When Brown’s first record, Cruel Inventions, appeared at the millennium’s turn, the lucky few who heard it were treated to a unique trifecta of Jeff Beck-style whammy work, Bowie-meets-Sinatra-esque vocals, and brilliantly crafted tunes reflecting the artist’s years as a staff writer.
“I wanted to get off the road so I spent 1983 to 1988 working for Warner Brothers and A&M Music ,” recalls Brown. To name a few, many diverse artists such as - Cher, Kix, Pat Benatar, MP.TU, [the jimi project], Willie D & Tower of Power, Bonnie Tyler, Doro Pesch, KBC, Ace Freely, Paul Barrere, Fiona, Steve Perry and Kim Carnes have all cut Phil's songs. Former front man for Little Feat
(from the "Hoy Hoy" days right after Lowell George's passing) is still at it today. While putting together the tunes that would become his next release, Imagine This [Apaches from Paris], Brown took a detour, recording a CD of re-imagined Hendrix songs called The Jimi Project. Obvious comparisons to Tony Bennett meets Chet Baker-esque vocals and the exceptional Jeff Beck-
influence is clearly felt throughout the soundscape. After hearing Cruel Inventions, The Jimi Project and/or Imagine This it is hard to argue with Brown’s process. Many players achieve awesome sound live, only to lose some of the magic in the studio but Brown’s recorded sound is a tone fanatic’s fantasy. Either on electric or acoustic guitars, Brown belongs in the same club as his
heroes, such as Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, Pass, and McLaughlin - players whose sound resides as much in their touch and spirit as in any gear they might select. “I am basically telling my life story when I'm playing guitar,” says Brown. Finally hitting his stride at 63, he offers encouragement to players who persist long after others would give up. “We are not really playing music, we are
making and selling a dream. Time is suspended when we play, and that is why music makes us immortal.” General music lovers will be attracted to an artist with great grooves, great vocals and most important real tunes--a rare enough combination in any genre. There is a feeling of a life lived. Though his sources may be close to the surface, his own personality shines through--something else that is too rare these days. (Michael Ross - Guitar Player Magazine/Pure Music)
Imagine This continued...
put a lot of time into making this set sound just so, to crystallise his ideas and produce and engineer the cuts into final most effective form. The spiky guitar work still draws the ear of the listener on Phil Brown’s records. Brown uses the bar to shimmer harmonics or put a sly bend into a lick that gives it that special effect. This set includes new originals like ‘All Roads Lead To Rome’ commences with an ethereal keyboard wash and low register bass driving before the airy vehicle phrasing and drums creeping into across-time patterns here and there. He can play very fast indeed but chooses not to most of the time and opts to let the songs breathe in regards to the song's space. ‘Blessing In Disguise’ is a soft and reflective outing with a fine vocal.
Just listen to his work on Cher’s mysterious and hard-to-find heavy rock album ‘Black Rose’ for proof. The jazzy and European-mood ‘Brigitte’s Blues’ is a nod to a Gallic beauty and believe me there is a backstory here… At 3:10 the axe starts to sing like a nocturnal hummingbird over the shuffling chordal chug while the loping funk of ‘California Zen’has maybe the best singing performance on the album. The chorus has a light lifting effect as the soft-psych touches tickle the ears.
One quick point, this crafted music takes on different timbres depending upon the playback volume selected. Regal volume swells herald ‘Good To Be Back’ which expresses some regrets at life as lived but stresses survival and the attainment thereof. Yet again, some lovely vocal arrangement touches and they surely suit this poem-set-to-music. Linear guitar emerges loud and proud. “Lost In Austin” is a guitar journey that has Brown's ‘Love Will Find The Way’ starting eerily before a dark rhythm takes over and into a song about the search for love; ‘One Teaspoon at a Time’ sounds as though it is looking for film to feature in with its horn touches; the strident ‘Paper Doll’ has an immediacy that sets it apart from the dreamier tinge of much of the material here.an excellent vocal. “Shakespeare Told Me” is a jagged stabbing song, which is catchy as hell and finds Phil Brown sounding a tad conspiratorial and spinning out curled guitar riffs over clipped funk chords.
A sinister tread tracks ‘Strangers In Paradise’ with vocal mixed forward over what sounds like fretless bass and short-delay damped guitar chording. This is maybe the best song here, ‘Trouble’ that Phil Brown's electric folk sound delivers. The set closes with ’Crossroads’ with its blues arrangement from the late Robert Johnson's gem.
