Prince Phillip Mitchell – 1979 – Top Of The Line
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A classic set of smooth 70s soul from an under-recognized genius!
Phillip Mitchell is a bit like his Atlantic Records contemporary Sam Dees – in that he wrote a lot of material for other singers, recorded a handful of singles, and worked mostly in the southern scene – but he also had a sophisticated, modern style that sounded a lot more like work coming out of New York, Philly, or Chicago.
This lost album for Atlantic is a great example of that fact – as it was recorded at Muscle Shoals, but also features some Philly elements too – creating a great mix of modes that’s wonderfully unique! There’s a feel here that’s just like some of the best work from Leroy Hutson, Johnny Bristol, or Leon Ware at the same time – a majestic, mature approach to soul that’s simply tremendous.
A1 Top Of The Line 6:45
A2 Use Your Body 5:11
A3 Highlight Of My Life 4:32
A4 In Between Lovers 4:46
B1 I’m So Happy 4:33
B2 If It Ain’t Love It’ll Go Away 5:49
B3 Paying The Price 3:48
B4 Let’s Get Wet 7:16
File this one under the ever-growing “Unjustly Ignored” category; albums that were very good, but never got any radio airplay or substantial sales, thus dropping like a rock. A real shame in this case because Philip Mitchell was a talented singer-songwriter who recorded a very good album. Actually two very good albums; both this album from 1979, and one more, also for Atlantic, “Make It Good“.
I’m not sure who best to compare Mitchell to, at least in regards to other soul vocalists of the area. His voice wasn’t as distinctive as Al Green (but then again who is?) or as funky as someone like Wilson Pickett. To my ears he sounds like the equally underrated Paul Kelly, or perhaps a bit like Johnnie Taylor. But no matter who he reminds you of, the most important thing is that these songs are all well-crafted and brimming with melodic, silky soul goodness. Plus there is one tune, the 7-minute “Let’s Get Wet” that turns into a steamy, funky vocal workout. Oddly, the bonus track on the CD reissue is an instrumental, “Take Me Away” but it’s a great tune indeed. One wonders, though, why Mitchell didn’t add vocals to the track.
For fans of 1970s soul music, this is one that should be on your radar!
For an additional taste of just how good a songwriter this guy is, check out “Something New To Do: The Philip Mitchell Songbook”, a compilation CD that Kent put out about a year ago. Plenty of great tunes by some fairly big names, all doing songs that Mitchell wrote. This guy should be MUCH better known!