On this page is a collection of reviews and comments about Phil's album "Take Note". You can also listen to several of the songs from Take Note by clicking the image of the Shockwave player below.

This CD will consolidate Phil’s reputation as an artist with a deep history, who is producing some of his best work today.

Take Note is in the style of its predecessor, Two Roads; pared back to the basics of guitar, voice and stomp box, (except for 3 tracks accompanied by drums & bass), all performed live in the studio.

Lyrically the CD draws on the observations Phil makes as he views the Australia in which he has grown up and now lives.

These musings are set to the lyrical blues that Phil has made his specialty.

Drawing upon the influences of country Blues from rural USA, he has imbued them with a lyrical quality that is all his own.

Feature tracks include "Canefields Burnin", "The Lone Ranger" and "Round In A Circle".

Phil Manning, according to respected Sydney Morning Herald music critic, Bruce Elder, "is at the cutting edge of modern Blues……(with) a profound understanding of the narrow themes of the Blues".

Take Note was released on July 17th 2000 on Tamborine Music TM 106.

It is distributed by Black Market Music.

Album Reviews

It's probably not widely appreciated that many seminal figures of the early decades of southern U.S. blues were equally adept a interpreting styles of music other than that for which they are remembered. Recordings of Charley Patton, Son House, Rice Miller, Peetie Wheatstraw, Robert Jr. Lockwood and even RJ himself playing non-blues material are rare indeed. Historians tell us, however, that it was quite common for artists such as these to perform, where appropriate, such as at parties for white folks, a repertoire of spirituals, popular Tin Pan Alley tunes, show music, minstrel songs and hillbilly numbers. Folk/blues artists like Leadbelly. Mississippi John Hurt, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee have often displayed their versatility on record but will be forever revered essentially for their devotion to the blues.

Much further south from Mississippi it hasn't changed all that much today, especially in the case of Aussie blues legend, Phil Manning, although not necessarily for reasons of commercial gain. With an extensive discography since his first release with Chain in 1969, Phil has played just about every blues guitar lick in the book, and then some. Apart from absorbing Phil's live performances, my first experience of his progressive musical trend came upon the release of The Back Shed in 1994. While retaining his blues roots, this broadening of musical influences continues with his new CD. I doubt he'll ever betray his deep history as a bluesman capable of playing alongside the best in the business. Phil has taken the stage next to many of them times over and is worthy of international acclaim. Nor is it evident that Phil is seeking a wider market for his talents. He is merely drawing the listeners attention to other roots music styles, sharing a close relationship with the blues, that he has studied and admired over the years. Celebrated pickers like Jerry Douglas, Woody Guthrie and Doc Watson are mentioned in his lyrics, yet the songs retain Phil's innate down-home character. From Hawaiian slide to Delta bottleneck, from Piedmont finger style to jazz-tinged Texas country blues single stringing, Phil's contribution to the development of the blues guitar Down Under is unparalleled. Vocally though he has extended himself enormously with his excursions into the world of folk/country, Celtic airs and musical bush yarns.

In the style of its predecessor, Two Roads, the new album is pared back to the basics of guitar, vocal and stomp box with the exception of three cuts complimented by ace drummer Don Lebler, and Phil's co-producer Paul Cheeseman on bass, performing together live in the Tamborine Mountain, Qld. studio. They are: The Bounce, a Chicago shuffle with a backbeat reminiscent of Maxwell Street in its heyday, The Lone Ranger, a portrait of injustice set to bluegrass rhythms, and a pulsating boogie about religious fanaticism, Adjust Yourself. The set opens with the folksy Round In a Circle, a theme on the effects of too much alcohol. Then comes the familiar tale of driving in the wet, Up To the Axles, with its effective slide reflecting the motions felt behind the wheel. The bluesy lament, Motor's Runnin', keeps the tempo revved up and leads into two hypnotic Delta stomps: Canefields Burnin', an Australian perspective on the advent of automation, and a train song, Steam Heaven, an ode recalling a bygone era.
Phil has long been a masterful exponent of the Robert Johnson blues style and, in this vein, fans will be delighted with the inclusion of Phil's This Passing Girl. You'd swear Johnson's ghost was in the studio during this take. How does one play an authentic country blues, keeping within the boundaries of the basic structure, while maintaining an identifiable freshness? Phil demonstrates it convincingly with this track. More hot slide work prevails on Maybe. Then, after an ethereal intro, bearing a resemblance to Blind Willie Johnson, Phil employs ancient indigenous rhythms in his execution of the melodic instrumental, Bora Stomp. Folk Singers With Cold Fingers, a philosophical rag, is followed by a fluid waltz, He's Started Again. Although relating to a modern social problem, this timeless melody merits pride of place among many of the great Australian folk ballads. Other highlights include If a Man, somewhat in a gospel mode, also the narrative Weary Traveller, drawing influences from the music of early bluesmen like Florida's Arthur Phelps (a.k.a. Blind Blake), and the closing track, Me and John, in which Phil declares his affinity with the greats of bluegrass.

The 47 minute collection showcases an eclectic blend of Phil Manning's abundant musical skills. It displays his prolific songwriting with lyrics depicting vivid images of Aussie life, his distinctive vocal technique, and his precision playing on six and twelve string guitars, 1930s wooden Dobro and Beaton Bell Brass resophonic guitar. Take Note is a contemporary roots music package of sixteen original songs presented with world class finesse and grace.
Al Hensley, Rhythms, December 2000

Essentially, this is Manning singing his songs and accompanying himself on guitar and stomp box. The list of guitars - five, including two Guilds, a 30's wooden dobro and a Beaton Bell Brass Resophonic - is three longer than the list of guest musicians.
If you are going to play personal acoustic blues, who better to take inspiration from than Robert Johnson. Some songs, however, move away from the blues to a folkier styling, given warmth by Manning's smooth vocals.
Indeed, Manning has paid his dues and he is happy to share his view with anyone who cares for substance over flash.
Lee Howard, The Sunday Herald

Take Note has it all - topics on women, drugs, religio, drink - if you like your Blues clean, with a country feel, then check out this one - another Phil Manning classic!
Julie Fox, Sydney Blues Society

" ... the combination of my love for all things Aussie ... & country / traditional Blues ... Phil Manning's latest release "Take Note" is even more ... namely the intelligent lyrics & the refreshing relaxed aura of this entire recording project.

Add to that his plugged in guitar history with the legendary Aussie Blues Rock Band "Chain" ... & well ... along with his other acoustic album "Two Roads" ... "Take Note" sets on the top rail of my personal favorite's.

Plus, tho I've never met him ... Phil Manning comes across as a genuine "Good Guy" ... Both musically & personably ... I like Phil Manning ... & if you ain't hip ... get so ... quick!
Eddie Russell, Country Eastern West Radio, Texas, U.S.A

Phil Manning is a national treasure, to whom half the musicians playing blues in the country owe a beer or two that's for sure. A pioneer of acoustic and electric blues, he first came to prominence in the Antipodes in the late '60's with legendary group "Chain". Songwriter, finger picker and slide player supreme he stands tall amongst Australia's talented acoustic guitar players, of which there are several of world class. Phil has absorbed the classic blues guitar styles of all periods, traces of Muddy Waters in his playing, but with a voice instantly recognisable as his, he sings the songs of contemporary Australia.

If you're fed up with unplugged guitar strummers and songs about bored youth and long for someone who can craft a song, spin a godd yarn and play the hell out of an acoustic instrument so good it leaves you breathless, well as the title suggests, just take note. A not to be missed CD for all enthusiasts of class and style.

Mike Cooper - fROOTS