Phil Vassar

Shaken Not Stirred

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Phil Vassar had his breakthrough in 2002 with his second album, American Child, a mature set of contemporary country-pop that established that the former professional songwriter had the chops to be a performing star in his own right. For its 2004 follow-up, Shaken Not Stirred, Vassar loosens things up a little bit, borrowing a little from Kenny Chesney's laid-back party-ready style. While he never indulges in the Jimmy Buffett worship of the island-obsessed Chesney, he does share a similar fondness for '70s arena rock and singer/songwriters, and he's injected Shaken Not Stirred with a heavy dose of humor and good times that only rarely surfaced on American Child. Unfortunately, this can veer close to novelty territory, at least on "What Happens in Vegas" and "I'll Take That as a Yes (The Hot Tub Song)," which arrive way too early on this album and nearly ground its momentum to a halt. Significantly, these are the only two songs that Vassar didn't have a hand in writing on this album, and the rest of the record is much more assured, clever, and affecting than these two tunes. Vassar benefits from a looser vibe, since it not only results in livelier performances and funnier jokes, but the sentimental ballads resonate more in this context. Perhaps the record is a little heavy on mid-tempo cuts and the production may be a little slicker than it needs to be, but the polish is appealing, the performances strong, and the songs are, by and large, sturdy and memorable, making Shaken Not Stirred Vassar's best record to date.

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