influences should make "The Book of Flame" a permanent presence in their "existential playstack". I have not been able to stop listening to this CD since I ordered it, and I think many of you will have the same experience.
Thanks to Michael Manring for such an amazing piece of work...thanks for taking the time and going to all the trouble, it was worth the wait.