THE NEW ALBUM – Phil & friends ‘live’
‘Behind the tracks’
The concert kicks off with “I need the lake” – an atmospheric number in minor mode featuring the plaintive oboe of long-time collaborator Pauline Holbrow (credited on Phil’s earlier recordings by her maiden name Pauline Long. She will go on to enhance several items in the show with superb woodwind) The song contrasts instant craving for excitement with the long term need of rest and stillness
Next up is “Cried on my own” – a surprisingly upbeat tune considering the sad subject matter. A sick Indian child belonging to the charitable project Phil supports, finally dies after a period of chronic weakness. He felt a lament would have been unbearable if the music had been equally despairing so a reggae beat was used to showcase Adebola Ogunoiki’s pivotal bass playing – a highlight of many tunes on the night
Another change of style as Phil does a solo acoustic number with a string section (Violins played by Keziah Holbrow – Pauline’s daughter, Nicola Overton – Phil’s daughter and Abi Collins) “All in the tone” reminds us that it’s not what we say that matters so much as the way we say it
Phil turns to some gospel grand piano to deliver the next song which was inspired by his young grandson Jonah (who happened to be in the audience and can be heard at times!) “Hold me like a child” is a prodigal’s yearning for parental acceptance and embrace featuring Kate Sander’s velvety vocals, James Oatley’s blistering guitar solos and some stirring Hammond organ courtesy of Becki Stanyon
“Skirting the abyss” sees Phil staying on the piano for a searching solo based on a quote from missionary Amy Carmichael. Having devoted her life to serving exploited children in India she had to conclude that she had only really scratched the surface….
“South facing room” features more wonderful interplay between sax and lead guitar. It’s a reflection on hope for the future despite the frustrations of the present. Michelle Overton (Phil’s daughter in law and Jonah’s Mum) lays down a compelling groove on the drums in this crowd pleaser which morphs into free jazz improvisation for a rousing coda
The band rips into some country rock with strings for “Stony Acres” – a keen observation on being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and acknowledging a need to simply move on. Dueling guitar solos propel this gritty number to a dynamic resolution
Adebola’s bass, Michelle’s drumming and Pauline’s saxophone combine to deliver Phil’s darkest song in the set – apocalyptic “When the roof comes falling”. Gut wrenching warnings with dire predictions urge listeners to “get ready for the wake - up call”. Joseph Olatunbosun features on tight percussion in this funky onslaught
Time for a gentler moment of testimony as Phil goes acoustic with violins again to tell his own story of being lost then “Found”
“Fingerprints of God” is a journey to “the edges of the galaxy” – lots of space, shifting harmonics and evocative strings over an understated hip hop rhythm, encouraging us to believe in One who created all things yet now wants to raise us up and make us “resplendent” and “so glorious”. Poignant oboe, bass arpeggios and wind chimes take us to infinity…and beyond!
Prompted by a desperate depiction of emptiness and futility in the aftermath of Chernobyl, Phil applies the metaphor to wider aspects of life and the human condition, concluding that “The only cry that I have” is to place raw faith in “the offering” of He who gave up “all” for us. Delivered on solo acoustic guitar with exquisite touches of bass and strings, this Celtic ballad resolves into profound stillness
And finally, “Spirit level” erupts, lifting us from introspection and concluding the ‘live’ experience with strident guitars, soaring sax, piano, punchy strings, urgent vocals and driving rhythm section – all exhorting us to revel in “sacredness” and live life on “The Spirit level”
(Phil’s first ‘live’ album was recorded in Leamington Spa in October 2018 by Jonathan ‘Bungle’ Blackford. All post production mixing and mastering by Mark Fulton (fultonsoundstudio.co.uk) Great job guys!