Album Review :
Michael Phillips - Mirrors Within Mirrors

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Band: Michael Phillips

Title: Mirrors Within Mirrors

Label: Roxx Records

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Review By: Scott L

Tracklisting:

  1. All I Ever Wanted
  2. Mirrors Within Mirrors Part I
  3. Mirrors Within Mirrors Part II
  4. Prelude # 3 From The Well Tempered Clavier
  5. Always Remember
  6. Anthem
  7. Omega
  8. Seasons Of Life
  9. One Day
  10. It’s The Beat
  11. Who Am I? Part I
  12. I Will Praise Him Still
  13. (Hidden Track)

Guys having a mid-life crisis do some pretty outlandish things. I guess the grim realization of human mortality can do that to a person. It’s just creepy to pull up next to a candy apple red Porsche Cayman convertible at a stop light only to look over and see that it’s being driven by a 60-year-old man with a wicked comb-over, enough bling to make Snoop Dog drool, and Grecian Formula chest hair bursting out of his half-buttoned silk shirt like creeping ivy. There’s a huge difference between trying to recapture your youth and maintaining it. Mike Phillips, despite his years in the industry, and they are many, has apparently managed to maintain not only his vitality… but also his musical ingenuity. This CD is diverse, often meaningful, and always a fun ride. And believe me, weighing in at 13 tracks and a runtime of about 73 minutes… you’ll get your money’s worth on this one.

Mike may not need much of an introduction, but I’ll give you a short run down on his storied past nonetheless. A veteran of the industry, Mike broke into the mainstream Christian market in the early 90’s when he joined the metal juggernaut Deliverance. After a brief stint with Jimmy P. Brown and crew, he signed on with Fasedown for a couple of releases. Then it was back to Deliverance for a bit. Suffice it to say, he’s been around and he knows the business.

On “Mirrors Within Mirrors”, Mike handles the brunt of the writing and the guitar work. He also adds some vocals, some keys, and some bass here and there. As you might expect of a veteran musician of this caliber, Mike makes room on this CD for a veritable who’s-who of past and present industry heavy-weights. These include: Mark Solomon (The Crucified), Jim Chaffin (The Crucified), Jimmy P. Brown (Deliverance), Devin Shaeffer (Fasedown), Scott Waters (Ultimatum), and others.

As I mentioned, this album is all about diversity. Too a fault, in my opinion. There’s progressive metal, there’s speed metal, there’s straight-up thrash… and then there’s classical guitar. Lot’s of classical guitar. Which includes a rendition of Bach’s “Prelude # 3 From The Well Tempered Clavier”. Hey, there’s even a nice praise song.

This is a musical odyssey of sorts. And I’m told somewhat of a personal testimony in a way as well. Musically, there’s a lot to like here. Literally and figuratively. My biggest beef wasn’t the fact that 8 of the 13 songs are instrumental. Particularly because I love classical guitar. So I can hang with that. My biggest criticism is that after setting the listener up with 3 powerhouse tracks that leave you feeling like you’ve been tossed into the ring with Butterbean for a few rounds, the bottom drops out and you’re left with classical guitar for the majority of what’s left of the CD. The sole exceptions are “Anthem”, which I thought was the albums weakest song; “It’s The Beat”, which is a Deliverance cover; and “I Will Praise Him Still” which is just what the name implies, a beautiful worship song suitable for Sunday service. While most everything was wonderful in and of itself, I thought that the extreme variations in style from one song to the next led to more of a compilation type feel. The overall continuity just wasn’t there… but if you’re used to listening to shuffled mixes on your iPod, you should be right at home.

Lyrically, the CD is pretty skimpy. As you might expect for having only 5 songs with any kind of vocals… 2 of which have very limited vocals. And even though many of the songs don’t have actual lyrics that make it onto the CD, there are messages and quotes for virtually every song in the CD jacket. The lyrics on the CD itself are right on the money and do a bang-up job in conveying a very intimate message and a powerful way. Quality over quantity, I guess. Check out the title track “Mirrors Within Mirrors Part II” which says, “it’s 3 o’clock in the morning / confusion reigns in my head / I never listened as a child / these choices / I’ll wind up dead / is there any forgiveness / broken selfish sins / if I make it to the morning / I’ll never do it again / fearless submission / desire for what is right / the human soul craves / the dead man enslaves / from dawn ‘till dusk / the eyes always see / things out of focus / who can set free”.

The standout track would have to be “Omega”. It’s an instrumental track that has some high octane Spanish guitar that’s just awesome. It’s guitar and drums… drums ala Jim Chaffin no less. Good stuff.

Mike includes a personal note in the liner notes which I thought I would share here as well as I think it captures what he was shooting for with this CD. He writes, “My name is Michael Phillips, I am a sinner saved by grace. I have been walking with the Lord for 20 years. Sometimes I don’t feel He is there. Sometimes I go days without praying. I am a selfish human and mess up a lot, but there is a conviction in my heart that draws me to do what is right. I don’t always listen but when I do there is such a feeling of love and peace that it makes me want to be close to Him. If you are struggling with your walk or don’t know true peace, I would love the chance to dialog, please contact me at: www.michaelphillipsmusic.net”.

Overall: Michael Phillips’ “Mirrors Within Mirrors” was a whole lot different than I expected. It was a lot more Christopher Parkening meets Pepe Romero that Deliverance or Fasedown. There’s a lot here to get into, and it’s well worth your time to get into it. Just be aware that style changes abound and may throw the congruity of the album off if you’re trying to listen straight through. Other than that, it’s a great release with some seriously mind-numbing guitar work.

www.michaelphillipsmusic.net

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