Billy Manzik’s “All Together Now” is a great record from an extremely versatile musician –
By ‘Rebel’ Rod Ames
I received this record for review a couple weeks back and have listened to it twice so far, just trying to figure out why I haven’t heard of Billy Manzik before. As I’ve stated time and time again. I live in a very rural part of Texas where radio is about as bland as radio can get. There is one exception; Big G’s Texas Road Show, but that doesn’t even air until midnight which of course is way past this listener’s bedtime, unless I happen to be guesting on the show. When that happens, I have to take a nap in order to stay awake until 2am.
Sorry for the rant but you get the picture. Searching for great music has become a lot of work. It’s fun work, but work never the less.
My good friend Big G and I pass each other music as if it were illegal drugs. He gets something good and will pass it to me. I find something good and pass it on to him,“Hey man, have you heard this?” he asks. “It’s some good stuff man. You’ve got to give it a listen”. I take it home and nine times out of ten it blows me away. It’s a reciprocal relationship. I’ll take music sent to me to play on his show and he always seems to enjoy it as much as I enjoy sharing it.
The next time I guest on my friend’s radio show, I”ll be bringing Billy Manzik’s “All Together Now” with me. Big G is going to love it and my guess is anyone who listens to it will as well.
Mr. Manzik indulges the listener with everything from the blues to folk to rock to country, and will sometimes even come at you with all of the above with an explosion of slide guitars, horns, and gospel-style background vocals that will virtually knock the listener out of his or her chair.
The first track on the record is “On a Road”. It reminded me a bit of something off of Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson” record released back in the early 70’s. However, but Mr. Manzik succeeds in making it his own. It may have influenced him a little but that is quite all right. Is there such a thing as a musician or any other particular artist that is not influenced by another? I don’t believe that is even remotely possible. This particular song is just a good rock n’ roll “road” song to be enjoyed, and enjoy it, I did.
The second song is an exquisite little rock ballad called “Hannah” that begins as a deceitfully quiet love song. Here the listener is lured into the deceit by an organ paving the way for an energetic blast of music that accompanies the lyrics, brooding for love lost.
Mr. Manzik hails from the Northern end of the famous Highway 61 in Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada. I’ve been a fan of the Canadian music scene for many a moon. There are several great artists that have emerged from “Great White North”; artists such as Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies, and the great Neil Young, just to name a few. Therefore, hearing how good Mr.Manzik’s music is was really no surprise. In addition, living on this famous
highway, there was no chance in hell there were going to be songs that did not possess a blues element.
When one thinks of Highway 61 they most often will think of the stretch that passes through Mississippi intersecting with Highway 49 where legend tells us Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in order to become the greatest blues player in the world.
Mr. Manzik pays Canadian tribute to this bit of music urban legend with the song “61 Highway”. It is a raucously fun romp all up and down the noted highway. The listener is initially enticed by the slide guitar expertly played by any one of the three musicians credited with playing guitar on this record, including Billy Manzik (the credits don’t actually say who is playing slide on this song). The tune has a subtle hint of psychadelia to it, but it doesn’t seem out of place at all. Kudos to Jonny Kerr for his expertise on the mouth-harp. “61 Highway” is probably my favorite tune on the record.
To give you an idea of Billy Manzik’s style, think Pink Floyd colliding with Robert Johnson, Jesse Winchester, and Ray Wylie Hubbard all at once. Oh yeah! Don’t forget, Harry Nilsson was probably present somewhere in this metaphorical collision. I think that will give you an idea of the versatility of this wonderful performer.
Billy Manzik sings the lead vocals and plays electric and acoustic guitar. Geoff Hilhorst plays the keyboards. Erik Allen plays the drums. Mike Filipowitsch plays electric, acoustic, and 12-string electric guitar. Jonny Kerr is on bass, percussion, Kalimba, harmonica, and sings background vocals. Shelby Kerr sings background vocals. Jay Hay plays the tenor sax. Tom Richards is on trombone. Teppei Kamei is on the trumpet. David Baxter plays the electric and acoustic guitar plus the banjo. Finally, Chris Wardman also helps by playing the electric guitar.
The album was produced by Chris Wardman, who has masterfully laid out this record in such a way the listener will want to experience the entire record, track one through eleven without interruption.
‘Rebel’ Rod says to do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of this brilliant new record from Billy Manzik. I don’t believe there will be a sorry bone in your body.