Musicians: Phil Brown, Rich Neville, Pat Mastelotto, Larry Thompson, Warren Amerman, Mark Clark, Bryan Austin, Kim Stone and Lydia Clark.
Produced by Phil Brown.
Engineered by Phil Brown, Rich Neville, Pat Mastelotto, Warren Amerman,
Mark Clark and Bryan Austin.
Jimi Project continued...
Hendrix’ stellar output? Well stop wondering and track this down, because wondrous and subtle axe man has done it on this new record. From origins in New Mexico transfixed by The British Invasion and particularly J Beck Esq, Brown has played countless sessions and even a stint in Little Feat. His ‘Cruel Inventions’ CD was a (mostly self-penned) tour de force, not only for the spirited and full-blooded guitar work evident but also the dry growly vocals. They turn women into molten honey, aided and abetted by a guitar approach, which values stealth and tone above million notes per second wankery.
Now Phil CAN play very fast, but like a boxer placing his blows, he knows EXACTLY when to strike and when to hang back. Gritty chords float across the soundscape as Yellow jackets bassist Jim Haslip pumps subliminal unhurried runs into the mix and the brutal but expertly paced drumming of Gary Novak lifts the whole beguiling brew. It does not sound like the Experience at all, because Brown goes for radical rearrangements, making the selections Hendrix-composed but Brown-styled to suit his voice and his playing.
Harmonics ping into your ears then twist away, biting blues runs evolve into Charlie Byrd mysticism, a hint of flamenco whistles by. Think that nobody can reinvent ‘Manic Depression’ or ‘I Don’t Live Today’? Think again. Sexy music for both sexes… on all planets
– everything seems to sound pretty much as you think it will. Black cowboy hat – well-recorded tuneful vocal, multi-layered lush guitar tracks, puddingy drum sound. Baggy sports pants and chains – monotonous boastful rapping, fingers-in-the lens videos, bouncy cars and honeys by the pool.
Pale-faces and piercings with black clothes – gloomy, grinding metal filmed in graveyards with guitar tones like Land Rovers in reverse hitting a pile of oil drums. Does it have to be like that? Am I the only bloke saddened by Bob Dylan selling songs for advertisements? ‘Don’t follow leaders?’ – OK Mr. Z, we will ignore your sponsors’ pointers to their products, how’s that? Pah! In short, citizens – what happened to quality? In addition – deep breath – SOUL? Well there is a light at the end of the musical tunnel. For the discerning anyway. I am sanguine enough to now that there are fellow humans whose tastes are so ground down and well, lost that they will…..watch things like ‘Lost’. Which is what that series’ writers are.
A new band cannot and will not save the planet. However, MPTu might just enrich the cultural atmosphere – if I gave you the heads up, you can investigate and make up your own mind. Please do…Following a recent relocation to Austin, Texas rock journeyman Phil Brown has been playing with the great and the good in an area that even this English chap knows is a musical hotbed. For the lowdown on Brown’s singing and guitar prowess please look him up on www.fairhearing.co.uk but even I could scarcely believe that he was about to work with singer/interpreter supreme Malford Milligan. His work with Storyville which included the Double Trouble cats defines what blues, rock and soul can blend in to. Also, he sang with The Boneshakers, a Was Not Was spinoff featuring Hendrixy guitar stylist Randy Jacobs.
Malford’s distinctive voice would grace any lineup but the prospect of him singing with and writing with Phil Brown is mouthwatering. Not content with laying this news on me, Brown said the bassist would be Mark Andes! Now this cove has hit the boards with a list of bands that you would struggle to beat – Canned Heat, Firefall, Jo Jo Gunne, Heart and the mighty Spirit! A band I saw in its full glory at London’s Lyceum back in the day (Randy California’s perspex guitar driving ‘1984′, what a memory). Tuneful and edgy, Andes is a player’s player, what an addition. “OK, Phil – the drummer’s Carmine Appice. – right?” I taunted him. No, Phil says – it’s Pat Mastelotto. Good grief! What is THIS going to sound like? A few live cuts were sent over to me and as I hoped, there was power and space and melody…but also, the Great-Lost Art – interplay. Now, I don’t mean the ‘don’t step on my grey suede shoes’ cozy doodling tone-tennis beloved of ‘Jazz Artists’. No, I mean the presence of players thinking on their feet and making the songs work.
