Thursday, October 10, 2013

TOP SECRET MUSIC REVIEW: Phillip Phillips - iTunes Session

SHHHHH!!! KEEP IT DOWN! This review is completely on the down low, as I've been notified by super secret suits at UMG that any and all media mention of Phillip Phillips' new iTunes Session is strictly prohibited under penalty of death by Miley Cyrus video twerking torture.

OK, now that we've agreed to keep this just between us, let me reveal the hidden truths you're not supposed to know about. Phillip Phillips, the new Platinum selling recording artist who was just nominated for an AMA for Best New Artist, and won American Idol XI, and is currently on a nationwide tour with John Mayer, secretly released an unplugged iTunes Session album October 8th featuring songs from his debut studio album World From The Side Of The Moon.

No, there was no pre-order sale or promotion. No, there was no press release. No, there was no mention of it on his website. In fact, there was not an announcement of any kind except a couple tweets mid day of the release by Phillip and his girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell.

The purpose of keeping this album top secret to only those who may accidentally stumble across it browsing iTunes remains a mystery. Had Phillip been an independent artist who was completely unknown to the general public, the release without any media or fan notification would still be a bit bizarre. Even unaffiliated artists give some advanced notice on social media to their fans and followers alerting them of the upcoming album release.

Yet, this remains for whatever reason absolutely unmentioned. Google the album under news and no media appears as of this typing 2 days after the official secret release.

Still, much to the chagrin of UMG enterprises, a lot of people ARE finding it. Right now it sits #33 overall on iTunes albums. That's an incredible number for an unannounced album with zero publicity, and is testimony to both Phillip's popularity and the quality of the album itself.

What makes this hidden gem so special is that it reveals the true depth of Phillip's guitar mastery, and the full richness of his vocal tones. The only song on World From The Side Of the Moon that captured this stripped down essence of Phillip is "Hazel", which is brilliant, and happens to be one of his two or three best songs. Now, we have a whole album of that stripped, raw acoustic vibe to appreciate and enjoy.

The setlist is a collection of 8 songs from his studio album, and 1 new cover (Crazy) that he's performed live several times. Best of all, his greatest work to date, the masterpiece of masterpieces, the greatest single song of all time, is FINALLY available on iTunes. Take Me Away is a song brilliant beyond compare, yet until iTunes Session came out it only was available via Target Deluxe CD, and that's not an easy one to find.

While the unplugged version pf Take Me Away loses the complexity and richness of the classical piano intro, the smokey jazz affect of a tenor sax, and the driving rock intensity of an electric guitar, the song is crafted and written so beautifully it still works magnificently when stripped to the bone of just Phillip with his six string.

One song that clearly benefits from the acoustic arrangement is Where We Came From. The album version got smothered in pop, but at its core its a meaty song highlighted by some very intricate guitar work. With all the unnecessary excess stripped away, it transforms from being just a decent song drowning in formula pop rock to one of the very best tunes on the album.

The only song that I felt took a small step back here was Man On The Moon. One of my very favorites off World, and the track I've long advocated to be his next official single, the guitar arrangement on the intro is a bit out of sync compared to the original World version and as performed on his live shows. Seems two guitars were stepping on each other to do a job that's better suited for one.

Oh, and my other pet peeve is that I love hearing the "Oh, oh, oh yeah" segue from the guitar intro into the opening verse, and that's absent here (as with his live shows). I love the way it sets the tone of the song, and implore P2 to toss it back in moving forward for ol' Kenny Poo's sake!

Overall, the album is deep, rich, fun, light, heavy, intense, happy, sad, pissed, and...well, very well balanced. You can't help but loop over and over again. It's infectious. Go buy it, but don't tell anyone else. Remember, it's very existence strictly confidential.

Below is the set list. Click here to purchase on iTunes.

  1. Where We Came From
  2. Man On The Moon
  3. Home
  4. Crazy
  5. Take Me Away
  6. Gone, Gone, Gone
  7. Hold On
  8. Tell Me A Story
  9. A Fool's Dance

COMING UP ON THE NEXT POO: Longtime Poo favorite Pia Toscano makes her big screen debut in the major motion picture, Grace Unplugged. Hope to catch it this weekend and get a review out next week.

Poo out!


  1. Phillip's voice and guitar playing are brilliant. I have not been able to stop listening to this album since I bought it. I don't understand all the hush hush about it, but the numbers speak for themselves. The fact that it rose so fast up the chart and is still hanging on with absolutely no publicity proves that this man has what it takes to have a very successful career. Cant wait to see what his next album is like!!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jasmine!

  3. Great description of this latest offering by Phillips. Not many artists these days could pull off a stripped-down, all out there performance such as he does in this work. Good review, Kenny.

  4. Great review! I agree with you on Take Me Away. . . . is "crafted and written so beautifully it still works magnificently stripped to the bone of just Phillip with his six string." It is one of my faves.

    Like you I can't understand why there has been no promo but like Jasmine mentioned this proves he has what it takes to be successful.

  5. Thanks for the review, Kenny. Both "Take Me Away" and "Crazy" are standouts for me on the new album, and I also think "Tell Me A Story" comes across particularly well.

    Whoever mixed/engineered the album allows us to really hear Phillip's guitar playing, which is a real joy; it's just as loud and "present" as Errol's (I assume the 2nd guitar is Errol Cooney) playing, and it makes the instrumentals wonderful to listen to. Some of the riffs etc. are those we've been hearing the past 6 months in videos of Phillip's promotional radio gigs- it's so good to hear them in a high quality recording. The rawness of the album works, too - no autotuning, and some imperfections were left, which makes the performances that much more real and intimate for the listener. Phillip's voice is strong and clear, and his improvisations add to the songs- even without the "oh oh oh yeah" on MOTM.

    I agree with you about MOTM, although I enjoy hearing the outro. For me, the addition of the outro to the recording of "Where We Came From" makes that song for me as well.

    I don't understand the lack of promo for this album - so thanks for highlighting it here. It's another bit of proof that Phillip has a lot of talent - and a lot more to give.

    1. Totally agree on the outros, Mary. Great point.

  6. Love this blog Kenny! I already purchased it on Itunes and downloaded it. Oh Happy day; but it is too late for me, I already let the secret out! :)

    1. Thanks, and be careful! The NSA is likely spying on this blog.

  7. Think about the reason for the Hush Hush - 19 Productions gave Phillip two songs on his first album that wasn't his own. They make most of the profit off these, which is why they were promoted to the hilt! All the others, which were written or co-written by him, are on this latest release, which means they will make much less. There ya go, the reason for the Hush Hush!