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Album Review: “Phil Stacey” by Phil Stacey

April 29, 2008

Phil Stacey

Season six of American Idol brought a sixth place finisher to the ears of country lovers everywhere. Upon singing Keith Urban’s “Where The Blacktop Ends” on country week, Phil Stacey was praised for the first time by the judges and commented that this is what he wants to do. Now here he is doing what he has always wanted to do. Fresh off of Lyric Street Records is the debut project from Phil Stacey. All things considered, Phil gives it his all on this project. It has its flaws and imperfections, but anyone who doesn’t know what Phil stands for or anyone who missed him on Idol should look into this project. It is primarily made up of inspirational tunes and love songs that secure who Phil is as a person. He is a God praising man with kids and a wife who mean more to him that this album ever could. Every inch of that is apparent in this album.

It is true that Phil still has a lot to learn. However what he has already learned shows up quite well in this project with twists and turns that leave you hooked and a few bumps along the way. The album opens with “It’s Who You Know” which immediately secures his faithful side. The song reminisces on the classical religious moral that in the end wealth and privilege get you nothing. It’s who you know and who you’ve been that will get you somewhere in life. As it is with most of the songs on this project, Phil shows an impressive sense of belief, sincerity and relation to every word as if he wrote it. In reality Phil has not written any songs on the album, a very small mishap that will probably eventually be solved as this song plainly shows in his ability to connect with not only the lyrics, but the message they present.

“Looking Like Love” is a fun little diddy that will probably get your toes tapping. It starts with catchy electric and acoustic guitar combo that appropriately matches the opening line, “started off easy”. As the song progresses it gets more upbeat and entertaining to also match the storyline. The storyline itself has a man, Phil, and his girlfriend by the waterside apparently at night and in the heat of the moment a simple kiss turns everything upside down. At that very moment the two realize exactly what this relationship has always been and by daytime love shows its face. Again we find Phil in a sincere and relative state which shows his relation and love for his wife as he most likely uses this song to look back on their early days.

Speaking of his wife, Phil’s first single “If You Didn’t Love Me” was recorded for her to represent how everything he does is because of the support that she and his children have shown him. This song led me to question Phil’s quality as a recording artist at first even though he was in my top 2 in Idol, but it really grows on you fast. Co-written by Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary Levox, the song relates many situation in which one’s life might be put to the edge and things might seem hopeless. However, when you have someone to love you, family, friends, or someone even closer, you know they’ll help you through it all. This is the perfect first single for Phil because it shows how important his supporters and his family were and still are in his journey through idol and to this album.

“No Way Around A River” is the mirror image of “If You Didn’t Love Me”. Phil sings from the other side of the spectrum in a message similar to “The River” by Garth Brooks, but with a twist. The song has Phil talking to an individual, his wife or a friend, as they are facing a crossroad in life symbolized by the classic river. Phil continues to show his faith an the positive message he stands for by explaining how every river needs to be crossed, there is no way around it. In addition he makes it clear that one is never alone and that there will be someone there to help them and keep them from drifting away or drowning. On the note of inspiration, Phil puts an impressive take on a very, very simple song of inspiration, “Be Good To Each Other”. Written by his producer Wayne Kirkpatrick, this song uses very simple lyrics to express a simple message, maybe if we try and be good to one another things won’t be so bad. A song that would otherwise be an incredible flop actually has meaning and power put into it through Phil’s performance.

Of course Phil isn’t all about faith and love. He loves to have fun to as shown in “‘Round Here”, a song written by all four members of Little Big Town and Wayne Kirkpatrick. While adding in a catchy and enjoyable beat that is sure to get you dancing, Phil keeps to his morals and for the first time shows off a rebellious and prideful side by speaking out against anyone who thinks their way is the right way. This is pretty much a very enjoyable hometown pride song that denies anyone who thinks they can storm in and do things there way.

The second half of the album begins to lose a little of it’s touch, it’s where we fid most of his rookie flaws. “Find You” returns to Phil’s romantic side and his dedication and love for his wife and kids. This tune is a little questionable as far as writing, but pulls off a unique look at love and devotion by stating that everyone will go through their setbacks, but there is someone in the world you can turn to. You just need to find them. Also “What I’m Fighting For” shows another powerful message of love. In this one Phil points out how everyone wants something more and is fighting to get it and keep it, however all he wants is the love of his life and that’s all he’s fighting to keep.

Two of the more powerful songs, although a little more dull than the beginning of the album, are “You Are Mine” and “Still Going Through”. “You Are Mine” spreads yet another romantic message, lack of variety is one of this album’s flaws, but shows it off, again, in a different light. Phil sights many famous figures and the things that they accomplished that have had a lasting effect on this world. Then he questions, what might have led them to this…what inspired them? That allows him to work into what his inspiration is, the love of his life of course. No doubt in my mind this song is very autobiographical, but is again a little lacking compared to the start of the project. “Still Going Through” is the only real balled on the album and the only heartbreak song Phil has provided. Phil shows off his more emotional side as he sings a story of a man who’s ex calls him to chat which brings back memories and the heartbreak of their split that never left. He begins to wonder how she has dealt with things so easily when he is still suffering.

