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Don't Do Anything

3.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 2, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

In a career of more than two decades, Sam Phillips has built an intensely loyal fan base that has tracked the evolution of her music from Beatles-esque alternative pop to seductively stripped-down torch songs - with an intriguing side trip into the world of The Gilmore Girls,
where she served as composer. And she continue to enthrall music critics and her fellow musicians. In fact, one of the most highly
praised tracks on the new Robert Plant / Allison Krauss collaboration, Raising Sand, Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us, was written by
Phillips and appears on Don't Do Anything in its original form. That song illustrates the power of Phillips spare yet haunting approach.
An evocation of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the legendary performer who bridged gospel and rock & roll, the track sports gypsy rhythms and
has a beautifully broken-in feel, as if someone had spun it countless times on vinyl before tranferring the song to CD. With lyrics that
alternate between confessional and dream-like, Phillips unfolds a multi-layered story about love and loss in which Tharpe serves as a
kind of musical and spiritual guardian angel. With deft, powerful strokes, The Los Angeles Times has said, in a review of Phillips 2004
A Boot and a Shoe, the singer-songwriter chisels emotions, impressions, yearnings and regrets.
This is the first album that Phillips, who plays both electric and acoustic guitars as well as piano, has produced on her own. Don't Do
Anything has a more pronounced rock feel than her two previous Nonesuch discs, especially on tracks like My Career in Chemistry,
Under the Night and the title song. She has assembled an enviable coterie of smart Los Angeles musicians, including the Section Quartet, a string ensemble renowned for its interpretations of the work of rock artists like Radiohead and David Bowie. She's also joing by drummer
Jay Bellerose (Aimee Mann, Joe Henry, Rickie Lee Jones); bassist Paul Bryan (Martha Wainwright. Norah Jones); and keyboardist
Patrick Warren (Michael Penn, Bruce Springsteen). Minimalism is used for maximum effect: on Another Song, which sounds as if it were
tuned in via some vintage radio, Phillips simply accompanies herself on piano; on Can t Come Down, it s just Phillips on guitars and
Bellerose on drums; Shake It Down relies on a big bass drum and clanking percussion, with a banjo slipping in and out to underscore
the rhythm. On Signal and Flowers Up, the string players provide understated, movie-score-style atmosphere.
As a vocalist, Phillips remains coolly matter-of-fact even with the most confessional of lyrics. She s often drawn inspiration from Los Angeles,
its topography and history, especially on her 2001 Nonesuch debut, Fan Dance. This time she delves into the story of Depression-era
preacher Aimee Semple McPherson, whose evangelist empire was brought down by a mysterious disappearance and romantic scandal.
She s also been creating visual collages from vintage magazine advertisements, accessible on her website that have become the springboard for songs like Flowers Up. They're the perfect complement to Phillips iconoclastic musical aesthetic: while everyone else is posting videos on youtube, she offers these striking, enigmatic artworks, confident that viewers, like her listeners, can discern the artistry and emotion within these pasted-together images. She treats her audience like the grownups they are, making adult contemporary music - both uncompromising and alluring - for contemporary adults.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 2, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,923 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Greenberg on June 2, 2008
Format: Audio CD
It starts with her voice, "I thought if he understood, he wouldn't treat me this way. No explanations". There's a little electric guitar accenting the voice. And then comes the beat. A big tribal beat that is right up front in the mix and keeps growing and growing as the song continues on. It's not a fast song and when it is just Sam, it feels like a Boot and a Shoe song. But that big drum sound and the fuzzy guitar give it a new feel. "No Explanations" is the opening track to "Don't Do Anything" and a sign that Sam is not standing still in her musical style.

Sam has stated in an interview somewhere that she sees this CD as a cross between ABAAS ("A Boot and a Shoe") and "Martinis and Bikinis". It is easy to see. The big drums on some of the songs and the heavy use of a electric guitar along with several songs that have very catchy choruses really bring back the feel of her mid 90's sound. But the rest of the CD is Sam with her acoustic guitar or piano surrounded by deft drumming from Jay and always gorgeous violin from Eric which is very much the qualities we loved in ABAAS. In fact, this CD is pretty much a trio with Sam on piano and acoustic and electric guitars, Jay Bellerose on percussion and Eric Gorfain (The Section Quartet) on violin (banjo and other instruments of destruction). Patrick Warren helps out here and there and the entire Section Quartet gets in on a few songs also.

"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" and "Signal" are two of the older songs on the CD. "Sister Rosetta" was one of the standout songs from the Plant/Krauss CD and tour and it is even better here. The sound is very close to ABAAS with a lovely string arrangement from Eric.

"Another Song" and "Don't Do Anything" are back to back on the CD. I love this pairing of songs.
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Format: Audio CD
Sam Phillips
`Don't Do Anything'
Nonesuch Records

If there were artistic justice in this world, Sam Phillips would be a hallowed name followed with much fanfare. But that is not her way, she tends to slip in through the cracks and to peek from behind the corners. Her music reflects this tendency.

New fans recognize her as the lady that provided the great melodies for Gilmore Girls, while die hard fans go back thirty years ago with her to her days as a Contemporary Christian singer.

Sam Phillips (formerly Leslie Phillips) left what was becoming the Christian Music scene in 1986 when it was clear that what had started as some Christian artists collecting together now was turning into an industry.

Don't Do Anything (Nonesuch, 2008) is a bit of a throw back to her 90's period of some fuzzy "soda pop" sounds mixed with her neo-nostalgia that she has hone in on with the past two records. She blends it all perfectly. It could easily be a soundtrack for an 1800's western saloon of the future.

She opens the album with a track that is reminiscent of her ultra mod 1995 record Omnipop. It is fuzzy and unapologetically wonderful. She kicks off addressing the lingering questions surrounding her divorce from T-Bone Burnett. "No Explanations", track #1.

The entire album is orchestrated properly, sparse where needed. Sam is very purposeful, but not blunt. She intricately weaves hinted at visions beyond grasp with a first listen. There is her constant human positioning and an earth consciousness, in the hands of our maker who loves us best when we "Don't Do Anything.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm embarrassed for Sam fans everywhere in reading other reviews here, specifically Stevens saying that the latest 3 Doors Down or Coldplay album is more interesting than Sam's. How she could be uttered in the same breath as those bands is funny to me - the depths and heights she's reached musically and lyrically are beyond anything those bands have ever recorded. I like Coldplay alright and have seen them in concert in their early years (3 Doors Down... now THEY'RE boring!), but they've gone WAY downhill since then and are nothing more than one of hundreds of good bands with some good songs and unique lead vocals.

Sam, on the other hand, has been distinctive since day one. I've listened to her since 1990 and have never heard anyone to closely compare with her. I think "A Boot and a Shoe" is one of her all time best albums, so rich, lush and full - way better than "Fan Dance". This new album is not as good as the last, I agree, but it's better with each listen and is so much more than the best albums of most ("Flowers Up" just haunts me). I think "Martinis and Bikinis" is probably her other best album (after the brilliant "The Turning"), but each album she makes hold soul-searching gems that add great value to the musical world. "Gilmore Girls" hasn't ruined Sam - she's matured and evolved and though each album isn't always as big a musical leap as others ("Omnipop" was a creative leap but only half of it really worked), but each recording she makes holds layered treasures that rise to the surface the more you listen.

Because bands like Coldplay have millions of fans and Sam has "only 20", does NOT in any way mean they are better. With that logic, Brittany Spears and Nickelback and such acts are amazing musicians!?? It's ridiculous logic.
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