Phil Alvin-Un “Sung” Stories.

Label: Big Beat.

After the demise of The Blasters in 1985, founder member, lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin wondered what the future held for him? He knew he could join another group, or even form another band. However, eventually Phil Alvin decided to embark upon a solo career and record an album that featured music of by some of his earliest musical influences and memories. That album was Un “Sung” Stories, which was released in 1986 and has just been reissued by Ace Records’ imprint Big Beat.

Having made the decision to record an album that reflected his earliest musical influences and memories, Phil Alvin began thinking of the music his parents played California town of Downey in the late fifties and early sixties. Eventually, Phil Alvin settled on the material he would record for his debut solo album Un “Sung” Stories. This included Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn which gave a young Bing Crosby a hit, Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone and songs like The Ballad Of Smokey Joe, The Old Man Of The Mountain Brother Can You Spare A Dime? These, and the rest of the ten tracks were recorded with some special guests.

Joining Phil Alvin were former members of The Blasters, Sun Ra and The Arkestra and the New Orleans’ based Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Jubilee Train Singers. They all accompanied Phil Alvin as he recorded the ten songs on Un “Sung” Stories.

When Un “Sung” Stories was released in 1986, it was to plaudits and praise. However, the Slash label only released it only on vinyl and cassette, having not yet fully embraced the new CD format. This didn’t help sales of Un “Sung” Stories, which didn’t reach the audience it deserved.

Many music fans missed out on Un “Sung” Stories which nowadays, is regarded by many critics as a hidden gem. However, back in 1986 some critics were struggling to describe the music on Un “Sung” Stories. It’s best described as Americana, which was still in its infancy in 1986. 

Thirty-two years later, and Americana is thriving and Un “Sung” Stories is regarded as Phil Alvin’s finest solo album. It opens with a breezy cover of Someone Stole Gabriel’s Horn which gives way to New Week Sometime, a two-part mixture of music, drama and humour. 

The Ballad Of Smokey Joe finds Phil Alvin paying homage to Cab Calloway, with Minnie The Moocher, Kicking The Gong Around and The Ghost Of Smokey Joe. However, the highlight of this triumvirate of tracks is Minnie The Moocher, which features Sun Ra and The Arkestra. They return on The Old Man Of The Mountain and a rueful rendition of Brother Can You Spare A Dime? Their unique and inimitable sound gives the songs a new twist. 

 Bringing the sound of the Big Easy is New Orleans’ based Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Un “Sung” Stories. However, on Death In The Morning The Jubilee Train Singers add backing vocals and again, are joined by former Blasters’ drummer David Carroll. 

He returns on a moody, broody cover of bluesman Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rollin’ Stone. That isn’t the end of the blues. It continues on Titanic Blues, while Collins Cave is a mixture of hillbilly and blues. Closing Un “Sung” Stories is Gangster Blues, which brought to a close Phil Alvin’s captivating and energetic debut album.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Americana, Phil Alvin’s Un “Sung” Stories will be of interest to them. It marked the start of a new chapter for the, founder member, lead singer and guitarist of The Blasters. However, despite being released to plaudits and praise, Phil Alvin was in no hurry to release the followup to Un “Sung” Stories.

Eight years later, Phil Alvin returned with his sophomore album County Fair 2000. Since then, Phil Alvin has recorded two albums with Dave Alvin and has reformed The Blasters who are still playing live in 2018. However, as far as his solo career is concerned, Phil Alvin’s finest hour was, without doubt, his debut album Un “Sung” Stories. 

Phil Alvin-Un “Sung” Stories.

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