Now ‘m not sure when the first MPTu album will come out. What have is some rough mixes and yes, I should wait until the business side is all ready to go. However, I cannot, because you should please get out, SEE and HEAR this crew as soon as you get the chance. As to what you will hear…..‘Queen’ has a rattling, buzzing coming-to-life opening. Brown being a singer knows exactly how to frame a vocal, tweaking a harsh buzz that sings into lead lines, while the rhythm guys groove with sporadic emphasis.
You cannot label this style. ‘Electric Soul’ maybe? The nearest thing over here is The Inmates, whose singer Bill Hurley has comparable depth and grounding to Milligan. As far as I know, Joe Tex never sat in with Living Colour – but does that give you a hint of MPTu’s sound? ‘Call Me’ is moody as hell and I just love it. Brown plays (mostly) without a pick so I am not sure how he sound this pokey.
However, no wonder other axe men acknowledge his individuality. Malford sounds liberated by this panoramic dark backdrop, telling the story as a neat vocal arrangement purrs alongside his pleading. A just-so guitar solo edges out of the breakdown. Only players who really listen to each other can play this way, it is rare.
A re-invented ‘I Got a Line on You’ takes the Spirit south of the border to an almost Lowell George feel – gorgeous. The Storyville gem ‘Bitter Rain’ is performed with a psych twist, prompting Milligan to gasp “Kind of funky!” – What a drummer!
Phil’s compositions ‘Heaven’ and ‘La-lah Land’ sound fine as played here. Wistful and sinister by turns, the group are so far beyond the show-off mentality that plagues so many of their contemporaries that you have to smile. They even include an old Fleetwood Mac song that I once had a chance to discuss with Peter Green, but you get along to see them to find out what it is… Aware of their roots but pushing forward, MPTu will remind you why you liked music
Apaches From Paris pledge continued...
is more of a testament to supernatural forces versus the common and the ordinary that so many experience. The underlying theme as far as I’m concerned is the distance (if there is any) between the good gone bad and the unlucky turned into
inexplicable goodness - both imposters! I have learned that never ever giving up matters a lot and yes, I am guilty of believing in myself when all of the odds demand that I give in. Time and time again, my muse continues to guide me mercilessly through the
thick and the thin. I have been forced to challenge my limits. I’m a lucky guy and God knows I am lucky. I am very thankful indeed, still gotta-ways to go and so I'd better be on my way. The right amount of wrong is calling me ... Phil Brown"
Cruel Inventions continued...
this is the album that turned me on to guitar maestro and definitive singer/writer Phil Brown. Phil has a gruff voice and arcane guitar style. What he DOESN’T do is fill every goddamn space with look-at-me runs or shouting – rather, he lets the atmosphere build up with subtle flicks and bursts of notes that leap out of the rhythms (some times intensely funky) and float off. Phil Brown has a dark brown voice that bases its impact on breathy insinuation and is as conspiratorial as his axework is fiery. Whatever the song or tune, Brown’s approach does justice to the mood.
His ‘La-lah-Land’ is at once intensely regretful yet knowing and almost optimistic. The gorgeous ‘Heaven’ is as powerful a love song as you will ever find but the psych-tinged guitar runs set it apart. A paean needn’t be corny if you’re spiritually above that. The blues rock feel of ‘Grind Me’ and ‘Hour To Kill’ will satisfy the guitar freaks and have others tapping their toes. ‘Diva’ has an ethereal link with ‘Are You Experienced’ and again a memorable tune, all sorts of sounds jumping into the delivery. The Philip Marlowe-soaked ‘Cruel Inventions’ is intriguing, to say the least….
Live in Seattle continued...
Featuring 15 tracks (73 mins.) of top shelf, soul powered, blues-based, retro-vintage, Hendrix-inspired six string mojo of monumentally serious world-class proportions.
Phil Brown is a supreme axe master, an accomplished seasoned veteran of the instrument ho speaks beautiful and funky musical language on the guitar. Serious blues-based guitar rock mojo is Phil Brown's religion and it is time for us all to dig in deep and worship at his glorious six string temple. The Phil Brown: "Live In Seattle", Groove Yard Records disc rates ultra-high in the six string evolution scale and is all about outstanding total guitar rock at its best. The man takes us on a mind-blowing "Old School" power trio musical journey where James Marshall Hendrix meets Phil Brown at the outskirts of infinity and beyond. This is the stuff that real heavy guitar rock dreams are made of. (((Long Live The Musical Spirit of Jimi Hendrix))).