A good friend of mine and I had an argument the other day about music. I argued that music that is complacent and remains irrelevant to struggles in the world is p, even if it is musically of a high quality. He argued that I was instrumentalising music, showing more interest in some mythical cultural struggle than in in music. He may have a point but I have come across a record that I should have brought up to illustrate why kultur needs kampf. This is a solo record by John Phillips of Mamas and Papas fame, released for the first time after sitting in a record companys vault for decades. My problem with music and wider culture is encapsulated by two facts about this release; firstly, that it never got released because of a record company decision and secondly, that the record was produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards after meeting at a cricket match. In other words, control over cultural production being exercised by record companies and by people in chummy little gatherings.
This would be a good time to point at these are my opinions and not necessarily those of the fine people at Foxy Digitalis. Ok, now the music itself. Phillips largely deals in pop twang that can safely sit somewhere between "Hunky Dory" era Bowie and 1976 Elton John with the same saccharine AM radio feel as the Carpenters.
"Pussycat" was recorded in 1976 and 1977 but Phillips escalating heroin addiction and the death of the sessions engineer in a car accident caused the project to languish until later in the year and eventually shelved, half-completed late in 1978. The productions are clean enough to eat off (by this stage, Jagger and Richards are clearly dinosaurs who bore no relation to the people who did anything progressive or interesting), complete with back up singers doing all the things you expect in an ultra hi-fi approach to pop music. Thematically, it ranges from liquored up ode to a stripclub ("Pussycat"), to shameless pleading for sex ("Susan, Susan"), to tributes to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa ("Zulu Warrior").
Apart from tracks from this incomplete solo record, there are tracks that he recorded for the soundtrack to Nicholas Roeg directed, Bowie starring cult film "The Man who Fell to Earth." The early demo for "Liar, Liar" proceeds along with flickering guitar, horns and an engaging half-Caribbean feel. 7/10 -- Alex Kakafikas (29 October, 2008)