John R. Phillips

Revival Time

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Revival Time is a disturbing but terrific production and presentation by John R. Phillips, not to be confused with the late John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas. One really doesn't want to venture where lyricist Blake Silverstrom is going with nine of the ten poems he has constructed, and Phillips' eloquent readings also make the listener wonder what the motivating force is here. The singer's voice is close to Meatloaf in texture, and "Conversations in Styrofoam" could be right out of a censored version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it is dark, it is frightening, it is not something you'll want to play often. "Art Kills takes this concept, not a step further, but sideways, where it sounds like the protagonist is extinguishing the life from his lover. The entire album isn't this devastating but, though the artist and his collaborators could have moved into a Christopher Cross direction (the singer's voice is able to go from Mr. Loaf to Mr. Cross), a ditty like "I'm on the Cover of Newsweek, Mom" isn't about the celebration of success, but more like the despair of a parent whose child happens to be John Hinckley, Jr. or Timothy McVeigh. The dark joke here is that these tunes could be uplifting and wonderful, but the artists paint a different sort of picture. "Church of Nowhere" states that the earth will "reclaim the church and God will have nowhere to go." The instrumental, "Eternity," displays Phillips' musicianship without the twisted words, but even here it is dark and eerie. Revival Time would be an appropriate soundtrack to a horror movie like Session 9 but, for those picking it up thinking it will be a fun-filled revival, well, there's no "California Dreaming" in these grooves. Track ten, the reprise of "She Could Use Who She Wanted," puts the downer lyrics to a painful solo piano performance. The band plays the negative sentiment as if it is a bright and snappy pop tune on track seven. The reworking sounds like the artist has listened to too much John Cale and, had Cale produced this, both he and Phillips would be damned for all eternity. It's well-crafted, but harrowing stuff. Tim Burton should play this a few times before making his new film; however, it is not for fans of Petula Clark or Cass Elliot.

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