Phil Miller: Split Seconds (Reckless 8)

This review appeared in Facelift issue 4 – in September 1990

 

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Long overdue review of this Reckless album which was released last year. Phil Miller’s second album continues the schizophrenic approach of ‘Cutting Both Ways; contrasting the fierce blow of his band In Cahoots with the high-tech splendour of pieces performed with Dave Stewart. However, the main talking point of this record for many will be the assembling of all four of the musicians who constituted Hatfield and the North in the Seventies. Richard Sinclair contributes to 2 tracks, with a voice lost to the recording world for almost a decade re-emerging as strong as ever on ‘Dada Soul’, with a typically angular guitar solo to finish the track. ‘Final Call’, co-written by Sinclair, and performed by Miller and ex-National Health percussionist John Mitchell is more memorable: an exquisite piece of intricate, constantly shifting chord bases doing battled with Miller’s meticulous soloing.

The In Cahoots material is refreshingly ‘live’, with Pip Pyle, such a force at gigs, given due prominence. Elton Dean’s elegant soloing is an integral part of the band, with his phrased introduction to ‘Truly Yours, of increasing passion a highlight. Cahoots’ latest bassist, Fred Baker, excels in the exposure given to him on ‘Your Root 2’: his jam of increasing intensity on this track is helped by the odd psychedelic noise courtesy of Steve Franklin. Some of the older In Cahoots tracks performed here (notably ‘And Thus Far’) perhaps miss the firmer hand of Hugh Hopper, but the role of Phil Miller is perhaps the most interesting feature of the album: unlike the Hatfields Bedrock gig, where he resurrected the morose lead guitarist’s role seen in earlier formations of  that band (as well as National Health), Miller’s composing bent is apparent in his own playing: whether creating chordal patterns or, as on ‘Double Talk’. taking the complicated main theme which Elton Dean performs live. There is even room for a (gasp!) jaunty solo on ‘Your Root 2’