The opening track, "Overture," does a lot of heavy lifting to let the listener know what they're in for. There's a recitation of marriage vows to clue you in that this is an album about marriage. An instrumental section jumps from dark and dramatic to soft and hopeful, to hint at how the album will pan out. Finally, there's a sermon clip that talks about taking up our cross to follow Jesus. This hints at what the root problem is (pride and ambition). Everything "Overture" teases plays out in the following 11 tracks. The rest of the first half of this project leans into the dark and dramatic, including plenty of references to the Devil and his machinations. "Disruption" and "Satan's Game" seem to highlight the trouble Manfredonia fell into, while a cover of RED's "The War We Made" hints at the struggles in his marriage. The first side concludes with "Collapse," in which Manfredonia wonders if he's screwed everything up. Throughout this first half, sermon clips are sprinkled in, as if these are the words of wisdom giving Manfredonia a glimpse of light in his darkness.
Of course, the back half turns things around. "Confession" is a beautiful ballad in which Manfredonia comes clean with God, which leads to an epiphany in "Visions from God." At last, he feels "Anchored" in the love between him and his wife as he anchors that love in God. This turns into renewed commitment, as heard in the cover of Coldplay's "Us Against the World." The album then ends on an upbeat note with "Honey, I'm Home," which finds Manfredonia completely engaged with his marriage and family, even looking forward to all the problems and hopes of the future.
Anchored is an ambitious record, with a wide range of emotions that track well with what you experience in marriage. On the one hand, it's a vulnerable album to make, but on the other, it's hard to really tell what Manfredonia's main issue was. Maybe it doesn't need to be that vulnerable, but I feel like I've listened to other albums covering similar territory that felt more clear in the artist's struggles even without coming out point blank to say it. Still, fans of orchestral pop/rock (think some of Josh Groban's work) will enjoy the sweeping range of Tony Manfredonia's latest offering. Those who find themselves in the throes of marital strife might also find encouragement and hope.- Review date: 1/12/24, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Tony Manfredonia: My parents were in music ministry for our church, so I got involved in music at a very early age. I would sing, play, and praise with them growing up. I got started making original music as a singer-songwriter back in high school. Just vocals and keys, alongside a lot of cover music of my favorite bands.
In addition to alternative rock, I always had a deep love for big, symphonic, orchestral music. Film scores, classical music, and even video game soundtracks. I went to music school (Temple University in Philadelphia, PA) to learn how to compose for these large ensembles. Not only did that allow me to find work as a freelancer making soundtracks for video games and composing/orchestrating for nearby ensembles, but it helped me in achieving my ultimate goal of blending symphonic stylings with more alternative rock.
I love working with orchestras in any capacity - whether it be for a score, a standalone performance, or more genre-bending experiences like what is heard in Anchored.
Tony: This album is a retelling of a specific circumstance.
Back in the summer of 2021, our marriage nearly collapsed. We were married 5 years at that time, and while we had our minor hiccups along the way, nothing really compared to that summer. To put all of this into context, for those first 5 years, we ran into some significant health challenges that prevented us from starting a family. We always talked about having kids, but it was never quite a possibility until the health difficulties were behind us. Once the health challenges began to improve, however, more serious conversations about children took place.
Completely out of the blue, I began dealing with a complete aversion to wanting children. I grew very selfish and angry about the possibilities of starting a family. Needless to say, in a Christian marriage, this caused a huge rift between me and my wife. Arguments grew into shouting matches, and we were so distant from each other. My faith wavered, our marriage hit rock-bottom, and we were basically on the edge of divorce.
When I reached an all-time low and felt like I had nowhere left to turn, I remember calling out to God, "Lord, I surrender. I need You." That sparked a whole series of seemingly miraculous events. It was the very next day that my wife approached me firmly, but lovingly, and suggested that I should get prayed over. She fought for our marriage constantly throughout this turn of events. We went to our pastor and our church prayer team and prayed for discernment. In that moment, all the anger and aversion transformed into love and excitement. It was as if all the emotional blockages to starting a family were healed. Something deep within me changed, all because of faith and prayer.
Ever since that day, our marriage has never been better. All the excitement, eagerness, and openness to life hasn't changed. It truly felt like a miracle. Anchored is a testimony, telling this specific story through music.
Tony: I have always been a big fan of concept albums. Some of my favorites incorporate specific clips of recordings from speeches. I always felt this enhanced the listening experience, bringing audiences into the story being told. The clips in Anchored are from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose talks on theology were very popular in 1950's and 60's. What I find so profound is how relevant his talks feel today, especially the ones about spiritual warfare.
I remember listening to his sermons on the topic and immediately felt called to incorporate them into the album itself. They were incredibly helpful to me in making sense of the "how's" and "why's" of our past struggles and spiritual battles. Including these talks essentially creates a narration, guiding the listeners along the spiritual aspects of the story.
Tony: The quote that comes to mind is, "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." I have full belief that the rift that was between us was in part caused by Satan's hand. Especially when the difficulty was psychological blockages dealing with starting a family. And even more so, how an act of putting complete trust in God was the very act that healed us.
