In the end, all that really matters is the music.
Phillip Phillips won American Idol. That honor gave him a free ride in getting an album released, and a boatload of clout in the commercial radio airplay department. It does not however, create a respectable release. That, of course, he needed to do on his own.
The World from the Side of the Moon offers a nice sampling of where Phillips comes from and where he intends to go. Starting with some nice guitar pickin’, the opening track “Man on the Moon,” was written by the artist and features Phillips with a heavy Dave Matthews influence, breathing a good amount of interest into the song, both vocally and lyrically.
The initial single release “Home” has been making the rounds on commercial radio. With its feel good message, “Home” is well-produced, although a bit heavy on the background arrangements. Used in the Summer Olympics almost as an anthem, the familiarity of the song instantly makes it enjoyable.
Phillip Phillip’s Man on the Moon
“Gone, Gone, Gone” is next, and it too has a chorus which offers up an anthem feel, complete with the crowd singing along. As the third song on the album, you start getting the feeling it’s a single based CD, then “Hold On” starts to play and you can hear the hit list take a breather. Another song written solo by Phillips, it’s a bit more introspective, and while it showcases his guitar, vocally it’s not real fulfilling. For an album centered on his acoustic guitar, at times, the heavy strings and electronics seem somewhat unnecessary and overpowering.
Adding a little funk to the mix, “Get Up, Get Down” gets back into the potential hit list. Fast paced, the addition of the horns raises the tune from well done to so fun. A good comeback song after the lackluster “Tell Me a Story,” which adds little but time to the album.
The next five songs are pleasant but none is outstanding. Each has something, a hook, some guitar work or interesting lyrics, to make them decent, but take your pick and at least three could have been omitted on this lengthy release. “So Easy” ends the standard album release. It’s a likeable tune that will probably get a good amount of airplay before too long.
The deluxe CD offers three bonus tracks. “Hazel,” an acoustic, stripped down tune which could easily have replaced one of the five non-descript songs in the middle of the album. The next bonus cut is Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games.” While just like a medical oath, the first rule in covering a song should be to “do no harm.” While Phillips version has a few interesting moments, it comes across whinier than the haunting vocal of the Isaak original, and offers no real improvement. The last track is a live version of “Home.” Unless the reasoning behind offering this track was to showcase his live show not being much different from his studio work, there seems to be no real reason for its inclusion.
For a debut release, it’s a good one. Phillips natural vocal range is on the raspy side, but not gravelly enough where you want him to clear his throat. His guitar work is interesting and well done. Parts of the album have a little too much production; whether that route was taken to retain the American Idol fans used to a big sound, is only a guess. With the bonus cuts, it runs long. Regular release is 45:10 plus another 11:18 for the add-ons. Phillips has talent and the album is an easy listen. Taken on its own, with no pre-conceived American Idol direction, The World from the Side of the Moon – while not blockbuster – is still better than middle-of-the-road. It’s definitely worth a listen or two.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor