It's hard to believe that a musician of Roger Joseph Manning Jr.'s caliber has taken this long to release a solo album, but as one listens, it begins to make sense.

It's hard to believe that a musician of Roger Joseph Manning Jr.'s caliber has taken this long to release a solo album, but as one listens, it begins to make sense. The indulgent fantasy pop of "The Land of Pure Imagination" just doesn't have as much mass appeal as Manning's work as a sideman, which has included stints with Beck, Air and Sheryl Crow.

He wrote and played every note of the album, demonstrating that he knows his way around a studio and has the classic pop art forms down pat. At various times, Manning recalls the Zombies, the Beatles (psychedelic era), Neil Diamond and Spandau Ballet, as well as his own early '90s group Jellyfish.

He succeeds with the jaunty first single "Too Late For Us Now" and the heartfelt ballad "Pray For the Many," among others. It's pop music for anyone who's ever loved pop, but the album can also be too precious for its own good. Manning's fantastic tales of dream journeys can be lyrically cloying, and there's something about the fluidity of music recorded by one person and synched by computer that seems devoid of soul at times. -- Troy Carpenter