|Glen Phillips - Abulum|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Tuesday, 09 October 2001|
I was never a great fan of Toad the Wet Sprocket (and you thought "Traveling Wilburys" was a funny name…), but it was evident even to me that Glen Phillips had more to say than most artists using the by-then-rather-tired "alternative" label. After the band came apart in 1998, he seemed to go silent, but here he is, back with a solo work that is worthy of attention even if you didn’t go for the band from whence he came.
What has happened to Phillips? Fatherhood, probably. This material is more thoughtful, sensitive, insightful and humorous and less melodramatic. We get the feeling that he is actually in touch with himself in a way that might have been unimaginable a few years ago. All the songs are by Phillips (with the exception of one that is co-written), and in them, he tackles a number of issues, including male irresponsibility and deadbeat dads in "Men Just Leave," petty bigotry in "Drive By," where a father coerces his son into driving the car as he attempts to shoot the neighbor’s dog, and despair in "Darkest Hour," which might perhaps relate to the death of Phillips’ own father. Overall, we’re offered a surprisingly deep, poetic collection of material that makes for an enjoyable listen. "Careless" is an excellent opener. Other star tracks for me include those mentioned above.
The original stereo release of this album hit the stores in April, so this Silverline release is pleasantly hot on its heels. The mix is by the highly talented Gary Lux at 5.1 Entertainment, who, you may recall, also remixed Aaron Neville’s stunning "Devotion" album. With every release, Lux shows his mixing talent: he is not afraid to develop a surround concept for each project he works on, with no apparent need for the safety of a few standard surround templates. Each album therefore has an approach to surround that is unique to the material, which is, of course, how it should be but often is not.
Here, then, we find an interesting surround layout. Most of the action takes places across a wide front stage. The surrounds are used to add depth and context, never standing out on their own but instead subtly complementing and highlighting the mix across the front. The vocal is up in the mix, thankfully, as the lyrics are important (and available on-screen if desired). The overall recording is clean and clear, with every part of the arrangement clearly audible, highlighting the excellent performances throughout.
In addition to the Dolby Digital (DVD-V) and MLP (DVD-A) streams, the latter a healthy and flawless 24/96 as we have come to expect from Silverline, there is extensive concert footage and an artist commentary, plus the lyrics sheet and a slide show of images, mainly featuring a fully-suited-and-tied Phillips in the pool, strangely conjuring up memories of the art on… what was that long lost Martin Briley album? Oh, yes, "One Night with a Stranger." Talking of art, if you can tell me what the image on the disc label is, I would love to know.
If you enjoyed Phillips’ former band, it is to be hoped that you will not find this solo offering too laid-back. I found it a more rewarding experience than listening to his former outfit, and hope it represents the shape of things to come for Phillips as a solo artist.