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Shawn Phillips biography
Written by Lorenzo Galbiati (JamesBaldwin) with assistance from Ken Levine (kenethlevine)
Status as of June 2019: active

Shawn Phillips (born in 1943 in Fort Worth, Texas), the son of famous novelist Philip Atlee, who moved with his family around the world, is one of most idiosyncratic and unconventional musicians of the 1970s. He learned to play guitar at age seven and as his family traveled from continent to continent, reaching the Pacific Islands (Tahiti), he absorbed all kinds of music that reached his ears.

Phillips became a virtuoso 12-string guitarist and a virtuoso vocalist, with his three-octave vocal range which allowed him to range from baritone to counter-tenor, and a composer of a deliberately unclassifiable music ("No Category" is the title of his album released in 2003), which mixes folk, rock, blues, jazz, funk, classical, ethnic traditions and, later, electronic music.

In the early 1960s he played in the folk circuit in California, and published his first record, a single of Bob Gibson's version of "Frankie and Johnnie". His first two albums, "I'm A Loner" (1965) and "Shawn" (1966), included covers of folk songs by Travis Edmonson, Phil Ochs, Hamilton Camp, and Pete Seeger; musical standards and pop music ("It Was A Very Good Year", "My Favourite Things", "Maria"); and some original pieces. Phillips established himself as a troubadour in line with the folksingers of the Sixties with his arrangements limited to vocals and 12-string guitar, though his vocal and guitar styles already offered glimpses of an unusual rhythmic and harmonic vivacity. The public and critics alike ignored these early releases.

In the mid 1960s Phillips went to England, where he learned to play sitar, and performed with DONOVAN on his albums "Fairytale", "Sunshine Superman", "Mellow Yellow". While he was given a sole co-songwriting credit for ""Little Tin Soldier", Phillips claims that he also co-wrote "Season of the Witch" and many other songs on "Sunshine Superman". He has also claimed to have contributed backing vocals on "Lovely Rita" on "Sgt. Pepper's" by THE BEATLES. In 1967, Phillips moved to Italy and settled in Positano, a beautiful fishing village, where he remained throughout the 1970s.

In 1968, he went to London where he began recording songs with "Traffic" members Steve Winwood,
Chris Wood, and Jim Capaldi. His project was a trilogy of albums but no major label was interested.
Only two years later the recor...
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SHAWN PHILLIPS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

SHAWN PHILLIPS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
I'm A Loner
0.00 | 0 ratings
3.86 | 3 ratings
4.87 | 4 ratings
Second Contribution
3.00 | 3 ratings
3.00 | 1 ratings
3.00 | 1 ratings
Bright White
4.86 | 2 ratings
2.00 | 1 ratings
Do You Wonder
3.00 | 1 ratings
Rumplestiltskin's Resolve
2.00 | 1 ratings
2.00 | 1 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings
Beyond Here Be Dragons
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Truth If It Kills
0.00 | 0 ratings
No Category
0.00 | 0 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings

SHAWN PHILLIPS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Living Contribution: Both Sides
0.00 | 0 ratings
At The BBC

SHAWN PHILLIPS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SHAWN PHILLIPS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Shawn Phillips
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Shawn Phillips / The A&M Years
0.00 | 0 ratings
Another Contribution - An Anthology

SHAWN PHILLIPS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Furthermore by PHILLIPS, SHAWN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.86 | 2 ratings

Shawn Phillips Prog Related

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars An excellent Gustafson (Quatermass, Roxy Music) bass riff opens this album, for a syncopated electro-funk song ( January First, 3:11) written by Shawn Phillips and John Peter Robinson (Quatermass). What are we listening to? A collaboration between SP and Quatermass? In fact this album, one of the most proggy by Phillips, sees our singer- songwriter exploring new musical directions, decidedly more electric than the trilogy (Contribution, Second Contribution, Collaboration) that made it more elaborate, complex, articulated, in a word more progressive, thanks to the increasingly massive collaboration with keyboardist JP Robinson, and secondly with cellist Paul Buckmaster.

