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Shawn PhillipsShawn Phillips
Album: Perspective
Label: Talking Elephant
Tracks: 20

Perspective is Shawn's 20th release - he's had a long and creative innings, and no two of his albums have ever sounded the same, as a trawl through those currently available (mostly on the Talking Elephant label) will testify. Admirably, Shawn refuses to designate his music to any genre, and it spans rock, folk, jazz, prog, pop and classical. He's known as much as a musician as a singer-songwriter, and his versatility is legendary.

You might expect from its title that the brand new double CD Perspective is some kind of retrospective collection - but this is definitely not the case, for it grants a première to no fewer than 20 songs, all written over the past 15 years. Most of these were recorded at Shawn's home studio in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, between February and April this year, with a bunch of top-flight South African musicians; here, the idiom is predominantly mainstream contemporary rock, with a solid base and thoughtful yet driving arrangements. The remainder were recorded in LA (in 2002) and Minneapolis (in 2008), while Storm, recorded in Montreal in 2011, features a noteworthy guest vocal by Hélène McKenzie.

"Finely crafted music played by highly proficient musicians" which will appeal to a wider audience - that's how Shawn describes this collection in his liner note, and while I wouldn't disagree I'll admit to finding some of the settings too large-scale for the songs; occasionally a less driven smaller canvas is beneficial, as on Light Of Life (which sports a Paul Buckmaster string arrangement), Starlight and Ascent. Shawn certainly has the courage of his convictions, however, and there's much to be gained from a detailed perusal of the lyrics (all reproduced in the foldout insert booklet). It's indicative, too, that Shawn's ultra-loyal fanbase is responsible for the crowdfunding of this release.

David Kidman