Once again we have Christmas cheer drop through our letter- box via greetings cards, and the occasional Christmas CD or as they say the other side of the pond, a holiday CD. Here we focus our attention on the latter, and work of Canadian-born, Phil Christie; who I believe now lives on the American West-Coast. Christie in the main goes for imports, some are old chestnuts, and a couple from fellow Canadian acts in Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot plus three of his own. Christie’s tried to bridge the gap for people who find Christmas a lonely time, as he once did having lost both parents a decade ago. Happily he is now enjoying the season once again as a parent. Plus you have those still feeling the hurt of the break-up of a personal relationship. So it isn’t all joy and laughter as carols are heard and tables full with food and drink and gifts stacked under the Christmas tree.
As for the music, his music isn’t of the nature to jump up and dance to, the songs are more thoughtful and melancholy and rich in substance. It is here Christie makes his greatest mark as he carefully plies his wares, and on surrounding himself with Los Angeles musicians sympathetic with what he is trying to do, Ghosts Of Christmas Past eases through with minimal ease as great enjoyment is provided. Ace covers of the Lightfoot favourite, “Song For A Winter’s Night” and Mitchell’s plaintive piece “The River” are joined by a beautiful version of “Silent Night” and an always welcome “Little Drummer Boy” plus western campfire (as Christie’s tones leave ever so slightly across the John Denver style of work) song by Steve Weisberg “Christmas For Cowboys”. Christie’s own songs are a fine study, of a kind you would gladly play anytime you felt the need to bring a little sanity to your day. His songs, as in “Watching Over Him”, “Father And Son” and jaunty - with a melody that draws a little on an old Drifter’s classic -“Mistletoeing” are all fine efforts, and fit the bill superbly. Funny enough his opening piece “Christmas Of Christmas Past” and the closer “Have Yourself A Merry Christmas” (Ralph Blane / Hugh Martin) come across as the weakest of a one seasonal record rich in sentiment, but like the musical production, perfectly balanced and in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.
Remember the stunning Old Souls song by Paul Williams in Brian de Palma's quirky but way hip Phantom of the Paradise? In the movie, it was covered marvelously, deliciously, hauntingly by Jessica Harper, but Paul himself presented it movingly on his Ordinary Fool LP while Erika Patoka much more recently brought out a more Renaissancey pre-Raphaelite version on YouTube. Danny Elfman's Sally's Song, from The Nightmare Before Christmas is in many ways the progeny of Old Souls, but Phil Christie's title cut in Ghosts of Christmas Past walks the mode and its messages back to Williams, turning the laconic atmospherics upon themselves as being just a mode of interim behavior to be endured until things return…and even if we don't always believe that, we sure as hell wish it were so and work to that end.
Christie then turns to Gordon Lightfoot's Song for a Winter's Night and does the great old man proud but also gives away the fact that this isn't really a Christmas CD but rather a potpourri of reflections and ruminations wrought in a zone halfway between Autumn and the Solstice, wherein Christmas is one of many elements, dominant but not defining. More, the CD is clearly a return to the 60s emphasis on singers and stories where not only Gordo but also Peter & Gordon, Johnny Rivers, earliest Joni Mitchell (whose Riveris covered here), and others took the lullabies our mothers sang us and matured them into the next step.
Christie has the sort of voice indexing perfectly into that time zone, as the entirety of Ghosts is highly folk oriented, the era when The Village was transitioning from the coffee shops to the charts, when Glenn Yarbrough, Harry Nilsson, and others were crafting their wares. This then benefits the holiday repertoire on the disc, most evidenced in the closing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, which is as reflective of Dean Martin and Bing Crosby as Laura Nyro and Neil Diamond, cocktail glasses clinking as the kids are bustled off to bed, after which point the parents sit down, smoke a joint, and ponder their lot. Winter is, after all, the time in which the cycle of life most hangs in the balance; Ghosts of Christmas Past never forgets that for a moment. Maybe our hideous commodification of everything in sight, including moments of observance and humanity…is just a little bit in error?
Christie's sincere lyrics reflect unfulfilled dreams and dreams held dearly yet to come. Every track is sweetly melodic and Christie's rich voice strings the album together. His heartwarming compilation is a touching rendition of the storyline called "life". "Rearview Mirror" is easy listening, embracing what is important... love. Christie's writing style is a hybrid of folk and rock to be cherished by generations and enjoyed by all.
