No Turning Back
The return of the prolific multi instrumentalist, Phil Vincent, previously featured on the Hard RoxX Issue 30 Taster. My opinion hasn't changed. That track, 'In The Balance' from his 'Calm Before The Storm' album was one of the quality cuts on that sampler. And now, here we are with his fourth release in 3 years.
In many ways, Vincent's music is cut and tailored from the same substantial yet colourful cloth as that used by Stan Bush and Jeff Paris. Witness tracks as 'Missing You' and 'She'. Tough, wiry axework, augmented by urgent keyboards and a powerful rhythm section, form a sturdy framework, over which Vincent stretches his earnest vocals, strong melodies and big, pulse agitating, Ponti like choruses. Yet it's clear on both tracks that Vincent's influences also reach further back in time. Each glints with the gleam of classic Fab Four pop, and opulent, Pink Floyd soundscaping.
'Outcast' and 'Blink Of An Eye' develop this further, with Robbie Valentine style neo-classical piano motifs, and sudden bursts of percussion, punctuating the soaring melodies. Layers of synth strings and trumpeting keyboards add to the effect, these eventually being outgunned mid song by Vincent's searing, yet tuneful axe soloing. 'Game Of Fools' probably wraps all this up on one track. It's imbued with all the radio friendly charm and epic ambition of Boston and Foreigner, yet shot through with pomp touches of a SPYS/Harlequin hue. Vincent's lyrics are deeply personal. Often depicting him as victim, either neck deep in some heavy relationship issue, or sailing manfully alone on a sea of adversity, with no end in sight. And while we can easily dismiss this as cliche, Vincent sounds convincing, delivering sentiments rather than sentimentality, despite his lack of a truly distinctive voice.
Elsewhere, 'Undone' is a splendid slab of pay at the pump, high octane rock, and the title track itself 'No Turning Back' is immensely dramatic, capturing Vincent's lyrical fury, in a torrent of foaming keyboards and whitewater axework. Vincent may well have built himself an AOR/Melodic Rock reputation, but these tracks remind us he's written stuff for both Ozzy and The Scorpions.
On the downside, it's all very well saying that one man army Vincent has produced, arranged, engineered and mixed the album. As heroic as that might be, it's how it sounds to the listener that ultimately counts. 'No Turning Back' is a bit like watching a movie through a microfilm of gauze. You can see it fine, understand it, appreciate it, be moved by it even, but if the definition had been sharper, crisper, I'm sure it would have helped etch this album deeper into our memory. Nevertheless, it stands tall as it is, and consequently, you'll be able to hear a track from this album on the next Hard RoxX Taster.
Reprinted from HARD ROXX Magazine, Issue #27 - December 1997
Life is a Game
Calm Before the Storm
With twenty seven tracks and two albums released in 1997 is Phil Vincent trying to beat Ten at their own Game?
This in it's own right is a remarkable achievement, but is even more impressive when you consider that all the material is self written, self produced and where Vincent is credited with all the instruments. Has this man been working 24 hours a day?!
Information on this one man band (the releases having come via Germany) is sparse but these recordings, on an independent label, are impressive and will surely attract the attention of more major labels.
The song variety alternates from head on riff driven rock to keyboard dominated mid paced AOR. The song writing is to be admired and for the most part the production is good.
There are some great melodies on both albums. "In the Balance" and "Never Should Have" on "Calm Before the Storm" are perfect examples and would have the likes of Jeff Paris and Mark Spiro applauding. Vincent also demonstrates that he is a proficient guitarist with a series of excellent solos - does he have a cousin Vinnie?!
Least favorite track is "Evil's Back" on "Life is a Game", where he abandons the overall AOR favor for a song akin to Judas priest! Reminiscent of a demo, the difference a main studio would have made becomes apparent.
In quality terms the C.D.'S are inseparable. If you want to try one out as a tester then I'm afraid the best advice I can offer is to toss a coin.
You'll surely hear more of Phil Vincent in the future. Firstly give him that Lucozada sponsorship!