Album Review – Phillip E. Mitchell – Therapy

The album does exactly what it says on the tin – “Therapy”. A beautifully constructed, produced and delivered album of light and shade showcasing the best of today’s musicianship with haunting nuances of chord sequences, lyrics and moods of those musical masters who have clearly and thankfully left an indelible mark on the psyche of Phillip E. Mitchell. Phillip deserves recognition as a major musical talent with a gift for words and storytelling who has combined this with his experiences of life’s oft turbulent journey and has poured out the irresistible healing session that is “Therapy”. A information of warning to those anticipating an album of downbeat and melancholic tunes, although you will not be disappointed at times, this album is much more complex than the title indicates. Therapy produces moments where the urge to jump from the couch and dance is irresistible thanks to the bouncy, catchy rhythms supported by some of the most alluring horn and string sections I have heard of late.

Wandering Eyes starts the show with a chord ordern that tricked me into an expectation of Glenn Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy before kicking into a foot tapping confessional tune of that most obvious human flaw – the irresistible draw to beauty or intrigue which we sometimes survive, but sometimes do not. The Therapy has begun – confession and recognition.

Phoenix Hill belongs to Phillip E. Mitchell, but anyone who has every fallen in love will have their own Phoenix Hill for sure. The lyrics and music capture a moment in time with instantaneous effect painting a picture of such familiarity and simplicity that the listener could not fail to join him on the journey by love, fear and loss. Lay back, soak in the beautiful string arrangements and tell me you didn’t have a tear in your eye. The Therapy continues – recollection and identification.

Human represents a typical singer/songwriter/pianist work where Phillip E. Mitchell is clearly within his comfort zone and gently and effortlessly reminds us of our mortal existence touching on our most basic human need of company.

Mama is an intriguing examination of relationships where Phillip E. Mitchell explores thorough dark places with a masterful use of an upbeat melody with typical and glorious Jazz horns. I have to declare this to be a personal favourite on the album with some uncertainty as to whether I’m drawn to the subject, the melody, the horns or Phillip E. Mitchell’s vocal. A thorough dark component in the Therapy.

Avalon makes a clear statement about our mortality and the importance of love. As with many of the songs on Therapy Phillip E. Mitchell tackles the heaviest of subjects with the lightest of musical moods, which raises unavoidable feelings of hope against adversity in the recognition of reality. The warm and chirpy brass adds beautifully to the contradiction of message and mood. A tall order but delivered in buckets.

Love has a clear and warm feel without the confusion or contradiction presented in other places on the album. A simple song delivered with accuracyn and gentle force. The Therapy moves to a softer place. Lay back, feel the weight of your body against the couch and welcome the warmth of the combination of Phillip E. Mitchell’s vocals, incisive lyrics and the comforting glow of the glorious strings.

I’m the One You Fear again delivers what appears to be a dark message against some wonderful horn sections encapsulated in an upbeat, catchy and noticable style. A tune with strong commercial popularity crying out for a thorough and mysterious video to sustain.

Warm draws on a thorough and high vocal intro by Phillip E. Mitchell over graceful and flowing strings and a strong and alluring drum beat. The vocals rise and fall with the storytelling accompanied by beautiful supporting vocals and harmonies throughout evoking irresistible inflections of Billy Joel. The final phrases of the song smack of a stroke of musical genius when measured against the complicate construction of Warm. Two words – LOVE IT – the Therapy must be working.

Committed is clever in so many ways, the title, the lyrics and the musical construction; and worthy of a wry smile. Upbeat, lively and with an moment popularity evoking images of waving hands in a Baptist Church as the Gospel Choir belts out the backing to Phillip E. Mitchell’s rule vocal – I want to see that!

Our Last excursion reminds you in brutal mood shift that Phillip E. Mitchell’s album is about a journey, about light and dark and the shades in between. Reminiscent of some of the darkness evoked by early Springsteen this is a bold and moving song which jolts you back into the realism about what the songwriter is capturing in this album – love, loss, mortality and raw emotion. The placing of this song, simple and powerful as the penultimate track is genius.

I’m Sorry concludes a journey of epic dimensions and Phillip E. Mitchell closes by reminding us that he truly is a singer/ songwriter/ musician worthy of meaningful recognition. I’m Sorry is beautiful and moving and closes the Therapy session on a observe of realism and optimism without the false potential that everything is fine, we feel that everything might one day be fine but are reminded that life is not easy and has no guarantees or easy answers.

Therapy is the culmination of two years work and that time, effort and passion is obvious in every song on the album. The care, thoughtfulness, pain and pleasure are palpable throughout. Phillip E. Mitchell has popularity, he is human, he has weaknesses and he has stories to write and sing about. Therapy works.

After raising money on, Phillip E. Mitchell recruited a stellar line-up of musicians to help him realize his vision. Gerry Hansen, drummer and producer of Shawn Mullins’ newest album Light You Up, came aboard to play drums. Famed Nashville producer and former member of Fleming and John, John Mark Painter (Ben Folds & Gabe Dixon Band), contributed horn tracks, Grammy nominated John Keane (extensive Panic & R.E.M.) played bass, and Andy Carlson (R.E.M & the Cowboy Junkies), whom the New York Times called “demon fiddler,” arranged and played strings.

With such quality material under his belt Phillip E. Mitchell will very quickly unprotected to honorary ‘Geordie’ position having moved from the US South to Newcastle upon Tyne, UK in August of 2012 where he’s working on a degree in creative writing.

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