Echoes Reviews

Rolling Stone
Echoes 1975-1985

Until now it's been hard keeping tabs on Glenn Phillips, whose eight albums of instrumental guitar music have either appeared on his own obscure Snow Star Records or been one-offs for other far-flung labels. Echoes solves that problem by consolidating the best of his work on a double CD that damn near holds everthing on his first four albums, along with choice excerpts from later releases. A splendid display of musical fireworks it is, too: one fusillade after another of incandescent six-string expressionism.

Phillips, who hails from Atlanta, says that his quest as a musician is "to chase down every sound I've ever heard in my head." To that end, he employs a barrage of effects, though not in a starchy display of technique. Rather, it's a Southern-fried extension of the focused improvisations of John Cipollina and Jerry Garcia in their heyday. Essentially, though, Phillips is a musical freelancer on whom no tags or lables fit comfortably. Phillips' first album, Lost At Sea, was a self-issued job recorded in his living room in 1975. Included on Echoes in full, Lost runs the spectrum from raging tantrums ("I've Got a Bullet With Your Name On It") to pastoral etudes ("Guruvir"). Along the way, Phillips unleashes a solo for the ages in "Dogs," which evolves from a dialogue between cello and piano to a guitar-driven squall. If Lost At Sea - truly a lost treasure - defined his territory, subsequent albums developed and expanded it. Swim in the Wind remains his most varied and detailed studio work, while Dark Lights and Razor Pocket capture the barnstorming engergy and virtuosity of Phillips and his band mates at their sharpest. Songs like "29," "Flyback" and "Fallen Angels" combine melody, momentum and daring in the musical equivalent of a white knuckle plunge down a roller coaster's steepest grade. The program comes full circle with a set-closing postscript ("Scotland") from Phillips' latest album, Scratched by the Rabbit. If you've missed this remarkable guitarist or just want to get some his back catalog on CD, Echoes is a flawlessly compiled record of a decade's worth of music.