A heartfelt concept album with strongly thematic orchestral rock production, Anchored is the new album from Michigan-based composer and singer/songwriter Tony Manfredonia. Its concept stirs in reflecting new-found purpose, following a life initially dominated by one’s career, anguish, and resentments. A renewed focus on life’s fundamentals — specifically: love, family, and marriage — meshes with religious imagery (“light and darkness”) and inspiration, showcasing the stirring songwriting talents of Manfredonia.
“Overture” opens the album with a gripping grandiosity, intertwining lush beauty and theatrical darkness. Intensely cinematic strings complement an exchange of vows, driving to ominous swells around 01:30 — with sporadic percussive effects furthering the sense of anxiety. Twinkling keys complement a lusher string-laden push, exuding a more exotic, flourishing character as vocal samples reflect on “the upward spiral.” This is a riveting, eclectic showcase to open up Anchored.
Following, “Disruption” also utilizes the commanding sermon-style sampling of the opener, though quickly traversing to an excitable prog-rock sharpness thereafter. Pulsing piano and sporadic, roaring guitars lead climactically into the debonair vocal stylings. “Round and round we go,” Manfredonia lets out, feeling reflective of life’s endless stream of choice. “Please stop,” he beckons, bolstered by a spacey quivering alongside. This powerful string-touched rocker grips in its conveying of feeling overwhelmed by life’s formatted pressures.
Joining these rousing rock productions are interludes in the vein of “Faces,” where sweeping string arrangements complement intense vocal samples that resemble an impassioned sermon. These cinematic pursuits prove extremely versatile, with “Faces” concluding with twinkling whimsy following the rush of dramatic, swelling strings preceding. The title track also proves striking in its stylistic interlude-like approach, resembling a church choir in its gorgeous multi-layered vocal harmonies and “my heart is yours,” lyrical ethos.
In the middle spectrum of these prog-minded rockers and orchestral-powered interludes, “Confession” enthralls in its more folk-friendly twinkling. Piano and acoustics complement vocals calling for help — “Lord, it feels like I’m lost out on the ocean.” This confessional vocal approach is supported at the mid-point by bright strings, and then a blast of impassioned strings during the fierce conclusion. Also showcasing the artist’s folk-minded sensibilities, “Confession” is a delightfully intimate and personally emotive success.
“I’m letting go,” the vocals proclaim on the following track, the powerful “Visions from God.” This is a poignant follow-up to the confession, now declaring “I surrender,” — like a beautiful revelation of one’s new-found purpose, following an acknowledgement of feeling lost and astray. “I see my children, my unborn children,” the vocals soar thereafter, suggesting a greater objective following a wandering in the darkness.
The listening experience concludes fittingly with “Honey, I’m Home,” whose serene strings and matrimonial sample reprising build into a bright title-touting proclamation. Guitars, bells, and strings converge during the soaring chorus, concluding with “I’m so glad that we didn’t part ways.” The finale stirs in its representation of beholding a miracle, and a commitment to life-long love. A soaring guitar solo and orchestral power leads a riveting second half, whose compositional power and thematic grip is representative of the album’s consistent strengths.