It's kind of interesting to see what band members of popular bands do when they record their own solo projects. Sometimes you realize they're better off sticking with what they do with the band, and sometimes you find out they have a lot more to offer than just a few guitar chords or drum beats. Phil Joel (formerly Phil Urry), the bassist of those lovable Aussies, The Newsboys proves he indeed has more to offer than the strum of his bass.
Being described as "27 years in the making," Phil's debut solo project is a collection of personal experiences and thoughts transferred by Phil into pop songs that are often catchy and easy to relate to. Although it can be clear he's describing things he's experienced himself, it doesn't feel so disconnected or distant. The CD opens with the acoustic pop tune "God is Watching Over You," a highly catchy encouraging song that reminds you that "God is watching over you as always, you are loved, whatever you go through He's right beside you... And if you think He'll ever leave you, you better think again." "Strangely Normal," driven by a subdued electric guitar riff, addresses the awkwardness of childhood and the search for an identity. "El Salvador" is certainly an album highlight. Phil's voice passionately tells of his experience that he and his wife had when they went to El Salvador in June '98 with the World Vision child sponsorship program. The song really conveys musically and lyrically the effect it had on him and how it changed his life.
"My Generation," a funky pop tune with a slow, groove-influenced intro, is another emotional song. This time, Phil brings attention to the pain of friends from his childhood who lost faith as they got older and his desire to reach them. "Be Number One" is a simple, catchy, bouncy song with over-simplified lyrics that was written by Phil and 2 of his friends when they were 17. "Together" is another album highlight about his love for his wife Heather and his longing for being in his homeland of New Zealand. The song also features background vocals provided by his wife.
A good debut, but nothing all too different from something we'd heard from the Newsboys, Watching Over You is an almost autobiographical account of moments from the life of Phil Joel that is worth listening to.- Review date: 1/8/01, written by John DiBiase
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