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Robin Phillips: Re-Versed

Bruce Lindsay By

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How long does it take to write the lyrics? Some of the greatest and best-loved American Songbook lyrics might have been rattled out in a couple of hours or less, others might have taken months or years of refinement before their creators decided they were worthy of performance. They may be intended to tell a story, evoke a mood, reveal a character's innermost thoughts or get an audience singing along with the band. Presumably, they are all important, but many of them disappear—deliberately cut in the early run of a show or the final edit of a movie, or just lost in stages as time passes. In some cases the world may be better off without them, but other songs lose lyrical gems. With the hugely enjoyable Re-Versed, singer and pianist Robin Phillips reverses the trend and restores some of those forgotten lyrical gems.

Phillips has selected nine standards and restored their missing verses, to present the complete versions of songs that have, for whatever reason, lost some of their finest rhymes. This re-versing would be little more than an intriguing exercise if Phillips did nothing else to these venerable songs, but he also brings a freshness to the arrangements, ensuring that the songs get a new lease of life as well as the return of their old verses. "As Time Goes By" opens at a fast clip before settling into a sexier groove; "On Green Dolphin Street" shifts between tempos and moods without losing its romance; "They Can't Take That Away From Me" rolls along in 6/8 time, helping Phillips to create a more upbeat mood than is usually the case.

Phillips—who also produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album—is in the company of four leading musicians from the European scene. Bassist Jihad Darwish and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom are ever-present, forming the central musical trio alongside Phillips' piano. Altoist Sammy Mayne and tenor player Brandon Allen bring their talents more sparingly, but their appearances always enliven things—fiery solos on "Time After Time" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" being prime examples.

One minor quibble: despite the emphasis on lyrics, nowhere on the CD or its sleeve notes do the lyricists get a namecheck (neither do the composers). An oversight, no doubt, but credit where credit is due—to Fran Landesman, Herman Hupfield, Gus Kahn and the rest—after all, without the verses, there wouldn't be Re-Versed. And that would be a shame.

Track Listing: Time After Time; Spring Can Really Hang You UP The Most; It Had To Be You; As Time Goes By; These Foolish Things; On Green Dolphin Street; They Can't Take That Away From Me; A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square; Don't Blame Me.

Personnel: Robin Phillips: vocals, piano; Jihad Darwish: double bass; Sebastiaan de Krom: drums; Sammy Mayne: alto saxophone; Brandon Allen: tenor saxophone.

Title: Re-Versed | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: repmusic

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