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Album Review

For all of her past recorded output, Barbara Manning has never been the most prolific of composers, her many albums relying instead on her gifts as an interpreter of other writers' songs; the achievement of 1212 isn't simply that it's made up largely of Manning originals, but that chief among them is her most ambitious creation to date, a stunning four-part mini-rock opera known collectively as "The Arsonist Story." The chilling tale of a young firestarter told from a series of narrative angles, it's a major triumph both lyrically and musically, expanding upon the folk-pop basics of Manning's previous records to conjure a truly haunting and complex story of abuse and destruction. The other originals are excellent as well, and the covers are particularly well-chosen, especially a rendition of Richard Thompson's "End of the Rainbow" which makes for a fittingly bleak coda to "The Arsonist Story."


Born: San Diego, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The idiosyncratic but rewarding Barbara Manning is a little too spiky and odd to fit comfortably in the Lilith Fair crowd, but her best work outshines those of her bigger-selling peers. Manning's artistic restlessness and her tendency to jump in and out of bands and recording situations makes it difficult to follow her career -- her discography must be one of the most confusing in all of the '90s indie scene -- but it also makes her one of the most vital and interesting singer/songwriters of her...
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1212, Barbara Manning
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