Sunday, January 24, 2010
Phil Seymour - "Phil Seymour" -1981
Phil Seymour's story is one of great talent and promise, cut short by alcohol, illness, and his eventual death at the age of 41. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Seymour is best known as the other half of late 70's power pop duo The Dwight Twilley Band, who's 1975 single "I'm On Fire" became an overnight top 20 hit for Denny Cordell's doomed Shelter Records. After 4 years and two stellar albums together, Shelter folded, and Seymour and Twilley went their separate ways.
An immense talent and multi-instrumentalist, Seymour's early resume included playing bass, drums, and guitar on the two Dwight Twilley Band albums, aswell as guesting on albums by 20/20 and Shelter labelmates Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (that's Seymour's backing vocal that you hear on the original versions of "Breakdown" and "American Girl".)
Phil Seymour's debut solo album arrived in January of 1981 on Neil Bogart's newly formed Boardwalk Records. Sporting what is essentialy a cleaned up version of the early Dwight Twilley sound, Phil Seymour is a true lost gem of late 70's/early 80's power pop. An even mix of original material, cover songs, and contributions from Twilley and longtime collaborator Bill Pitcock IV, the album's lean, punchy production is certainly a reminder of the times, but never prevents it from sounding artistically viable today.
Opening track "Precious To Me" is an earnest midtempo love song that plays like an updated version of George Harrison's "I Need You" for the new wave generation. The Seymour-penned lead single became his only solo hit, reaching number 22 on the Billboard top 200, and strangely reaching number 3 in Australia. With a music video and several television apearances to support it, it's strange that no follow up single was released, leaving Phil Seymour to slowly fall down the charts, and eventually land in record store delete bins.
The album's standout tracks are the energetic "I Found A Love", and the pure pop gold that is "Baby It's You", another Seymour original. Seymour's ability as a lead vocalist is astounding, considering that in the past he had only sung harmony with Twilley and Petty, yet he sounds like a seasoned pro on his debut. His emotional range from sensitive ("Precious To Me"), to desperate ("Love You So Much"), and cocky (a deadly cover of Bobby Fuller's "Let Her Dance"), is an impressive feat for somebody previously known only as a backing musician.
For fans of power pop, or anyone that apreciates great performance and clever writing, Phil Seymour is an aboslute must. A true masterpiece of pure pop music, and the only album that seemed fitting to start this blog, which i hope will turn other music lovers on to some of my favourite lesser known classics.
Note on availability: Phil Seymour was reissued in 2005 on the Collector's Choice label with 3 bonus tracks, including a previously unreleased version of the Dwight Twilley Band classic "Looking For The Magic". Vinyl copies shouldn't be too hard to find if you're patient and don't mind doing a little digging.