Thursday, 6 November 2008

Sam Phillips...No, Not That One!

Fate moves in a mysterious way. You just never know how one thing will lead to another – but sometimes you can have a pretty good guess.

It was in 1991 that I accompanied my wife, a registered Elvis Costello addict, to his concert at Hammersmith Odeon, London. Let me state here and now that whilst I like a lot of his early stuff (and particularly his collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet on the ‘Juliet Letters’) I am not his greatest fan so I wasn’t expecting too much from the evening. Anyway there we were watching the support act, a rather gawky female singer, and I was thinking, actually she’s quite good in a very left field sort of way. She had some quirky songs, indulged in a bit of self-deprecating patter between them and couldn’t dance for toffee. I’m a bit of a sucker for odd people as my record collection will attest and so rather than shun overt marketing in my normal manner, I accepted her free cassette, exerpts from 'Cruel Intentions' by Sam Phillips, being handed out on our way out of the building at the end of the evening and played the three songs it contained the very next day.

Much as it pains me to admit, this simple marketing exercise had the desired effect and I subsequently bought ‘Cruel Inventions’ and liked it a lot. It is produced by her husband-at-the-time, T-Bone Burnett and comprises a series of catchy, unusual melodies with slightly kooky, yet acutely observed lyrics. The production is sparse and rings with treated guitar figures and percussion giving a slightly edgy, spooky aura designed to complement the dark lyrics. I still like it to this day, but as with so many others, never bought anything else by her so thought I’d check her out.

A bit of research reveals that she began life as Leslie Ann Phillips and was well known in Christian circles before changing her professional name to Sam and moving record company to avoid being promoted as the ‘Christian Cyndi Lauper’. With future husband T-Bone, she then fashioned several well received albums in the 1990s which is where I came in. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t know about her previous existence as religion and I don’t often see eye to eye and she was probably justified in distancing herself from the ‘Cyndi Lauper’ promotion. No wonder the devil has all the best tunes.

The reason she has risen to the top of my consciousness is that I became aware of a new album ‘Don’t Do Anything’ coupled with a retrospective best of ‘The Disappearing Act 1987-2008’ advertised on Amazon. I might just investigate both.

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