Mike Phillips sweats. I guess everybody does, but when Mike Phillips plays the sax he REALLY sweats! But it’s not just liquid perspiration that drenches him. When Mike Phillips brings his instrument to his lips, not only do some of the richest sounds imaginable flow from it, but every pore of his body seems to open and gush a magnetic energy that is absolutely mesmerizing and infectious. Quite simply, he sweats soul.
Someone looking at Mike play through a window of the club would surely notice that unmistakable lightning bug glow Mike gets during a performance. Without the ability to hear the sounds emanating from the stage, one would most likely deduce that the illusion was simply the reflection of the lights on the human H2O covering his ebony skin. Upon entering the club, most would quickly realize the obvious mistake—there’s no illusion. I (like most who have witnessed him live) am convinced, the bright glow is the visible halo his spirit creates when he unleashes himself through the saxophone.
The overwhelming energy and power of Mike’s live performance actually caused a serious impasse in the making of this record. While all of the early demons Mike was recording sounded “commercially” competitive and intrinsically pleasing, when compared to the “live performance Mike” they were obviously missing something. The goal of having the CD in your hand sweat, like the “live Mike,” seemed to be an oddly elusive goal. Over and over, Mike would retreat to the studio and emerge with beautiful and sweet sounds, but on playback the speakers refused to drip and ooze like the live P.A. system. All this changed one fine day in Chicago when Mike stopped pretending to play for an audience and actually played for one. With the producers’, engineers’ and onlookers’ heads nodding in unison to the beat and serving as the important missing element: an audience, Mike laid down the first (and last) pass to the song now appropriately entitled “Just One Take,” a performance that drips. The album was beginning to perspire!
From then on, the formula was easy: let Mike perform for somebody, anybody, any breathing human being, just not a lonely, lifeless microphone. Like a sports team with the amazing “home court advantage” because of the love and support they get from their fans, Mike raises his game, feeding off the crowd. However, unlike the sports team, whether the audience is for or against him, a single music fan or packed house, Mike always brings his A-game. The result of inserting this equation into the recording process has produced a collection of songs that should soak your speakers (check your manufacturer’s warranty re: moisture).
The spontaneity, energy, recklessness, skill and passion that make up a Mike Phillips set can be heard, and most importantly, felt, inside. For example, if you listen closely to “Just One Take,” you can actually hear Mike scream in anguish over the momentary inability to play out loud a note he was hearing in his head. Although Mike argued against including it at first (“I can do better, I can do better”), the passion of that little primal yell summed up everything we’d been in search for, and Mike hasn’t looked back since.
Hopefully, this “sweaty CD” will get you to emit a little primal yell of your own. Enjoy.