We have a blog series called, “Music Monday,” here on Arner Adventures. Since music creates a soundtrack for our day-to-day living, it only makes sense.
There’s a “Party Down the Street,” but I ain’t going. I’m staying in to continue my musical journey of recent weeks, which has been singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chuck Phillips’ Act I: Scene II. It is his first full-length album, and there’s not a dud on here. I’m not one to delve into lyrics too quickly, my listening has involved getting to know the music and the feel of the songs. This music is extraordinary.
“This is America” kicks things off and is one of the more topical songs on the album. The first single off the album comes next, it is “Devil in Disguise.” It is a catchy three-minute tune that drew me in much the same as the seductress in the song drew in the singer. This song will get stuck in your head until “Cry, Cry, Cry” follows and replaces it. The raw emotion on the slow, blues, styled tune, sits great in the middle of one of the best album sides I’ve heard in a while. The emotional content feels similar on “Hey Emily,” but a little bit more upbeat, particularly on the catchy chorus with it’s slightly Sgt. Pepper-like styling. All this leads up to the epic side closer and second single, “Got Me Praying” – a seven-minute, mildly funky and soulful piece of art. On its own, this is a great tune, but with the addition of The Embers’ Craig Woolard on saxophone, the song really takes off. Until now my favorite sax solos in rock have been Junior Walker’s scorching solo on Foreigner’s 1981 hit, “Urgent” and everything from Clarence Clemmons. I think I have a new one in the top ten. Whatever it is that has the singer praying, has me dancing… across my living room floor to the sound pumping through my speakers.
Act I: Scene II is set-up like a play with a thirty-second intermission reminding me of a sound byte of Brian Wilson’s Smile for a brief second. All the vinyl purists out there with a vivid imagination can use the thirty seconds to pretend they are flipping the album over.
Side two starts off with “Magic” and “One More Day With You,” keeping the easy feeling aesthetic and flow of the album going. The real surprise comes with “Greta Garbo,” an oddly eclectic bit of musical delight. Chuck is steeped in classic rock tradition, but moments like these make me think Act I: Scene II could be equally appealing to those with more indie rock leanings. The Kinks referenced Greta Garbo in their song “Celluloid Heroes,” this marking only the second time I’m aware of her mentioning in a rock song. Although, I’m sure there are others. The record finishes as strong as it started with another beautiful piano ballad, “Counting Sheep” and on to the closer and oftentimes hilarious “Party Down the Street.” All songs were done in a slightly different style and this one stands apart a little more than the others. If Johnny Cash and George Harrison had gotten together around 1970 this may have been the result. There is a light slide guitar mimicking the vocal and a live “in the studio” sound reminiscent of The Beatles “Let It Be.” Oh yeah, Greta Garbo is again referenced in this song, clearly putting Chuck Phillips ahead of The Kinks’ Ray Davies by a 2:1 margin. Not that I’m counting.
All in all, this is a beautiful album, an extraordinary accomplishment for Washington, North Carolina native Chuck Phillips. This wonderful and easygoing assortment of songs would play well anywhere: at the beach, on a road trip, or maybe even at the party down the street.
Be sure to check out the new album wherever you stream your music, or you can follow Chuck Phillips at the following platforms:
Spotify- Act I: Scene II
Facebook- Chuck Phillips Music
YouTube- Chuck Phillips Music