Customer Reviews: Indescribable Wow
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on October 8, 2000
Sam Phillips is so incredibly talented that it makes me just... sick that she is not well-known. In fact, she is barely known at all. I try to introduce her to music fans around the world, but it just never catches on. On the strength of the song "I Don't Know How to Say Goodbye to You" (a very powerful song with very catchy lyrics) I bought the entire album, and every song here packs a powerful punch. Sam Phillips is such a gifted songwriter... such a shame she is overlooked. The singles from this album actually garnered a lot of airplay on college radio, but even that was not enough to buoy it. Sam continues to record high quality stuff... just listen to Martinis and Bikinis, a stellar performance. On this album there is not a single BAD song. "Flame" is an introspective ballad("Flame, why do you paralyse my soul..."), "Remorse" is an extremely powerful tune ("He's so sorry he can't feel remorse... tries to keep the (healthy) ship on course..."), "I Can't Stop Crying" is another infectious tune, "Holding on to the Earth" is a sparkling song... heard widely on college radio of the late 80s and I believe also in several movie soundtracks, although the only one I can think of right now is the soundtrack for Ruby in Paradise, which starred the talented Ashley Judd before she decided to make plotless drivel like Eye of the Beholder. "What You Don't Want to Hear" is another gem. "I wish that I could lie to you, baby... I got what you don't want to hear, oh what you don't want to hear... I got what you don't want to hear... how do I tell you?"
This is one of the rare albums which can be heard in pieces or as a whole but sound crisp, concise, and brilliant either way. Sam Phillips is a a great investment of your time and money. I highly recommend this album...
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on January 30, 2001
How do I even begin to do justice to this, the album that literally changed my life? Sam Phillips, like Dorothy Parker in go-go boots, is a sharply comic, radiantly lovely, fiendishly gifted singer of brilliantly intuitive, intoxicating pop songs, written with one eye toward thanking the Beatles and another toward raising the bar for other women in rock and pop, but she raises it so high it may well be invisible to the average observer. The melange of Sixties influences, filtered through her husband T-Bone Burnett's shimmering production, results in music that can be felt---almost literally so, like a tingling warmth upon the skin; simple tales of love lost and yearned for, answers sought and rarely received, and witty asides about this puzzlingly erratic universe of ours are dipped in the honey of almost painfully beautiful music---which is nevertheless, completely accessible. Released in 1989, it sounded like a "lost Beatles album" that had been locked away in some BBC vault for twenty years: "What Do I Do" (featuring Van Dyke Parks) does more for a full string section than any rock song since "Yesterday"; "Flame" reveals the hidden Brazilian samba siren behind Sam's ethereal-blond California beauty; "She Can't Tell Time" and "Out of Time" almost make bubblegum sound like a major food group, as if Leslie Gore could indeed have aimed her own material at 25-year-olds instead of their 15-year-old siblings, and been just as enchanting; "What You Don't Want to Hear" is in-your-face urgent and yet plaintive, a reluctant kiss-off to an unwanted love interest; "Remorse" is a giddy riff on violence and retribution, like a candied apple with a razor blade concealed within; "I Don't Want to Fall In Love" is so perfectly evocative of teenage heartbreak that it simply stuns one to realize Sam might have been closer to 29 than to 19 when she wrote it; "Holding On to the Earth" attacks vacant materialism with a psychedelic organ, sounding like a Sixties beach movie with a guest appearance by Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. There is simply not enough time, or breath, or ink to express how simply, astoundingly perfect and gorgeous this recording is; no serious collection of pop music dares to exclude it. I am madly in love with "The Indescribable Wow" (and I'm pretty fond of Sam herself); I just never get tired of this record, for its singing and songcraft, production and presence, mind and heart and great big beautiful soul. It is, quite simply, the single most luminous, extraordinary pop album I have ever heard.
