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Red, White and the Blues...

The Blues? Not even close. Pop wizard Matt Phillips could have named the album anything else and been closer, jumping out of the box with hook and feel more in line with Katrina & the Waves' Walking On Sunshine and Harpers Bizarre's The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) with engineering and production worthy of the best of The Moody Blues' output. In fact, Rush Hour Blues could sandwich between those two tracks seamlessly, having that skippin' down the street happiness about it, vocals up and away over instrumental background deep enough to sink into. A perfect segue into Head In the Clouds takes the hook a bit further and we're coasting down the highway, nodding heads and feelin' good and having Matt Phillips to thank for it all. And it only gets better from there.

There is something 80s in the guy, a mix of melody and production you apply to that decade, anyway. Awash in reverb and occasionally echo, the music is a throwback to the early days of MTV and weird hair, but Red, White and the Blues is way more than that. It is laden with hooks and sounds which will please the ear of anyone not programming-phobic and who enjoys a sense of melody with their side of pop.

Take Small Talk (which my computer recognizes as 'Track 5'). It borrows from a string of little known '80s pop bands like The Great Buildings and The Tenements (though it does have less guitar) and just a touch of Duran Duran without letting that get in their way. The production may be a bit over the top for some, but you cannot deny the music. Great pop. Phillips can ballad it up too. Breathe It All In and Ain't Much Better In the City slow things down a bit and Maybe I, with its light and bouncing chorus, will have you nodding your head to the beat.

Phillips has a voice ready-made for the music he writes, too, his harmonies perfect for the emotional overlay on certain tracks. Normally, I am not one for the one-voice-does-all project, especially those moments when that voice is stacked high, but it seems to work here, both texturally and harmonically. It may have to do with the unique harmonies or the production quality, or maybe it's just the groove, but there is something that keeps me coming back to it for one more listen. One plus one plus one is beginning to add up.

This is pretty good stuff, pop fans, and if you want to check it out, you can link onto Phillips' website by clicking here. You won't know unless you try...

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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