A poorly publicised one-off performance at a small seaside resort is not the best possible press the mighty talent of Prince Phillip Mitchell deserves. Alas, those who attended will stand testament to the man's still awesome talent, a voice loaded with soul, both barrels open!! Backed by the excellent Snake Davis band(who blew some exceptional sax throughout) and splendidly attired in a million dollar three piece, the Prince tore the place up with selections old and new. As befitted the venue, the pace was mainly ,up' (Northern Soul fans generally get a little restless when the pace slackens) with powerful renditions of the perennial Muscle Shoals gem 'Free For All'; and the dancer's show stopper', 'I'm So Happy' being the real crowd pleasers.
Sandwiched between were shots from his recent highly acclaimed album, Can't Get Used Ta Sleeping By Myself', The Show Must Go On; and the crowd favourite In Her Own Way;. The band worked wonders on the popular pounding, One On One, drawing a mighty vocal from the man, his elastic voice climbing the scales into fervent falsetto screams. One fellow in the audience was lifted so high amid this breathless performance, that his frantic 100 mph dancing nose-dived into a series of wincing back drops and splits Not te be outdone, the Prince offered a jovial 'Hey man, get this' and proceeded to throw his 6ft 6ins plus frame across the stage in athletic abandon, culminating in yet more grimacing splits!! A fine stab at Sydney Joe Quall's 'I Don't Do This' wound the crowd up before the afore-mentioned 'I'm So Happy' sent them home reeling.
Later, back stage, I grabbed a few words with an obviously gob-struck Mr Mitchell, who clearly had no idea whatsoever that anyone in the UK had an inkling of his talents. When I produced records like 'Keep On Talking (SMASH), 'There's Another In My Life' (EVENT) and his numerous Hi 45s, he was visibly amazed. During our short chat several illuminating points of information transgressed. Phillip revealed that be recorded, Keep On Talking at the Muscle Shoals studio at the tender age of 15 (he is now a very youthful 43 by the way), a fact I found hard to believe given the vocal maturity of the track. Another interesting point concerned his much sought after 'Lollipop' single, another Muscle Shoals job, but recorded a year after, 'Talking' in 1969 and not vice versa as was previously presumed.
When I pondered the omission of my favourite 'I'm Gonna Build California From All Over The World' from his live act, again I touched on a topic obviously close to the man. 'Hey, That song's a real favourite of mine, despite the naivety of the production, lt's a tune I've a real special affection for'. I've had it in mind to do that song over and bring it in to today. Chat soon zeroed in on his superb ICHIBAN debut album. How, I wondered, did the collaboration with label owner John Abbey arise? 'Well in actual fact I had no intention of going back into recording for myself, lt was just a bunch of 'demo' songs I had been shopping around, but when John heard them he said, 'hey, you have to do them yourself'. See, I was quite happy staying home writing and playing basketball or whatever, cos I hate the actual business side of things'. 'But everyone around me seemed so positive about the records, so I gave lt a shot, I posed the question that most of today's chart acts in my opinion had very little in the way of vocal identity, and many were interchangeable with each other. He nodded his agreement though not wanting to finger anyone in particular. My suggestions of the likes of Keith Sweat and Alexander O'Neil had him nodding his head in approval. 'Yeah, these kind of guys seem interchangeable, the music is the whole deal, the singer takes a back seat.' Any current solo happenings? 'Well, I've just completed a new album, this time in Atlanta with a whole bunch of new guys and 1 think I've get a whole lot of real hot things on there, "was it recorded with real musicians I asked, with fingers tightly crossed?' 'Yes, real musicians!!', came a smiling reply. What of the songs, I wondered. Had he cut any of his known songs, perhaps Denise LaSalle's 'Be's That Way Sometimes' or 'She's All That' the recent Latimore goodie? 'Be's That Way', no, in fact I didn't even know Denise had cut it! But yes I've got a real hot cut of 'She's All That' laid down. lt may or may not appear on the finished album though'.
Of all the songs he'd penned, which have given him the most satisfaction? My own personal favourite would be 'Turning Over The Ground' 'Yeah! I like that tune, but it would have to be 'Starting All Over Again' or 'lt Hurts So Good' because they have done well for me with numerous different artists. Phillip Mitchell definitely falls into the brilliant-but-overlooked-singer / songwriter category. Was he familiar with others of his ilk, like Sam Dees, George Jackson, Frank Johnson and Jimmy Lewis? 'I know Sam is due to visit here shortly, and yes, I think he's gonna have quite a shock! George is a good friend who's doing real well with Malaco Records - hey, yes 'The Only Way Is Up!! & Frank I knew too, though I'm not familiar with his recent album, but Jimmy Lewis I don't know - oh, wait a minute, you mean the guy who used to work with Ray Charles? Yes, I don't know him personally but I know who you mean.
So with a tongue in cheek promise to let the afore-mentioned foursome know that there are people out here literally drooling to bear their vocal talents again, we bid farewell.
Cheers Phil, don't leave it another 17 years
Courtesy & Copyright of 'Voices in the Shadows' magazine.