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on June 8, 2003
I really can't find the words to describe how incredibly wonderful this CD is!! It has some of the best adult pop songs ever made. She gracefully combines 60's-styled vocals and music and melts it with today's sound to create a release that 'wow'-ed critics everywhere. No one can deny the intelligent take on "I Don't Want to Fall in Love" saying that she wants to be in love and not fall in love with the 'idea' of love. I really love "Flame", which is a poetic gem about human temptation, as she says, "Flame, why do you paralyze my soul?". "What Do I Do" is one of my favorites because I absolutely love aerial background vocals and this song is a masterpiece in vocals. "Holding on to the Earth" first grabbed my attention because of its almost 'Ancient Egyptian' sounding music. Another big favorite of mine is "She Can't Tell Time" which has mysterious lyrics unless you know something about Sam's past experiences with Christian music. "What You Don't Want to Hear" is very upbeat and says, "I can't hide truth from you, in a closet of some kind, it will only sharpen its blade and it will cut you when you find it, I wish that I could lie to you baby, but I got what you don't want to hear, how do I tell you?" This was a highly praised release, but grossly undersold (as most of her music is). This was one of the best releases of the late 80's and deserves to be in everyone's music collection.
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on November 1, 2001
Nearly giddy, giggly 80's pop songs with tight hooks and fun beats (you can almost see Sam jivin' while she sings) - but instead of being mindless fun (which it could have been), the upbeat, sunny songs perfectly convey the sharp stab of Sam's heartbreak, as if the warm California sun shining through her music leaves a sun-scorched Sam nowhere to hide in its heat. Sam communicates her heartache perfectly - and usually complements it with surrealistic wonderings about her world ("When fires rise, the shadows fall/Over the edges where we crawl;" and, to her ex: "I feel like a small girl, falling beneath your form/If I set you on fire, will you keep me warm?" This album will blow your mind even when it makes you wanna dance. I usually hate 80's music, but I doubt I'll ever get tired of this one - or anything else Sam does.
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on November 29, 2007
My CD collection is in the tens of thousands. Most of the music I own has its moments in the sun, and that's it. But since it's release in 1988, The Indescribable Wow has seldom been away from my turntable for long. I'm 51 years old, and seek out new music daily, which I've done since I was about 9. But rain or shine, The Indescribable Wow continues to be fun and adventurous to listen to.
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on November 28, 1999
First of all, let me say this: Sam Phillips is one of the most incredibly talented artists that I know. Disregarding her spiritual life, her new music has shown significant improvement. This was especially noticeable to me when I recently viewed a video of both her 1985 Leslie Phillips and her 1989 Sam Phillips concerts. The latter music is not only more progressive, but more pleasing. "The Indescribable Wow' is the closest that you can still get to the old Leslie Phillips style, and is a definite bridge for old diehard Leslie Phillips fans ( there are still many of them) to the more mature and interesting music of Sam Phillips. ATTENTION LESLIE PHILLIPS FANS: Buy "The Indescribable Wow" FIRST!
Praise the LORD for Sam!
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on June 1, 2003
This is like what old Beatles albums used to be like; perfect little slices of Pop that satisfy in a little bit more than thirty minutes. Even the less outstanding songs cannot be classified as "filler" material-and most of this album is outstading. The songs have great hooks and intelligent lyrics that show a songwriting talent that puts many more Pop artists to shame. Sam has aged well since this early brilliant opus (with a few missteps) and I hope she begins to get the recognition she so richly deserves.
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on July 2, 2006
This is a materpiece. I had the cassette and I virtually wore it out. I finally got a copy of the CD and I am continually amazed at the sheer artistry of each song. Sam Phillips is what I call a true songwriter who is an incredible recording artist. Each one of her CD's that follow show how truly remarkable she is; but this CD is absolutely amazing. "Out Of Time" is the tune that should've been a hit- although the entire CD is chock full of great songs. Some folks say her voice is an acquired taste, but I have to say lyrically and melodically she is in a league all of her own. My only complaint- it's too short. But the follow-up, "Cruel Inventions" makes a great bookend. Highly recommended!
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on March 28, 2014
Sam Phillips is a rare, sparkling gem of a singer. "The Indescribable Wow" is one of the most distinctive pop recordings from the '80's that I have heard by any artist. At the time of its release, it sounded like a very hip take on the music of the Beatles later records. The songs are unforgettable...the performances are stunning. Her voice is intimate, delicate and yet powerfully engaging.
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on October 27, 1999
Sam Phillips should be a megastar. These songs are catchy and can withstand repeated listenings. Every song is perfectly executed with help from her husband and producer T-Bone Burnett. I Don't Want To Fall In Love, Flame, and Holding On To The Earth are outstanding. This CD is a real lost gem.
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