The closing track is what really takes most of the quality from this project. “Identity” is very questionably written and is an attempt for Phil to explain the personal connection between him and his wife. It is very repetitive and somewhat annoying. Compared to the rest of the material this is very superfluous and the only song that is completely bad on the album. Sure it’s a decent message, but it lacks the emotion, sincerity and significance of the rest of the album and shows nothing in Phil’s favor at all.

All in all this isn’t a bad first attempt from the American Idol alumni. Save the last track, all the songs on this album share a sense of personal and universal meaning in Phil that allowed him to relate to each an every one of them. It’s not perfect and truthfully I didn’t really expect it to be. Phil still needs a little more experience vocally, although that will come with time and this is only his first shot, his song choices need to improve a little and show more variety and I’d like to see him take a crack at his own work next time because if he can relate this well to the songs written by others I can’t imagine how personal his own songs would sound. Phil makes a statement and shows who he is, what he stands for, and how he sees the world in his debt album which is how I suppose it should be. A very respectable first attempt by Phil Stacey. Not perfect, but respectable and worth the listen.

 

3.5 Stars

 

Produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick

Tracks:

  1. It’s Who You Know
  2. Looking Like Love
  3. If You Didn’t Love Me
  4. No Way Around A River
  5. ‘Round Here
  6. Be Good To Each Other
  7. Find You
  8. You Are Mine
  9. What I’m Fighting For
  10. Still Going Through
  11. Identity
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. CFPhilfan permalink
    April 29, 2008 10:20 pm

    Thanks for the review. I need to differ on a few points, though, based on other interviews of Phil I have heard, or what he shared while promoting his single and album: “Identity” doesn’t actually talk about Phil’s relationship with his wife; it is rather the relationship of the Christian with his God. What the Bible says that God is, that is what the Christian is because Christ has provided that for the believer through His death and resurrection. It will be released to Christian radio, from what I understand. “No Way Around a River,” as he explained at one appearance, is about supporting someone going through a tough time. He had visited St. Jude’s
    Children’s Hospital, and on that one video he had preceded the song by talking about the hospital. In “Round Here,” he explained on his myspace that that is for those who have been told that there were things they couldn’t do. So there is a “fight” there; it’s not really pride or rebellion. And with “Going Through” he said he had to basically find a break-up song because all other songs pretty much reflected the good life he has had, and he felt the album would be too sunshiny without at least one breakup song. “Be Good to Each Other” is basically an encouragement to people, I feel, to treat others like we would want to be treated. I am not a music expert, but overall, I love his album.

    I also beg to differ some in some of your assessment of Phil. He was not praised for the first time with “Where the Black Top Ends.” He has received praise before that with some of the songs he did before that week. Randy had praised him in the first 2 weeks for having the best vocal, and Paula praised him often for being the strongest in the choruses. Even Simon praised him for “Every Breath You Take.” So he has gotten praise before country week. You will see that the album has country, rock, and pop influences; all things that at one time or another he did pretty well on on “American Idol.” Another thing I want to differ in is that I don’t see it as a mishap that he hasn’t put any songs on there that he hasn’t written. He said in another interview that he was presented with 600 songs to choose from. He also said that his songs were not proven yet and that is why he hasn’t put any on there yet. He does have one particular nice one called “Old Glory,” written while on a Navy ship. There are some youtube videos of the song available.

  2. Melissa permalink
    April 29, 2008 10:22 pm

    The final song “Identity” is actually about God, not his wife.

    I love the album. Each and every song speaks to me in a different way. I can picture the video for “Looking Like Love” and “No Way Around a River” speaks to my heart in a way that no song has done in a long time.

    I can’t get enough of the album. I think Phil has a very long and successful career ahead of him.

  3. cowboybleau permalink*
    April 30, 2008 12:56 am

    CFPhilfan, you make some excellent points about the songs. Nice work. I was looking on the srface and how the songs spoke at first listen, not specifically how they related only to Phil.

    As far as Idol, I meant the viewers. Up until that point many popular blogs and discussion groups had him listed as one of the worst in history. That night had him replaced with Richardson. I knew the judges liked him, but country week was one of few he was not in the bottom 3. I perosnally think he should have made the top 2.

    Despite our different views we can both agree on something, this album is a great start and defiantly shows he deserves to be where he is today.

  4. May 1, 2008 4:28 pm

    I wasn’t a fan of him while he was on idol. I don’t quite know what it was but something about him didn’t work for me. When I first heard “If You Didn’t Love Me” I thought it was a little catchy and fun. It hasn’t grown on me at al though, quite the opposite in fact, I dislike it even more now. I haven’t sat down and really listened to the whole album, but I’ve listened to all the songs at least once, and I have to admit it was better than I thought it was going to be. It’s not great, and there’s a few clunkers on it but for the most part its a decent debut.

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