Nick Phoenix turned his attention back to his first musical love of writing and performing songs in a band setting last year. 2021’s King of One marked Phoenix’s inaugural foray away from the world of film scoring since he first arrived in Los Angeles after college many years before. It completes a circle in some way. Phoenix initially arrived in the City of Angels hoping to connect with like-minded musicians but discovered everyone wanted to play metal.
Phoenix wasn’t interested in pursuing such a path. He bounced around in the music world until his work helping craft the score for a now semi-obscure Whoopi Goldberg film opened new opportunities. More than two decades on, Phoenix’s role as co-founder and major creative force in Two Steps from Hell, the number one streaming artist for film and television music, They are touring Europe this summer, a sign of their improbable stature given the presumably intimate relationship between the music and its associated visual images.
Let’s hope he soon tours the songs from his sophomore solo album. Wide World is an outstanding collection with something for virtually every music lover but, overall, favors theatrically driven songs with broad-based audience appeal. The title song and album opener introduce listeners to the latter. “Wide World” boasts several clear-cut influences – “classic” era Pink Floyd, Coldplay, and a little Beatles are present in this track. His musical ambitions dictate the production must be up to standard or else the whole gig is shot, but Phoenix doesn’t disappoint. His long experience scoring high-profile Hollywood blockbusters serves him well.
“Rise Up” is another track in that vein. It begins, however, in a very low-key fashion before beginning to scale the first of its several crescendos. Phoenix has a strong voice, without question, but it possesses a very human quality as well that the abundance of post-production effects applied to his voice cannot muffle. “Always On” signals a shift in his focus. It backs away from the big-screen cinematic style of the opening duo in favor of a starker approach reliant on piano underpinning the vocal, straightforward rock drumming, and sympathetic backing vocals.
“Last Round” crackles with an urgent simmer from beginning to end and the backing vocals paired with Phoenix’s voice once again prove crucial to the song’s success. It hits harder than its predecessors, as well, and its emphatic throb supports one of the album’s many effective vocal melodies. “Tumblin’ Down” doubles down on the rockier vibe present in “Last Round” , but some listeners may think the song’s chorus a little too sing-songy. It packs plenty of conviction, however, and the drumming once again gives it a lot of impetus.
The penultimate cut “If I Let You Go” nails the right emotional tone during its chorus; it’s almost worth the price of purchase alone. It’s one of the album’s more commercial moments. It isn’t an insult to say this, however, as the song mixes Phoenix’s approach in the traditional-minded songs with the more expansive tracks like the title number. “He Knows Enough” brings us the climax to end all climaxes, a five-minute forty-two-second voyage through personal discontent that seemingly musters the firepower of a musical army to win the day. The slow crawl from its restive opening into the bombast of the song’s second half gives the ending for Nick Phoenix’s Wide World power you won’t easily forget.
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