Shawn Phillips

Contribution

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Shawn Phillips' first major album, recorded in 1968 with help from the members of Traffic, among others, is a condensation of a far more ambitious studio original that was intended to fill three LPs. The range of sounds on this record is shockingly diverse, from breezy folk-rock ("Man Hole Covered Wagon") to pieces incorporating classical guitar and phantasmagoric lyrics ("L Ballade" finds Phillips' at his most Donovan-like, but with a better voice), and, in between, bouncy throwaways ("Not Quite Nonsense"), bejeweled sitar-ornamented pieces ("Withered Roses"), and topical songs ("For RFK, JFK and MLK"). If Contribution had come out in 1968 when it was recorded, it probably would have been lost in the shuffle of ambient psychedelia; as it was, it was so quiet and different from the noise of most of what was released in 1970 that critics took notice. Not all of it works, though, and Phillips' later music had a weightier sound, but Contribution is a superb debut, mixing progressive rock and folk sounds in a manner unique to its time. [This LP is finally available on CD as part of the two-fer Contribution/Second Contribution, released in 2005.]

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