The beginning, as just said, is a marvelous piece, very sustained, fast, complex, with a stratified music that, for the keyboard games, almost remembers Gentle Giant. Rating 8.

"Starbright (3:49)" follows: romantic ballad, with mellotron (Ann Odell) on the foreground. it's conventional, but the keyboard arrangement and Phillips' wonderful voice raises the quality of the piece. After having touched a remarkable climax on a "crescendo", the song, instead of concluding in a solemn and triumphant way, fades, too resignedly, which does not enhance it. Here the desire to make a sophisticated arrangement has prevented this song from being a masterpiece. Rating 7,5.

"Breakthrough (5:47)" is another romantic folk ballad with an acoustic beginning and a progression that sees the orchestra arrive, strings and woods, which embellish it in a masterly way, with a truly splendid sound, especially when the oboe enters but ... suddenly it fades too quickly (Rating 8), and afterwards two melodic, acoustic and slow pieces, SP picks up with the funky syncopation (Ninety Two Years, 3:08) that we heard at the beginning. Another good piece, seems not to miss a shot and, if anything, so far, to lack in depth, its splendid music is too concise, concentrated (Rating 7+).

"See You (4:14)", romantic, sweet, keyboards are more important than guitars in this album. After the beginning, the piece becomes orchestral, and at the end it is mixed with the last piece of the first side (Planscape, 4:17), instrumental, co-signed with Buckmaster; it is an electric jam, rhythmic, and again veiled with funky, with a powerful orchestra and an electric guitar in evidence (Caleb Quayle). It's a piece of symphonic prog, mixed with jazz rock, but closer to Afro-American, funky, soul music. Overall, Rating 8.

Excellent Side A, containing a lot of musical ideas, sophysticated compositions and arrangements but... it lacks in development of that ideas, so the pathos can't increase until touching elevated peaks.

Side B. "Troof (4:24)" is a piano ballad, very lyric, which then becomes symphonic prog. Also in this case, we are faced with a decidedly refined song, but with the arrangements that outweigh the inspiration of the piece. That is, we are always close to the masterpiece, but in my opinion something is missing in terms of melodic quality. Rating 7,5/8. An ethereal, abstract song follows, Cape Barres (4:02), largely made up of vocalizations, in the wake of what we have already heard in "Second Contribution". Here the quality rises, and SP must thank the Quatermass couple again, because the work of JP Robinson (co-author of the track) on keyboards, and that of Gustafson on the bass are as important as the vocal virtuosities of Phillips, which finally fades in a noisy piece, flooded with electronics and distorted singing. Masterpiece of sperimentalism, Rating 8,5.

"Song For Northern Ireland (2:07)" begins slow: after touching the abstract apex, our songwriter also touches the melodic apex with this track, mixed with the following "Mr President (3:35)" where finally we can hear a piece very inspired, a spontaneous melody, with an orchestral progression: in this case inspiration grows high as the arrangement. So, in this last three tracks, Phillpis reach the peak of masterpiece, suggesting us a fusion between symphonic prog, prog folk and jazz-funk-rock. Rating 8+.

Talking In The Garden (3:13) is mixed with the final track, "Furthermore" (2:30), instrumental (JP Robinson is co-author, once again), The beginning is, another time, slow and acoustic, with guitar and voice but soon the orchestra arrives and we listen to another wonderful symphonic prog (Rating 8), that, in the end become a boogie, a piece of fusion, instrumental, syncopated, with great work on the rhythm and keyboards bot too forced (It recalls Gentle Giant, again). that nothing adds up again (Rating 7+).

With Side B, Shawn Phillpis rise the quality of his music and so, this Lp is a little masterpiece, at the same level of Second Contribution. Here there is less folk and Classical music, more electronic and keyboards, more rhythm, more elaboration and orchestration of the arrangement, more prog attitude. The masterpiece of the third phase. Medium quality of the songs: 7,85.

Rating album 9, Five Stars.

