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Monday, February 5, 2018

Shawn Phillips - Transcendence (1978 us, awesome soft prog rock, 2015 remaster)

Shawn Phillips - somewhat maverick singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of phenomenal talent and cult status - has remained an enigma of uncategorisable nature for the past 45 years. I've enjoyed some of his music enormously, found some of it challenging and exciting, and yet found other of his albums unaccountably bland and uninvolving or else impossible to get into.

The good guys at Talking Elephant doggedly continue their programme of Shawn Phillips reissues now with an album dating back to what many see as a career-high, the late 1970s - 1978, to be exact, although for some unaccountable reason this information is completely absent from the package. What can there be to be ashamed of? For it's a strong set, a stylish classical-oriented AOR opus with plenty of accomplished writing and playing, fulsome and capable orchestral arrangements.

Naturally, it's dated, in the good prog-rock sense, and some of its gestures might now seem overblown, but Shawn's vision is consistent and often more fascinatingly all-embracing than he's given credit for. There's much contrast here, with outright rock (I'm An American Child) set unashamedly alongside affectionate country-tinged romancer Good Evening Madam, massive orchestral driving funk (Julia's Letters), classical pretensions that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Future-Passed Moodies (the beautiful, lush pastel of Implications), florid orchestral chanson (Lament Pour L'Enfant Mort) and delicate pastoral balladry (Lady In Violet): a slightly out-of-kilter mix perhaps, with vocals that can border on the histrionic at times yet remaining in control, staying just the right side of pomp. Charming, and not a little frightening.

Transcendence is a curious artefact, in that it sounds both of its time and out of its time, and even listening to it today, more than a touch unearthly.
by David Kidman

1. Take It Easy - 4:46
2. I'm An American Child (On A Nuclear Pile) - 4:26
3. Implications - 5:22
4. Lady In Violet - 5:09
5. Good Evening Madam - 2:31
6. Lament Pour L'enfant Mort - 5:50
7. Julia's Letters - 3:20
8. Motes Of Dust - 5:43
9. Ease Your Mind - 2:49
Music and Lyrics by Shawn Phillips except track #9 by Michael Kamen

*Shawn Phillips - Guitars, Sitar, Synthesizer, Vocals
*John Pierce - Bass
*Jeff Porcaro - Drums
*Peter Robinson - Piano
*Leland Sklar - Bass
*Michael Baird - Drums
*Mike Botts - Drums
*Michael Clark - Drums
*Mark Curry - Keyboards, Piano
*Richard Greene - Violin
*Rick Hart - Bass, Fuzz Bass
*Paul Jackson, Jr. - Bass
*Michael Kamen - Oboe, Orchestral Arrangements, Piano
*Scott MacDonald - Piano
*Robin Miller - Mandolin
*Chris Neilsen - E-Bow, Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
*M.L. Benoit  - Percussion, Waterphone

1970  Shawn Phillips - Contribution / Second Contribution (2009 remaster)
1969-72  Shawn Phillips - Faces (2014 remaster)
1974  Shawn Phillips - Furthermore (2014 issue)
1976  Shawn Phillips - Rumplestiltskin's Resolve (2013 remaster)
1977  Shawn Phillips - Spaced (2013 remaster)

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  1. Many thanks for all the excellent Shawn Phillips. If ever possible, I'm sure all we enthusiasts would appreciate BRIGHT WHITE also.

  2. Track six is my favourite on this album. It's haunting, well-written and just all around hits that sweet spot.