Exposé Online banner

Shawn Phillips — Living Contribution: Both Sides
(Sheer Sound SSCD 517, 2007, 2CD)

Shawn Phillips — Living Contribution: Live at Kirstenbosch Gardens
(Sheer Sound, 2008, DVD)

by Henry Schneider, Published 2009-07-01

Living Contribution: Both Sides Cover artLiving Contribution: Live at Kirstenbosch Gardens Cover art

Shawn Phillips is a Texan guitarist with an incredible three-octave vocal range. But Shawn is not your typical Texas musician. He went to England in the mid-60s: he played sitar on Donovan’s “Guinevere,” co-wrote “Sunshine Superman” but was never given credit, sang on the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita,” showed Joni Mitchell some guitar tricks, and performed at the “Isle of Wight.” Shawn had a string of albums starting with his debut in 1965, hitting his stride in the early 70s, but then dropping off in the 80s. His songs, never in the “pop” mold, have always been characterized by complex chords and thoughtful and poetic lyrics, that really only Shawn can sing with his vocal range. Today Shawn lives with his wife in South Africa, and this CD and DVD release document an outdoor concert (April 1, 2007) in front of adoring fans. Shawn digs way back into his catalog and plays some of his greats like “Steel Eyes,” “L’Ballade,” “Song for Sagittarians,” “Moonshine,” “Woman,” “Keep On,” “Sleepwalker,” and his tragic “Ballad of Casey Deiss.” It is amazing that his audience recognizes these songs each time from the first couple of chords. But don’t get me wrong, Shawn is still actively writing music, and some of his new compositions are played as well. Shawn is a consummate story teller; I remember seeing him in concert in 1978 and being enthralled with his tales. One of his new songs is “Radio,” which is a happy rant against commercial radio and the music they play, especially since Shawn’s music is no longer heard on the airwaves. The entire concert was videotaped and appears on the DVD, warts and all. The band backing Shawn only had a total of eight hours to rehearse. The double CD set includes the concert on Disc 1 minus “Burning Fingers,” “Song for Sagittarians,” and “Looking Up Looking Down.” Disc 2 is from a solo concert in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on October 26, 2007. The songs from this performance are a welcome addition to those on the first disc. Shawn’s signature look was his beautiful long reddish blonde hair, which he still sports today in his 60s. And he still has those incredible vocal chops! The DVD contains a set of bonus interviews with Shawn where he provides background stories for each of the songs played in the concert, this information in and of itself is worth the price of the DVD. My only complaint with the DVD is that instead of being able to hit play and view the entire concert, you can only play one song at a time. All in all, Living Contribution is a great set of music from an artist long absent from our listening ears and it is a wonderful place to start to investigate one of the unsung heroes from the 60s/70s.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 37, 2007 releases, 2008 releases

Related artist(s): Shawn Phillips

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Haakon Ellingsen - Bounty – Many many years ago (in issue #12 to be precise) we reviewed a wonderful and heavily Beatles influenced psychedelic pop album titled Kindergarten by Norwegian trio The Last James. Haakon Ellingsen...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues