Slow Dance - Anthony Phillips’ new album reviewed in a VERY biased manner by Alan Hewitt.
Well, folks here I am again doing something that I’ve waited almost a year to do. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ve got my reviewer’s head on again and it is with great pleasure that at long last I can review an album that has been giving me immense pleasure since I first heard it in Ant’s studio last December.
Slow Dance is Ant’s sixteenth album and to my mind one of his most satisfying for quite a while. The title is a little misleading however, as this is certainly NOT a slow dance but instead, another evocative collection of music that will I am sure, give pleasure to Ant’s many fans both old and new. But enough of the spiel, let’s get on with the review…
Side one opens with an extraordinary piece of mainly keyboard sample music, evoking a “slow dance” which to my mind opens up images of the court of Queen Elizabeth I and the graceful movements of the keyboards conjure up vivid images helped by the inclusion of a flute - a beautifully melancholy beginning.
The mood does not last long however, and we are next brought face to face with a spirited jig played mainly on synth with some unusual tunings thrown in. I have visions of a small girl dancing in an empty room whilst listening to this piece. This mood is interrupted briefly by a synth break that is suggestive of a school ma’am scolding the girl for wasting her time.
This is replaced by a very spacey piece which builds up to a rhythmic series of drum box claps and other percussive effects impossible to define but exciting to listen to. This is in turn, replaced by a short vocoder piece very evocative of a cathedral choir resplendent in the setting of their ecclesiastical surroundings. The side ends with a lengthy piece of electric guitar music accompanied by synthesisers and the characteristic bell chimes and a beautiful melodic harp and woodwind section which is so beautiful it really does defy words but I am sure it will conjure up very personal images for any listener - it certainly does for me!!
Side two opens up with a slightly oriental flavoured piece resembling of the music used in a film a few years ago to portray the Chinese Communists’ flight from Chiang Kai Shek’s forces in the famous “Long March “. If one thing can be said about this album it must be that it is very film and visual orientated. Woodwind and keyboards help to take us into a piece suggestive of a factory, the sounds are very mechanised and repeat to form a pattern which is built on and added to rather like the process of building something in a factory itself.
This is in turn, replaced by another mainly keyboard piece which is evocative of a train journey, the rhythms are similar to that made by a train travelling at high speeds although for some reason I cannot rid myself of the memory of a particularly stormy sea crossing I once made and the piece captures something of the essence of being at sea.
The final piece begins at a rapid pace and is, to my ears, Spanish in flavour, helped no doubt, by the presence of acoustic guitar, maracas and trumpets. It reminds me of another personal incident when I was on holiday in Spain several years ago and went horse riding - only problem was that the horse forgot that it had a rider! Every nuance of the excitement of a high speed gallop along the sands is vividly captured here from the beginning to a rather tired end when horse and rider finally part company and you walk along the sands lost in thought as the sun sets over the sea, your journey done.
As you can see from the rather personal memoirs which I have allowed to colour this review Ant’s new album is very much one to be listened to and appreciated from a very personal perspective. I make no pretence at being anything other than thrilled at having the opportunity to review this album and heartily recommend it to ALL lovers of good instrumental music who will relish the rich tapestry that Ant has created within the forty five or so minutes of music here. Do your ears a favour - BUY IT NOW!!!