Veteran sideman Eddie Manion returns to spotlight with third solo album, ‘Coastin’ In’

eddie manion coastin' in review

The cover of Eddie Manion’s “Coastin’ In” album.

Eddie Manion covers “Deep Purple” on his new album, Coastin’ In. Not Deep Purple the band, but “Deep Purple,” the 1930s instrumental that that band named itself after.

Manion, who will release Coastin’ In on Feb. 28, looked far and wide for material for this album, drawing on songs from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in addition to the ’30s, and also writing two originals. His method was simply to find material that would work well with his saxophone leading the way, and he chose well; this album is full of indelible melodies, from material as different as the frequently covered “Georgia on My Mind” to Bread’s 1971 soft-rock hit “If” and Steve Winwood’s classic-soul homage “Roll With It.”

The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” is presented as a piece of luscious orchestral pop that is true to the song’s original presentation; “Yeh Yeh” has an intentionally retro (and irresistibly catchy) feel. Tracks like “When Sunny Gets Blue” and the aforementioned “Deep Purple” explore moodier, jazzier territory.

This is Manion third’s solo album. The Lakewood native and current Pittsburgh area resident is best known, of course, for his work backing Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny (in the Asbury Jukes) and Little Steven (in the Disciples of Soul) as well as other performers ranging from Diana Ross to Robert Cray, over the last 45 years or so. As the album’s title suggests, he has extremely strong ties to the Jersey Shore music scene.

Recorded entirely during the pandemic, the album features Disciples of Souls members on most of its tracks as well as other seasoned musicians such as harmonica player Rob Paparozzi and organist Clifford Barnes. There is a feeling of casual virtuosity to the entire project. Manion is not the flashiest player, but his smooth, tasteful phrasing brings out the beauty of the melodies and the emotions in the songwriting, and the other players approach the material in the same subtle way.

On the CD’s bonus track, Manion sings lead for the first time on an album, on a self-written, heartfelt holiday song, “The Lights Are On at Old St. John’s.” This song and a few others — including “God Only Knows,” “Yeh Yeh” and “Roll With It” — feature vocals by six singers (Disciple of Soul Jessie Wagner, Springsteen collaborators Cindy Mizelle and Lisa Lowell, Emily Grove, Jacquelynn Ware and Melinda Colaizzi), who appear in different combinations.

They don’t sing throughout these songs, but punctuate them with a line here and there. It’s a good way to add some spice and variety but keep the focus on Manion and other instrumental soloists.

For more information or to order Coastin’ In, visit eddiemanion.com. Here is the video for the album’s cover of “Smile.”

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