A lost jewel of American interpretive singing and ensemble musicianship, Phil Alvin’s debut solo album Un“Sung Stories” has been unavailable as a vinyl LP since its 1986 release by Slash/Warner Bros. and only sporadically found in the marketplace in the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. as a compact disc. It is overdue for a revival.
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The former Blasters frontman‘s 1986 solo debut album is a soulful collection of blues, jazz, country, and pop songs originally written and recorded between 1925-1953. More than just an engaging document of pre-rock Americana, the album features avant-garde legend Sun Ra and his Arkestra, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and New Orleans saxman Lee Allen, whose session work with Little Richard and Fats Domino have earned him near-mythic status.
Before there was any acknowledgement of what’s now known as the Great American Songbook, a genre called Americana, Triple-A radio, or even an internet to aid in research, a dedicated band of crate-diggers sprang up around LA, discovering long-lost gems on 78s and 45s: Barret “Dr.Demento” Hansen, with his novelty records; Lux Interior of the Cramps, foraging for country and rockabilly; Billy Vera, amassing an R&B archive… and perhaps the most eclectic of the lot, Phil Alvin. As renowned music journalist Chris Morris observed in the liner notes, “If you made a trip to the Alvins’ family home in Downey, affectionately known as ‘the Flop,’ in the early ‘80s, it was almost inevitable that Phil would reach into a crate of 78s and pull out some gem you had never heard.” That pioneering eclecticism was admired by critics and fans alike, although Alvin was perhaps just a step or two ahead of the general audience, which is why this album was a cult favorite and not a platinum smash. If anything, it has a better chance at reaching a broad fan base now than it did when it was new. Today, this brilliantly sung, stirringly performed, and deeply felt record is ready for a new embrace by contemporary listeners, who should be ready to catch up to its prophetic sound.
This release comes on the heels of Liberation Hall’s Mandatory: The Best of the Blasters, a definitive 20-song collection of the band’s hits and deep cuts. Liberation Hall plans further releases throughout 2024 in celebration of the Blasters’ 45th anniversary.