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JOHN McMANUS ‘Rivers Of Time ’(Shamrock Music 2004)

When I caught up with John McManus a year or so ago he was deeply esconced in a basement somewhere in London, a rather cosy environment for music-making and with all the mystery of an old wine cellar. The surrounding bass guitars and keyboards and low light only added to the intrigue.

Rewind to 2001 and John was coming to terms with the end of Celtus, one of the finest fusion bands who took Celtic atmosphere and married it with pop sensibility in a way that their contemporaries could only envy. But there lies the rub because, in spite of critical acclaim and radio airplay, the band were duly dismissed by Sony and the climate for Celtic-tinged rock had changed. Even the Corrs got more mainstream.

John McManus

John's musical partner, and brother, Pat returned back to the homeland, whilst John teamed up initially with latter-day Celtus keyboard player Dan Axtell to trial some instrumental demos. Some featured alluring female vocals.

Now John has turned his hand to a twelve-track instrumental tour-de-force which although intended for TV and film music, is made available for wider consumption and the baying fanbase who just can't get enough of all-things-Celtus. And this is probably John's blessing and his curse, for the dedicated fanbase love the Celtus sound and he does it so well.

The tracks on this album perpetuate his talent for composition but also an ability to slip - chameleon-like - into different vibes and styles. This is obviously crucial for what is essentially library music. The wonderful 'Secado' and '24/7' are perhaps the strongest links to McManus' former existence. The rest is symphonic in places, and each track will paint its own sound picture for listeners.

John should pull back brother Pat and play some low-key Celtus revival dates and top up on some face-to-face fan adulation. Because pop is fickle and cyclical their time has yet to come (again). In the meantime, this is an unusual and unique offering right down to the hand-written track listing and we should be grateful for this interim statement from a modern master.

Interview (December 2006)

Special feature


Review by David Randall

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© 2004 John McManus/Shamrock Music Ltd. All rights reserved.

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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