Phoenix / In Full View
From the ashes of Argent's final 1976 tour, the band Phoenix rose. Argent's strong lead vocalist and guitarist John Verity, drummer Bob Henrit and bassist/keyboardist Jim Rodford initially formed H.R.V., pledging to play more straight-ahead music. They changed their name to Phoenix, put out their first album, followed it with another (and toured with Aerosmith), then recorded a third and final album. The band's self-titled debut, Phoenix, and their third, In Full View, are now bundled together as a double CD set
“Easy” opens the first record nice and easy, showcasing a very tight band, with some solid popping bass work from Rodford and distinctive guitar noodling from Verity. I like the spacey keys (similar to the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Sheep”) on “Drowning In Tears,” though the rest of this track meanders a bit too much with the echo on Verity's voice, an effect that outstays it welcome, being one of my biggest complaints. The ballad "From The Ashes" showcase the talents of Verity, but “Winnebago” and “Try A Little Rock n' Roll” are perfect vehicles for this three-piece outfit — a couple of upbeat numbers cast in the Foghat mode.
There's a sweet change-up with the synth bass on Rodford's “Mississippi Neckbone” and a plaintive blues on “I’ll Be Back for More.” The entire band comes across sticky tight groovin' on the bluesy driven "Honey." And the smart pull-off riff from Verity on "I'll Be Gone," is as tight a closer as you could ask for. All in all, this trio's first attempt is rockin’.
For In Full View, the keys and sax on “Just Another Day” may come as a surprise. With Rodford out of the band, this third release was a far more commercial record. The powers-that-be cut back the echo on Verity's voice, but he's still as effective. If nothing else, he comes across as a real rock star here.
"Fooling Myself" simply rocks in that late 70s staccato, big guitar way. The very poppy "Into Your Blood" should have gotten as much airplay as any Foreigner tune did at the time. "Don't Fool Me" sounds very much like any other corporate late 70's rock. You'd be hard pressed to determine who this is actually; Phoenix was being molded on In Full View to sound like just about anybody else out there at the time.
"I Don’t Mind" is a bit too redundant, but I do like the slightly out-of-tune piano. Verity wails all over "I'm In Love" but things are just too poppy at this point, and the songs all start to sound too much alike. While it's nice to have Phoenix and In Full View in one collection, the group’s first album stands out with a hard and unique sound while they fell victim to commercial malaise on their subsequent release, added to that stack of forgotten gems dusted off every few years.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.