 Contribution by PHILLIPS, SHAWN album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.86 | 3 ratings

Shawn Phillips Prog Related

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With Steve Winwood on keyboards, Jim Capaldi on drums, Chris Wood on saxophone and flute, Shawn Phillips can afford to debut as a songwriter (he signes all songs) with Traffic as musical support ensemble. Paul Buckmaster and John Peter Robinson (Quatermass), also on keyboards, will become his main collaborators from the next album.

Side A, first song: "Man Hole Covered Wagon" (4:34), the beginning is folk, acoustic, with delightful melody, and typically folk, then comes a rhythmic progression, the piece is enriched with blues tones, comes a piano almost boogie, a guitar almost contry: this is a manifesto song of the hybrid music signed Shawn Phillips. There comes a sound orgasm, accentuated by the vocalizations of his voice, which give spectacle on the acute notes. Rating 8+.

"L Ballade" (6:47), also based on a folk melody on guitar, is an acoustic song, with classical tones, with instruments in the background giving acid-folk tones. Rating 8. After this acoustic and austere song, Phillips, to change mood, switch to a musical's piece.

"Not Quite Nonsense" (1:45) is a typical pop song, very nice, swing and vaudeville. Rating 6.

"No Question" (3:37) is still an acoustic folk track, hypnotic, with a final progression. Rating 7.5/8.

End of Side A.

"Withered Roses (8:18)" opens Side B. The beginning is a typical Indian raga, then it becomes folk, with acoustic guitar played in a very gritty way; well arranged, with piano in the background; only defect: it's too long: Exceeding the last two minutes. Rating 7,5/8.

"For J.F.K. R.F.K. & M.L.K. (4:54)". Exuberant song, with folk melody and piano, reminiscent of a traditional and singing that recall Cat Stevens. Rating 7,5.

"Lovely Lady (4:56)" acosutic ballad, without percussions, with a doubled voice, doubled acoustic guitar, it's a fast- paced acid-folk, which at the end of the verses becomes taller as a musical tone, touching Space-Rock. Rating 7,5/8.

"Screamer For Phlyses" (6:09) is another folk-rock ballad, this time with the drums to hold the rhythm, with piano and electric guitar in the background, with the high notes of the singing going towards the psychedelia. Rating 7,5.

With "Contribution" Phillips starts his trilogy, that continues with "Second Contribution" and "Collaboration". Here, Shawn Phillips' music is still predominantly folk: he mainly uses his splendid voice and acoustic guitar, played in a very rhythmic and hypnotic way, but he embellishes his tracks with moments of space-rock and psychedelia, acid- rock, musical, Classic music and Indian Raga. Side A is better than Side B but, anyway, quality is still high. The music, in this Lp, recalls Donovan, Strawbs but this anomalous folk also recalls the solo works of Syd Barrett. It's prog folk, most of the time, with some classical passage and some space-rock moment and with high-class lyrics and singing.

Medium quality of the songs (without the third track): 7,76. Rating album: 8+. Four Stars.

 Second Contribution by PHILLIPS, SHAWN album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.87 | 4 ratings

Second Contribution
Shawn Phillips Prog Related

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In 1968, Shawn Phillips is in London with Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and John Capaldi ie Traffic, and he's recording a lot of material, which he would like to publish in a trilogy of albums. But the record companies show no interest, and the project vanishes, but it's not lost, in fact in 1970 Phillips manages to publish his English debut, his first real album totally written by himself: "Contribution", which contains part of the material recorded with Traffic, which in fact appears as session-men in LP credits.

The same year, Phillips, very inspired, publishes the sequel, "Second Contribution", that is the second disc of his trilogy, making use of the arrangements of Paul Buckmaster and a bevy of session-men that rivals any singer- songwriter: - Paul Buckmaster on keyboards, and orchestral arranger; - John Peter Robinson (Quatermass) on keyboards, percussion; - Poli Palmer (Family) musician; - Jim Cregan (member of Family since 1972) on guitar; - Bruce Rowland (Joe Cocker's Band) on drums.

