“Silver Songs And Golden Geese” - Anthony Phillips’ first three album reissues reviewed by Ted Sayers.

With the recent release of Ant’s new album: Slow Dance (see review in #14) on Virgin Records, there follows what Virgin have promised will be an extensive re-issue of his previous works on CD (most of which were previously unavailable on that format). Virgin have managed to reacquire the rights to all of Ant’s albums and other material so we can look forward to seeing all of his albums on CD in the not too distant future.

The albums are to be released in batches of three (although not in chronological order) and the first set were released on 3rd December 1990 just prior to Christmas. They were: The Geese & The Ghost, Sides and Private Parts & Pieces I.

Ant’s albums have always been good value for money but there is an added bonus in he fact that all of the albums (except 1984, Twelve and Slow Waves Soft Stars) will include extra tracks. So now the albums are an hour in length or thereabouts. Some of these extra tracks are absolute gems and the albums are well worth the £7.99 it costs to buy them.

The Geese & The Ghost was Ant’s first album back in 1977 and came after a seven year lay off from the commercial side of music. In that time Ant went back to school as it were. His classical training really shows and The Geese… is an absolutely beautiful album and it includes interesting contributionsa from Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Phil puts in vocals on two tracks but in no way do they sound like his later solo material - nearer in style to Genesis circa 1976 -ish, but with a style and grace all Ant’s own. The album mainly comprises instrumental pieces with some brilliant twelve string duets between Ant and Mike. Wind Tales and Chinese Mushroom Cloud are two very short pieces which I found rather odd but in no way do they detract from the album. The extra track on this album is a demo version of Master Of Time originally written shortly after Ant left Genesis and although Ant’s vocals are not the finest in the world, the song fits in nicely with the overall timbre of the album.

Sides came along when Ant was possibly at his most successful, commercially. The album reflect that status, but shows Ant’s versatility with a wide range of styles. The original album (and indeed even the CD with its newly inserted tracks) can be divided into two “sides”. The first half is all short, sharp, witty “pop” songs and there should surely have been a hit single among them. The intelligence of the lyrics is so sharp and observant that they were TOO clever?

The second half is longer instrumentals and “deeper” songs but both halves fit together perfectly and strangely the insertion of Souvenir - the B side to the Um & Aargh single - into the first half and the instrumental backing track to Magdalen at the end, actually add to the album’s flow and sheer strength.

The final instalment of the first trio is the first of the Private Parts & Pieces albums. Originally this LP was put together to release some of Ant’s illustrious past on to vinyl, including some old Genesis material which never quite made it. The CD has given him the opportunity to release even more of these items. The “new” material comes in the shape of Stranger, a remnant from his days in Genesis, and Silver Song - a song recorded with Mike and Phil but never released (and never likely to be). These two versions have Ant on vocals and in the latter’s case, Ant has added considerably to it both lyrically and musically.

The rest of the album is mainly acoustic guitar instrumentals, the only song on the original album is Seven Long Years and again, there are some superb moments including the truly gorgeous Reaper and Tregenna Afternoons as well as Field Of Eternity to name but three.

All told, these albums are an absolute MUST, though to be honest these first C Ds are possibly Ant’s finest musical moments to date, but don’t let that stop you looking forward to the next three. It is ironic that the album sleeves are probably also the best Peter Cross covers, but again as in the case of Ant’s music, there is so much to choose from!

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