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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Birthday! A musical (almost forgotten) treasure, slightly disguised - Shawn Phillips


Shawn Phillips... this name alone open a world, for yours truly!

It was decades ago, Claudio Rocchi was broadcasting every afternoon at "Per Voi Giovani" on Radio Rai 2 and every week was a discovery... a miracle: Crosby and Nash and their first album, Allan Taylor and his "The Lady" and... one winter afternoon.... KAPOOOV!!!

A guitar arpeggio... long pauses, "that" whistle and then those harmonics!!! I had my VERY first guitar since, maybe, a couple of months and this music was... the most beautiful thing (of many to come) I ever listened to...

"Steel Eyes"... Shawn Phillips... and "THAT" voice: deep, deeep and then going high and higher, like Yma Sumac;-)... no, seriously: high as Tim Buckley, low as John Martyn and balanced as few others, including Alan Sorrenti.

It was, Claudio and his illuminated broadcasting, the VERY beginning of a love for life... being hungry of the very next, unknown artist, song... whatever!

Shawn Phillips was an absolute mistery for months, I was in my early teens and only infos source was on paper magazines - i.e. Ciao 2001, first and then Gong and Muzak, other mags 2die4... at my disc shop, Gabbia in Padua, the best in town, I found a copy of "Faces", a compilation of great songs, outtakes from A & M London's sessions and, again... "Landscape": BANG!

Another song able to stop clocks and breathing...

In few months, I was able to purchase some more discs by Shawn... that "Second Contribution" containing, at last, "that" Steel Eyes, but also "The Ballad of Casey Deiss", a song of a beauty... as coming from outer space!

On "Contribution", like on "Faces", Skaila Kanga and his harp preciously refined the awesome "'L' Ballade" with the incredible voice(s) of Shawn layering and interwoving endlessly... a piece that, like most of the best of SP's compositions, aged supremely well.

... and the covers... that sunburst Gibson's 12 strings, the long, blonde hair, again the double-necked 6/12 strings Gibson's and the old, green Austin... it was classy, freaky, lively world which blinked to my imagination.

Really, Shawn Phillips has been an hero and an inspiration since early '70s and, from time to time, I still give a passionate re-re-listen to his first albums... beside I own ALL his records, as he continued to write incredible songs and he still tours from his now-called home in South Africa... well, I must unshamedly admit my heartbeat only REALLY goes faster for his two sought-after Columbia's discs, which I only found few years ago, and ALL the superb first five A & M discs, 'til "Furthermore" (1974)!

Shawn lived for many years in Positano, Naples... the sun and sea and the '70s Italy was a "buen retiro" for him, his (ex) Adelina Tattilo's schooner and his musical friends and his (several) girlfriends, and his beautiful scenic house on the cliff... he also collaborated with Armando Piazza in his beautiful "Suan", a mythical disc from early '70s and he continued to collaborate and get contributions from Stevie Winwood, Paul Buckmaster, Jim Capaldi, Peter Robinson, Caleb Quaye and many others...

Myself and a cohort of teenagers grew up with his music... only years after these events, I discovered he, ALWAYS him, was behind the most beautiful, haunting discs and music by Donovan, with his sitar.

Today, February 3rd, I cannot (humbly) think to a better way to wish to Shawn a sincere "Happy Birthday!" hoping he's happy and adding, always hearfelty, a BIG "Thanks, Shawn!".

... everyone who never exposed his ears and soul to Shawn Phillips' music should amend!

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