The touch of Buckmaster, in this album, manifests itself giving it an orchestral asset, where most of the songs (especially at the beginning and at the end of the LP) are united, mixed together, forming the movements of a real suite. Phillips shows off his music without frontiers, he breaks every genre and proposes himself here as a songwriter who forges a high quality progressive funk of great emotional impact thanks to his talented voice.

In fact, the beginning of the album is simply fantastic, the first four songs, which constitute a suite, are beautiful, and will remain one of the pearls of Phillips' repertoire, especially the solemn beginning from the mileage title: "She Was Waitin' For Her Mother At The Station In Torino And You Know I Love You Baby But It's Getting Too Heavy To Laugh (4:54)". The piece starts slowly, with the voice, in folk style but then comes a fantastic progression, gradually more and more orchestral, exciting soul, with the warm voice of Phillips that touches your heart; before finishing it back acoustic, with the guitar, and then it's mixed, with a pulse on the drums, to the second one, "Keep On" (3:21), that could be considered an orchestral blues, that arrives to a funky orgasm, then, the same pulse on the drums marks the passage to a transition piece, "Sleepwalker" (1:32), very short, that connects to the fourth movement of this suite, "Song For Mr. C" (3:49), again very rhythmic, almost rhythm and blues, with an involving nerve, a guileless singing, a soul orchestral piece that worthily concludes the suite. Rating 9.

What kind of music are we listening to? Jazz-rock / fusion? Symphonic prog? Prog folk? Prog blues? Soul-funk / fusion? We are listening to all this together, without it being totally.

"The Ballad Of Casey Deiss (6:12)" is a wonderful piece: beautifully singing, classical melodic folk, acoustic guitar and vocals, which gradually becomes an orchestral piece, almost a piece of chamber music, with vibraphone and horn, and at the end the melody of the guitar changes, one creeps in instrumental piece, almost symphonic folk, unexpected atmosphere that melodically enriches the song. Rating 8+.

End of side A.

Side B begins with two linked songs in soul-blues style, as in the first side, but less inspired. "Song For Sagittarians" (3:43) is another orchestral rhythm and blues, perhaps less gritty, more conventional than the ones listened on Side A. After the usual pulse on the drums starts "Lookin' Up Lookin' Down" (3:55), a wonderful hybrid song, with a catchy melody, where Phillips sings showing his great vocal range, especially on the high notes. Rating 7,5/8.

"Remedial Interruption" (1:56): is just an interruption! These are celestial, atmospheric vocalises that contribute to widening the repertoire of the disc to abstract music, almost ambient. It's a dreamy interlude. Rating 7,5/8. And it has the role of connection, in fact this Lp must be considered as a one, not as a set of songs: most of the pieces, in addition to their intrinsic value, has the function of creating a single great composition where the musical genres are intertwined between of them. For this reason, short songs aren't to be considered complete in themselves but as pieces of a puzzle.

"Whaz' Zat" (1:56) is another short song. dominated by the Phillips' singing that stands on a percussion carpet. Rating 7.5. This piece is mixed with the next two songs, 10) "Schmaltz Waltz (1:44) and 11) "F Sharp Splendor" (0:36): they are instrumental pieces of almost threatening, epic symphonic rock in which the contribution of orchestral arranger by Paul Buckmaster is tangible (Buckmasters signed the last one). Rating 8.

The last song, 12) Steel Eyes (4:18), is a classical ballad. simple and beautiful melody, reminiscent of Donovan, with ringing guitar, then a whistled piece, with a too nonchalant singing; in the track there are continuous breaks or pauses, seconds of silence and then the singing resumed. Rating 7,5.

And the dance goes on... and on and on and on... Phillips shows all his genius in this album. He is no longer a folk singer, nor even a prog-folk musician, he's now a total musician, who evolved from folk and created his own genre, coming to touch the borders of symphonic and jazz-soul progressive.

Medium quality of the album: 7,92. Great album, masterpiece. Rating 9, Five stars.

Thanks to seantrane for the artist addition. and to JamesBaldwin and kenethlevine for the last updates

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