Prince Phillip Mitchell
Ichiban Records

Format: CD, Cassette

By Randy Davidson

Prince Phillip Mitchell's latest effort, Loner, on the Atlanta-based Ichiban label, is a classic study in R&B intensity.

From the opening riff of "While the Cat's Away," a paranoia-racked tune reminiscent of The O'Jays' "Backstabbers," to the LP's silky-smooth ballads, Prince Phillip proves once again he's a master of the groove.

Backed by the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Mitchell glides through a collection of heartfelt songs, many of which bear his trademark "spoken" passages, first heard on the Mitchell-penned "Starting All Over Again," recorded in the early seventies by Mel & Tim, and most recently covered by Daryl Hall and John Oates.

On Loner, the Prince treads on Marvin Gaye's sacred turf with "Come to Bed," a song full of playful sexual energy. In "Can't Nobody Love You Better Than Me," Mitchell achieves that at which he is most adept -- the honest, to-the-point, personal, one-on-one, best-sung-in-the-dark kind of song, conjuring images of a Billy Dee Williams Colt 45 billboard which boasts " ... it works every time."

By the time the title track rolls around you realize that when this man sings desperately "I'm A Loner," you have not a shadow of a doubt that he means it.

The surprising reggae-inflected "She's A Party Animal" clearly demonstrates the artist is comfortable with the genre, and may point the direction of his future endeavors. "Party Animal" could easily become THE track to push Mitchell over the top and into that nebulous area of airplay known as "contemporary hit radio."

Loner occasionally suffers from over-blown production techniques on the slower-tempo songs such as the well-intentioned, but too-loud background vocals, sometimes obscuring Mitchell's richly textured, soulful voice -- but, for the most part, the LP holds up well, and stands as a solid reminder that there are far too few singers these days who sing with THIS kind of conviction.

Considering that today's pop radio airwaves are inundated with cookie-cutter, industry-fabricated artists performing boring, predictable formula material, maybe it's time a Prince Phillip Mitchell stepped in ... and saved the day ... again.