“Anthony Phillips - Pavilions Revisited” - the current round of reissues examined by Alan Hewitt.
Well, Virgin caught us on the hop with the re-issue of two batches of Ant’s back catalogue Compact discs within a month of each other, se we have decided to review both sets in one go.
The second batch of discs was released in February and comprised the second, third and fourth of the Private Parts & Pieces albums. Naturally, the first one was Private Parts & Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion which is, I must admit, my least favourite album in the series. That is until I heard it on CD. My main criticism of the album was that it was a little too fragmented for my liking but I have had to revise my opinion. There are several delightful pieces on the album including the ballads: Spring Meeting and Romany’s Aria as well as the marvellous Postlude: End Of Season, as haunting on CD as it ever was on vinyl. The added track to this disc is another hidden gem now revealed: Lucy - An Illusion, which dates back to Ant’s Genesis days in Genesis and it is a marvellous twelve string song which adds greatly to the album.
Second in the batch is Private Parts & Pieces III: Antiques, which is a superb demonstration of Ant’s skills as an acoustic guitarist. This album was a joint effort with Ant working with Argentinian guitarist; Henrique Berro Garcia and it is a very latin-influenced album with a summery feel to it. Certainly one of the best of the series it contains several personal favourites including: Motherforest, and the melancholy grandeur of Elegy. To Genesis fans it will also be of interest for the inclusion of Old Wives’ Tale which in earlier times was played by the band as Little Leaf. Unlike several of the other albums this one has no extra tracks added which I personally am pleased about because any addition would ruin the delicate balance already achieved.
Finally in this batch we come to my favourite of all the series: Private Parts & Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables. A marvellous blend of acoustic and electric music, guitars and synthesisers., the blend of the two makes this a more challenging album than some of the others and is a brilliant illustration of Ant’s ability to work with instruments that are not his first choice in music. Listen in particular to the dramatic Earthman, an eerie synth piece. Don’t worry though, Ant’s acoustic guitar is never far away and brilliantly seen on Eduardo and the second of the additional tracks: A Catch At The Tables especially written for the CD. The other addition: Erotic Strings is a synth piece which previously appeared on the Harvest Of The Heart compilation in 1985 and which is now sadly no longer available. Certainly to my mind, the best of the series so far.
The second batch of discs was released in March and comprises some of Ant’s most adventurous and commercial music beginning with 1984, which on its release in 1981 was a real surprise because of its synthesiser-based composition. The four movements fit together very well and evoke in places a suitably dramatic mood. It is also worthwhile noting that Ant released Prelude ’84 as a single and it DID actually get some favourable press. A melodrmatic album and one which is a constant source of surprise.
Wise After The Event is next, and this album is perhaps the most under-rated of all Ant’s releases and yet contains some of his best work. Released originally in 1978 when Ant was at his most commercially successful (?) the LP contains several delightful tracks. As was customary with Ant, there are also some bizarre ones too, in particular Pulling Faces with its space-bound lyrics, and Greenhouse which I am sure is a veiled allusion to Peter Cross who apparently spent most of his time in a greenhouse at the time!
Other songs do convey a powerful message however, and two stand out: Regrets, and Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?). The former is a plaintive love song which wrings the heart when heard. The latter is to my mind one of the strongest protest songs ever written about man’s inhumanity towards the creatures he shares the planet with. In a similar vein is the previously unavailable (unless you had the We’re All As we Lie single, that is), Squirrel which is also a protest song with a great vocal performance by Ant.
Last but by no means least, is the album that Ant rather disparagingly refers to as the “mortgage” album: Invisible Men was released initially in the USA in 1983 and subsequently in the UK in 1984. Both versions had one track different to the other. In the US it was the dramatic Exocet, and in the UK It’s Not Easy. Those of you who have only managed to find one or other version will be glad to hear that both tracks feature on the new CD. This LP was one which certainly should have broken Ant into major success - it is full of catchy and genuinely witty “pop” songs , a medium which fans I am sure felt Ant had never been confident with. Several spring to mind as nominees for singles: Going For Broke,Sally and Love In A Hot Air Balloon to name but three. Sally was eventually released as a 12” single in the UK with Women Were Watching and Exocet on the B side but to no success. Also on the CD are a couple of other new pieces including a lovely ballad about the Penlee Lifeboat disaster.