Phil Mitchell is a composer, author and musician hailing from Chicago and the members that comprise the Phil Mitchell Band are musicians native to that area. He started writing songs while still a child and has written music in an eclectic range of genres including jazz, classical, RnB, rock, blues and country. He has released several albums including Morning Star, America and 2014’s Crossroads. The band formed back in 2004 and they have performed at a variety of venues whilst recording music in the studio.
This album, A Better World, consists of eleven tracks and begins with the hard rocking optimism of Brand New Day. The music immediately bursts out of the blocks with fierce energy, featuring biting lead guitar with a creamy tone over strident drums and punchy bass. Phil Mitchell’s made-for-rock voice then takes centre stage, augmented by spirited piano will fills out the soundscape perfectly. There’s aspects of Bon Jovi to the sound but with a distinctive style of their own. Brand New Day is a great opening salvo, with some superb lead guitar towards the end.
Second track Never Let It Die, is even better. It’s a ‘lighters in the air’, euphoric rock anthem with an instantly memorable title hook. Starting out in half time, it flips to straight 4/4 for the final minute, ending with glorious Evanescence-style classical piano. Featuring a magnificent vocal performance and more killer lead guitar, it’s the kind of great rock/pop that has been sorely lacking from mainstream music. A natural choice as a single.
My Love Is True is an unexpected surprise, a female sung pop track in the unusual but highly effective time signature of 6/4. It brought to mind the Stevie Nicks songs of Fleetwood Mac, but also a soul/RnB influence which keeps it sounding modern. Musically, it’s a fantastic blend of tight, funky guitars and nicely overdriven Rhodes electric piano. Again, the catchy chorus is of the highest calibre and would make a great, radio friendly choice as a single.
Irish Rose is also rather unexpected, a beautiful Irish folk track in 6/8 that is instrumental for the most part, with a haunting fiddle melody. It turns out to be an extended intro and it blossoms into a lovely song full of charm that obviously shows a deep love and connection to this genre of music.
Then comes another gorgeous piece of songwriting, the title track. It’s a James Taylor/Simon and Garfunkel style acoustic ballad with an intimate and heartfelt lead male vocal, wonderfully counterpointed by female backing vocals. The arrangement gradually builds to a mid paced groove with some exotic instrumentation that gives real richness and variety to the sonic texture. The theme of the song is rather moving in an understated way, the title hook capturing this succinctly: “Just searching for a better world for you and I….”.
Glory Train is a fine country rock song set at a languid tempo to begin with, the vocal melody doubled by piano. It then shifts to a galloping 2/4 rhythm that cleverly depicts a train in full motion. Having a verse and chorus in different time signatures is a difficult trick to pull off but it’s done with consummate ease, a classy acoustic guitar solo the icing on the cake.
God Bless This Child and Blessed is The Light seem very complementary to each other, both female sung and very spiritual/faith-based. The former has some fabulous stacked gospel backing harmonies and a first rate string arrangement along with Bridge Over Troubled Water-esque florid piano and swirling drum fills. Blessed is the Light is more specifically about religious faith, with a haunting minor key vocal melody and Spanish-inflected acoustic guitar. It’s a hugely uplifting song, with its inspiring refrain, “Rise above the darkness”.
Ninth track The World Is A Beautiful Place is a change of pace once more; a toe tapping funk pop track with Nile Rodgers-type slick guitar and some superb drumming. The second section has some adventurous chord changes that shows the deep harmonic knowledge behind the songwriting, yet it still works simply as just a very catchy pop track.
Heavenly Waters returns to male lead vocals but maintains the powerful faith theme, a sincere expression of gratitude for the solace that a strong faith can bring: “When you need love and healing, when you know there is no one…and you find the love within you, you let the water flow…the holy waters of God, blessed from above”. These words are harmonised beautifully and the yin/yang of male and female voices works perfectly.
The final track on the album, Love Is True Symphony, is a classical instrumental version of an earlier song on the album, My Love Is True. It’s a brilliant example of how a great song can be arranged in different ways, and this version really shows the depth of Phil Mitchell’s musicality.
You can tell he’s been strongly influenced by the great composers, with shades of Tchaikovsky and Mozart in the sheer beauty of the melodies and the Sugar Plum Fairy staccato rhythms in places. The music gradually builds and swells till the strings are soaring, bringing this album to an ecstatic close.
Overall, this is a hugely eclectic and wide ranging set of songs unified by the powerful artistic vision of Phil Mitchell. The album runs the gamut of human emotions, all expressed through a constantly evolving mixture of genres and styles. The mixture of male and female vocals only adds to the variety but, most importantly, there’s several songs here that are potentially huge hits and the album as a whole deserves to be a huge success.