Phil Christie "Rearview Mirror" is a collection of some of the most well crafted songs this writer has heard since the hey day of the Brill building, - the home of famous song writers working out of New York - these are the kind of songs that made the careers Neil Diamond & Carol King possible. With a Voice that reminded me of several different people at once Gordon Lightfoot, but more like Harry Chapin, with a dash of Neil Diamond. This voice is of a kind that has not been heard in years, a full smooth voice that you can warm you up like a fire. The title track "Rearview Mirror" with lines of love lost, love won, dreams unfulfilled and those dreams that still may yet Come true" weave through this entire disc. "Montreal", the kind of song I have dearly missed and am so glad to hear now. "Random Acts of Kindness", is a self-explanatory piece, all we need is the desire to help one another with unrequited love.
Phil Christie is joined on this, his third album, by Doug Lancio and Barry Walsh who appeared on Gretchen Peters' ˜Burnt Toast and Offerings". Influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, Springsteen and James Taylor, Christie sounds very like Diamond. His tone and phrasing could easily be mistaken for him, particularly on ˜Otherwise Engaged", ˜Broken Angel" and the opening title track. Christie can write some good stuff. CD closer ˜Me & My Guitar"outlines what happens when a songwriter sits down and just strums it. ˜You Got It" starts off with a chugging guitar riff and demonstrates a harder rock sound with a stunning guitar solo. ˜One World" funks it all up with its driving backbeat and emphasis on Babylon. Echoes of Jon Vezner appear on ˜Echo" with its vocal phrasing similar to Vezner's ˜Where've You Been". A story of the imprint someone leaves behind, it tells the love story of Jesse Rudolph and Bettymae Swan outlined at a remembrance ceremony for the late grandmother of Christie's wife. Outlining their lives together "Echo" runs parallel to Vezner's tale of two people separated at the end of their lives when one of them ends up in hospital and they are forced to spend their first night apart after many years of marriage. The opening title track was the last song Christie wrote for this collection and is the one that defines it. Some simple picking introduces it and it swirls back and forth as it explores the reflection of lost loves, love won, unfulfilled dreams and the dreams yet to still come true. As a native of Canada, ˜Montreal" indicates his love for the largest city in the primarily French province of Quebec and its similarities to Paris and other great cites of the world. Some people have stated that Christie is middle of the road country. No he's not. He's electric acoustic folk rock that's perfect for Americana radio. And that's the way it should be.
It's not often you hear a voice as strong as Phil Christie's. Though he keeps it well leashed, the potency and muscularity reverberate in every verse he sings. Another of those highly talented Canadians, he took very broad inspiration from fellow countryman Gordon Lightfoot, one of my all-time favorite folkies and a guy who gets nowhere the milemarker status he should. Though promo lit credits John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Bruce Springsteen to Christie's column, and I have to admit I hear the Diamond/Denver thematics, forget those guys. Where I wouldn't give Springsteen the time of day, I'd stand in the rain to hear this cat. James Taylor is also brought in for kindredness, and that's much more agreeable. Christie's compositions reflect Taylor's nicely but still keep more to the distinctiveness of a Lightfoot or Bruce Cockburn... there's just something of the forest and brisk winter in the way a good deal of the Canadian folkies compose, save for Joni Mitchell who caught the California sunlight perfectly.
Every cut of this CD is solid radio material, so don't expect experimentation, neoGoth, or sulky Gen X crying towels, Christie's way too vibrant for that, even when forlorn. Broken Angel is particularly exhilarating, written for a heartbreaking/heartwarming situation: Wendy and Kris Soderman's unusual Ideal School, founded to properly tend to one of their twin boys, who has cerebral palsy, unwillingly to relinquish him to the highly dubious mercies of the aberrant standard educational system. Listening to the song without knowing that tugs at the emotions; understanding the backstory brings a tear to the eye, but the song is at one with the work of Rik Emmet (another Canadian and a member of Triumph) and his perpetual fight-the-good-fight war cry. 'Ere long, some director's going to catch Broken Angel and insert it in a movie, making spirits swell.
The backing band is thoroughly professional though the drummer's hobbled by a bit too metronomic a duty. Either Christie or Steve Sheehan is playing a perpetually chord-picked axe, I'm not sure which, but it's like a rainbow running through most of the cuts. I'm certain, though, that Rearview Mirror doesn't represent the singer at his zenith; that's yet to come. You have to hear his voice to understand. Christie has the presence and sturdiness of an opera singer, but that's not his gig. I don't know what would be, but when he hits the mode that will take the full measure of his prowess, a cyclone will cut through the charts. Trust me
Canadian Singer-Songwriter Phil Christie shines with his song "Rearview Mirror", with beautiful lyrical imagery and Contemporary Folk production and songwriting. His new Album also named "Rearview Mirror" has just been released. Fans of David Wilcox and Gordon Lightfoot will appreciate his music. This artist is one to watch. www.PhilChristie.com RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)
Back in the heydays of James Taylor and Jackson Browne, there were second tier singer/songwriters that a lot of people liked more that were highly influential and very talented but just didn't have that something that put them over the top. Christie is in the mold of those musical soldiers that felt more like a pal than an unreachable star, who didn't drop the hits but left you with something more lasting. Think comparing Fred Neil to James Taylor. With some highly talented pals that know the ropes bringing home the sound, Christie's tales of every day life are sure to ring a bell when you are looking for some meaty songwriting you can get into. It may not be vintage Dylan, but there's nothing wrong with vintage John Batdorf.
If you like your music richly mellow, flavored just right with equal doses of Americana and Folk, then Phil Christie, a Neil Diamond similar-sounder, is worth a listen. Blessed with a smooth, easy and clear tone, this Canadian is out with his latest, Rearview Mirror. On an album filled with anchored emotion, Christie is the guy you play at night, late at night, when the candle flickers and the wine is working, when thoughts run and race -- when music does its best work. The multi-talented Christie - he draws major duty by producing, playing and writing here - has pulled together an album thatss not going to appeal to the hats and buckle crowd; rather, if you lean towards middle-of-the-road country that's easy and melodic to the ear, this is for you. Opening with the title track, a song that looks into life, love and loss from a backward glance, Christie moves through his album of soft ballads and reflective thoughts with easy style, backed by a band of seasoned musicians. Among the sound-makers are some noted names such as Doug Lancio (Gretchen Peters and Patty Griffin) on guitar and Barry Walsh (Gretchen Peters) on piano. Tracks like the parochial "Montreal", the powerful reverence of attachment heard on "Echo," the up-tempo invitation to a freedom walk from love, "You Got It" and the sad rewards for love's inattention, "Otherwise Engaged," all reveal a singer/songwriter with depth, passion and talent. With a warm and melodic voice, easy-on-the-ear tunes, all wrapped in fine musicianship, this, as mentioned, won't race off the shelves clutched in the hands of some Toby Keith or Jewel fan. However, it will find an audience with those who appreciate late nights, the glow of a romantic candle and good wine.
Folk guitars travel over the highways. "Midnight moon on a night, muddy, black as coal, trail of dust and a heavy load. Everything I once held dear in my rearview mirror." A familiar lonely tale, but told with new poetry. "Desert wind blows a tumbleweed up on the rise" evokes one feeling and a moment later "sunlight around her like a prayer" digs deeper into another feeling, a memory of my life lived, perhaps a bit callously. I'm sure some of my past would yell at me -> you weren't looking, you were very callous. Ah. Takes good music to pull out confessions from a hard-hearted man. And Phil obliges with much good music. Shoutout tunes are the beautiful "Random Acts Of Kindness", a tale of the small flowers I let slide through my fingers, and "Me & My Guitar", a song that many people write but few succeed at. Phil succeeded. "Three chords and a simply melody opened up my heart and set me free." Thanks for stirring my soul!
"Rearview Mirror" is the title track and one of 10 self-penned songs on a new CD by Phil Christie from Canada.
With a mix of Americana, folk, rock and country, he offers the listener a wide selection of several styles. The lyrics are about love lost, love won, unfulfilled dreams and dreams that could still come true. The singer claims to be very much influenced by musical legends such as Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and John Denver.
