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Mannix | Come To California (
The recent arrival of 'Come To California', the second Mannix album, initially set alarm bells ringing, not in any great anticipation, but purely for the fact that it was a double CD and that albums of such length are invariable too long. That concern was then exacerbated when I read that the contents could only be construed as the not eagerly awaited return of the concept album! But, having since properly acquainted myself with the contents and the concept I can reassure anyone who might have been similarly concerned that my fears were without foundation. Although spread across 2 CDs the entire duration of the album is actually no longer than that of a single disc. Singer-songwriter Joe Mannix elected for the idea of a 2 CD set for the album, concerned that the attention span of some listeners may have meant that the songs on the latter part of a single CD disc may not get heard as often as he felt they deserved. An arguable point admittedly for serious music fans, but what this also enabled him to do was to divide the concept, a transcontinental love story of two distinct halves, across the two discs. 'Come To California' tells the story of the ill fated love affair of the main protagonist who travels from his native New York, in pursuit of what he feels at the outset of his journey to be the love of his life, across the United States to California. The resulting song cycle encompasses the gamut of emotions and travails, from the anticipation, excitement and euphoria he feels at the journey's outset via the despair, anger and frustration as the relationship turns sour, until eventually, on his return he realises that he's survived relatively unscathed by the experience. Or possibly not! Don't let the conceptual storyline deter you as the songs stand up very well in isolation. Joe Mannix conveys the range of emotions demanded by the easy to follow narrative in effortless style, balancing melody and phrasing with aplomb in the process. Apart from the other members of the band, Chris Peck, Toby Graham and Todd LeCuyer, who provide the core of the album's instrumentation, additional guests include the Rooks' Michael Mazzarella and Kristin Pinell. With songs of the calibre of the excellent piano backed title track, the driving Take My Blues Away, the laid back West Coast pop groove of Sunset And Vine and the angry blues-drenched nightmare of Gasoline, 'Come To California' is a journey well worth going the distance for.

Geraint Jones
October 2001