It's not often you hear a voice as strong as Phil Christie's. Though he keeps it well leashed, the potency and muscularity reverberate in every verse he sings. Another of those highly talented Canadians, he took very broad inspiration from fellow countryman Gordon Lightfoot, one of my all-time favorite folkies and a guy who gets nowhere the milemarker status he should. Though promo lit credits John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Bruce Springsteen to Christie's column, and I have to admit I hear the Diamond/Denver thematics, forget those guys. Where I wouldn't give Springsteen the time of day, I'd stand in the rain to hear this cat. James Taylor is also brought in for kindredness, and that's much more agreeable. Christie's compositions reflect Taylor's nicely but still keep more to the distinctiveness of a Lightfoot or Bruce Cockburn—there's just something of the forest and brisk winter in the way a good deal of the Canadian folkies compose…save for Joni Mitchell, who caught the California sunlight perfectly.
Every cut of this CD is solid radio material, so don't expect experimentation, neoGoth, or sulky Gen X crying towels, Christie's way too vibrant for that, even when forlorn. Broken Angel is particularly exhilarating, written for a heartbreaking/heartwarming situation: Wendy and Kris Soderman's unusual Ideal School, founded to properly tend to one of their twin boys, who has cerebral palsy, unwillingly to relinquish him to the highly dubious mercies of the aberrant standard educational system. Listening to the song without knowing that tugs at the emotions; understanding the backstory brings a tear to the eye, but the song is at one with the work of Rik Emmet (another Canadian and a member of Triumph) and his perpetual fight-the-good-fight war cry. 'Ere long, some director's going to catch Brave Angel and insert it in a movie, making spirits swell.
The backing band is thoroughly professional though the drummer's hobbled by a bit too metronomic a duty. Either Christie or Steve Sheehan is playing a perpetually chord-picked axe, I'm not sure which, but it's like a rainbow running through most of the cuts. I'm certain, though, that Rearview Mirror doesn't represent the singer at his zenith; that's yet to come. You have to hear his voice to understand. Christie has the presence and sturdiness of an opera singer, but that's not his gig. I don't know what would be, but when he hits the mode that will take the full measure of his prowess, a cyclone will cut through the charts. Trust me.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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