It became very clear, once we found healing, that it was a spiritual battle. Good vs. evil. Christ vs. the anti-Christ. We all know that Satan will never win. Jesus eternally has the upper hand. But Satan is on the prowl, especially against the family. We see it now more than ever, with people literally worshipping Satan out in public.
My inclusion of referencing Satan directly is, quite frankly, to acknowledge his reality, musically and lyrically making it very clear that he is the enemy. The antithesis to all things good, holy, and true. I want to help listeners realize that Satan wants nothing to do with solid marriages and to inspire them to pray for spiritual protection over marriages and families.
We don't need to be afraid of Satan, especially knowing we have Christ on our side. The music of Anchored shares that message: despite Satan's attempts to destroy us, God ultimately triumphs.
Tony: This song is about the singular turning point in our marriage.
When we got prayed over by our pastor and church prayer team, specifically for discernment in our marriage, three things happened instantaneously:
The first was that it felt like tears were being pulled out of me. I don't know how else to describe it. There was no sobbing, nor resistance, except for a feeling of tears falling out of my eyes. It was like all the darkness and weight keeping me in a state of anger and hatred was lifted.
The second was that it felt like I was watching a picture book of my unborn children. In my mind's eye, I was envisioning all sorts of scenarios - from my wife giving birth, to us playing at the park as a family, to even just attending church together. And the feeling that overcame me was excitement, joy, happiness, and peace. All the aversion to the prospects of family life was obliterated. It was an internal, visceral change of heart.
The third was a strong sensation of bravery and courage. That, no matter what happened beyond that day, or whatever other challenges or crosses we'd face, God would be with us. That we wouldn't need to be afraid.
This moment changed everything in my life. My marriage, life plans, goals, business endeavors, and even the type of music I create (now much more faith-based in nature than before). It all changed instantly. I have never been more filled with joy since that day. "Visions from God" is a musical retelling of that moment. Its message is that of surrender. Let go of all resistance. Let God work within you.
Tony: When I first heard both of these songs ("The War We Made" in 2020, and "Us Against the World" in 2011), they moved me deeply and stuck with me ever since. I never had a strong desire to cover either of them officially until I was conceptualizing and praying about Anchored. "The War We Made" supplements the story of the first half (our marital challenges), and "Us Against the World" adds to the story of the second half (our marital redemption).
The inspiration to include these really felt like a Holy Spirit moment. They tell the parts of the story in ways I wouldn't have been able to do on my own. I had to arrange them to match Anchored's symphonic style, of course, but the lyrics alone felt like they fit the puzzle pieces in putting this album together.
Tony: It was a bit of a hybrid! In an ideal world, 100% of it would be live. It ultimately came down to budget. One of the Kickstarter stretch goals after the initial funding was to record with a full orchestra for all the tracks that required it. We didn't quite hit that stretch goal, so I filled in the gaps with virtual orchestra instruments. I've gotta say - virtual orchestras can do some incredible heavy lifting!
However, even though I needed to use some virtual instruments, I scored everything in a way that it'd translate well for live musicians. The score & parts are ready to go in that regard, just in case opportunities arise to do any or all of this music live with an orchestra.
Tony: My hope is that people - especially all the married couples out there - feel less alone. That, yes, even Christian marriages can go through some extreme rough patches. I could have made this album strictly about the redemption of our situation and perhaps only slightly referenced the difficulties, but then it wouldn't be relatable to couples who are currently in the midst of challenges.
One could compare it to the Death & Resurrection of our Lord. It's in knowing the details about how and why He died that makes the Resurrection that much more impactful. Similarly, it's in knowing how bad our marriage got that makes the healing so much more meaningful. Yes, things got bad. Words became weapons. It was a dark time for us. By the grace of God, we found healing and forgiveness. We found redemption through faith, prayer, and His intervention.
In short, it wasn't too late. The marriage wasn't over, despite Satan throwing that lie at us. I hope it provides anyone who listens the message of, "Don't give up yet. Trust in God. Surrender everything to Him."
Tony: I'm currently talking with a production team to help bring Anchored live to the stage, touring it as a concertized, marriage testimony event. That will be starting regionally, here in Michigan, and we'll see how it goes from there.
In terms of upcoming new music, I plan on releasing a few singles in 2024 while I work on my next album. That one is also panning out to be about marriage, but more so the simple joys and beauties of married life. Still orchestral, but a bit less existential. Where Anchored ends - "Honey, I'm Home" - is a good representation of where the next one will likely begin.
I'm most active on Instagram (@Tony_Manfredonia), as well as TikTok and Twitter (@TonyManfredonia on those platforms). You can also find anything and everything at my website: www.ManfredoniaMusic.com.
Tony: As beautiful as it would be to see Earth from outer space, I would 100% take the backpacking trip across Europe. A space trip sounds exhilarating yet simultaneously terrifying! Backpacking across Europe would make me feel a little more grounded - figuratively and literally. Plus, you probably get to meet so many amazing people along the way. Not to mention, good food!
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