Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – The Land Of Pure Imagination

Roger Manning - The Land Of Pure ImaginationFormerly of early 90s power pop powerhouse Jellyfish, Roger Manning is reinventing the 1970s with this solo project, on which he plays and sings everything (except for a trumpet on one song). Fans of 70s music will probably find at several gems to love here, though those expecting to hear the second coming of Jellyfish may be left scratching their heads in places.

In its brief, two-album heyday, Jellyfish mined almost the entire gamut of well-produced, well-written 70s pop music, with stylistic nods to Queen, Supertramp, ELO and numberous other 70s supergroups, and with Manning in the driver’s seat, Jellyfish still managed to make all of those elements the band’s own unique sound. Manning’s chief inspiration is still the 1970s, though here he seems to be absorbing influences from everyone from Mac Davis to Carole King. Fan of Jellyfish’s decidedly rocked-out sound may find it hard to square these elements with what they were expecting. That doesn’t make Imagination a bad album; but for folks like me who were going “Ooh! Roger Manning! Jellyfish!” like I was may require a little bit of an adjustment period while their expectations hash it out with the reality of what’s on the CD.

What’s on the CD is good stuff, though. The title track and especially “Too Late For Us Now,” which I count as my favorite song on the whole album, wouldn’t have been at all out of place in the Jellyfish set list. “Creeple People” and “The Loser” come close to this category as well. “Sandman” hearkens back to the gorgeous a cappella vocal harmonies of Jellyfish’s “Hush,” and “You Were Right” recalls some of that group’s more low-key numbers (i.e. “Calling Sarah”). Manning’s production and vocals are impeccable – even if you don’t care for a given song, it’s almost impossible not to admire his one-man-band abilities here.

But all of that’s pretty cautious praise. There are a couple of songs that I tend to skip – “Wish It Would Rain” resurrects a particularly vapid flavor of 70s pop that was already overused 30 years ago. And while on a conceptual level I like the ornate intricacy of “Appleby,” I just can’t bring myself to really like the song, and I can’t even put a finger on why. The odd thing is that “Appleby” is one of three tracks that were added to the album, to replace three tracks deleted from its Japanese release under the title of Solid State Warrior. The three deleted tracks were made available as a very-limited-edition bonus CD (~200 copies) during 3 out of 4the album’s launch, and all three of the omitted songs are stunners – why anyone thought they didn’t make the cut for consumption in the English-speaking world is a mystery. (“In The Name Of Romance” and “Pray For The Many” are the other two add-on tracks, the latter being the best of the three.)

Overall, it’s a good album, though it’d be an even better album without the tinkering that went on as it crossed the Pacific.

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  1. The Land Of Pure Imagination (6:01)
  2. Too Late For Us Now (3:23)
  3. Wish It Would Rain (5:42)
  4. The Loser (3:36)
  5. Sandman (3:37)
  6. Pray For The Many (3:02)
  7. Dragonfly (5:19)
  8. Creeple People (5:31)
  9. In The Name Of Romance (5:26)
  10. You Were Right (5:43)
  11. Appleby (5:30)
    Not Lame bonus disc (Solid State Warrior songs omitted in U.S. release):

  1. What You Don’t Know About The Girl (2:49)
  2. Sleep Children (2:47)
  3. ‘Til We Meet Again (3:44)

Released by: Cordless Recordings
Release date: 2006 (originally released in Japan as Solid State Warrior in 2005)
Total running time: 52:55