In the number ˜Echo", Christie glances back to the glorious history of the Indian Swan family where the grandmother of his wife comes from. In "Montreal" he reflects with some nostalgia upon the time he spent in the land where he was born. The title track "Rearview Mirror" actually describes best what Phil Christie attempts to achieve with his CD: a nostalgic retrospective of his experience of the passed decennia. The rearview mirror not only shows pleasant things but also sad moments from one's life. "Broken Angel" is an emotional and heart breaking story ending with a message of hope and admiration for the perseverance of those people hit hard by life. Christie is also concerned about the ups and downs of this planet and sings about it in ˜One World" and "Random Acts of Kindness"
In "Me & My Guitar" he tells about his love for music and how "three chords and a simple melody"changed his entire life. "Rearview Mirror" is the story of a modern troubadour for whom singing is as important to life as is breathing. This resulted in a fine CD altogether.
Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Christie set his sights on a career in music due to the influence of legendary singer/songwriters Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, John Denver, and James Taylor. After much perseverance and after following in the footsteps of notable artists, he released his early recordings in 1999. This was followed in 2002, with Summerstown. Phil Christie is a songwriter, that much is obvious from the first listen to this disc. Clear, smooth vocals and an impressive range are wonderfully displayed in this album, from the frivolous, 'Karl the Koala' to the spooky blues of 'Skeleton', the Spansih influenced Carlmelita and the poignant 'Mother's Day.' The album has been produced in such a way that it complements the music and at no time feels overproduced. From the title track, Summerstown to what for me is the stand out track ,Old Man Jacob, rich storytelling and heartfelt emotions fill the tracks, and the characters and places are painted so vividly I feel as if I know them and their towns intimately. Dream of Colorado allows Christie to almost pay homage to John Denver and the place he loved so much, perhaps as a thankyou for the inspiration. It paints a beautiful picture of a beautiful place. Suffice it to say that Summerstown is the place where great music of the present meets the influences of its creator's past, and everyone ought to pay it a visit in order to enjoy its charms
"I like your skeleton, baby. I like your style. I like your collarbone and your suicide smile. The way you hang there seems to light up the room. Just like some Joan of Arc before she was doomed." What a great pick-up line, LOL!!! The story continues, with the band pushing the funky dance to the border of texas and louisiana. Great fun. "There's just no telling how the storybook ends."
Producer/Arranger (John Denver)
"I highly recommend Phil Christie's "SUMMERSTOWN" album. It is exceptional. It's one I wish I had produced."
Acoustic Scene Magazine
Phil Christie's experience and strong vocal ability can be clearly heard in his music. Hundreds of live shows and a variety of experiences have a way of polishing a singer. I was very impressed with his movie and television musical experience but more so with his clear voice and descriptive lyrics. Creme rises to the top and so has Christie.
Real Country Radio & RTFM-J, JAPAN
Christie is a great composer and singer. The SUMMERSTOWN album is well produced and the sound quality is rich. I'm adding "Summerstown" in a hurry on my playlist.
Radio RPEM-FM , SPAIN
Just received the album "Summerstown" by Phil Christie. The album is full of honesty, creativity and dedication. From the first to the last word and note, we believe what we hear, there's plenty of talent on this release and I just wonder how this pearl is not on a major circuit or at least at the top of the indies scene. Industry, follow this man, he is more than a singer-songwriter. He's a REAL MUSICIAN.
QBN FM 96.7, AUSTRALIA
Phil's CD has been played constantly since it has been received here at QBN FM 96.7
North County Times, San Diego
Radio Logan Inc 101FM, Queensland, AUSTRALIA
Summerstown is a CD that I've enjoyed listening to at home as well as playing on air. My first impresssion was that here is the 2005 "version" of Gordon Lightfoot as some of the songs do have that Lightfoot sound but on further listening I realized that while Phil has been influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, he has been able to effectively create his own unique sound that ranges from country rock on the title track to a ballad sound on "Mother's Day" and even Spanish on "Carmelita" and a touch of blues on "Skeleton". Other influences that come through are from Neil Diamond. All in all a great album that showcases Phil's skills both as a songwriter and performer.
RCF Mediterranee Radio, FRANCE
Thank you for your cd... I have listened to "Summerstown" and I find it quite simply perfect.