“Listening to the echoes” - Anthony Phillips’ recent US radio broadcast reviewed by Alan (Emil Toulouse le-Hewitt) Hewitt. Photos: Bill Brink.
Well, where do I begin? (how about at the start? - JD) To say that I was surprised when Anthony told me about this broadcast has to be the understatement of the decade! I was thrilled that at long last, lucky listeners would finally have the opportunity of hearing him “live” (well, almost). The last time something like this happened was back in 1978 with the now famous Radio Clyde session, so I was naturally eagerly awaiting the opportunity of listening for myself.
Anthony finally obliged me with the chance to hear the session some months after the event (now there’s an album title somewhere in there?) The music, upon first listening proved to be a revelation, as will become clear.
After the obligatory introductions by the show’s host; Anthony launched into a marvellous performance of Reaper from his first Private Parts & Pieces album and it was amazing to hear the piece in its almost “raw” state - it is a testament to Anthony’s playing that it sounded as good as on record - honest!
Next up was a song which was introduced by Anthony as a piece “on which the original singer was not I but in fact, a drummer and at that stage, a promising backing vocalist; a Mr P Collins. I wonder whatever became of him?” The track was Which Way The Wind Blows and I was amazed to hear how Anthony’s vocals carried the same raw emotion as Phil’s. It really made me wonder why Ant did not do the original vocal parts himself. Performed on acoustic guitar, the track was an evocative reminder of just what an accomplished writer AND performer Anthony is, even if he does sometimes deprecate his own talents. This was followed by the Henry suite, again, from The Geese & The Ghost and the honesty of the performance made up for the occasional “bum” note. The suite mist have given Anthony problems trying to remember the chord changes after almost twenty years but on the face of this performance, I would certainly pay to see him perform it as it is because it was truly beautiful.
Next up was apiece which rally brought a lump to my throat; Lights On The Hill from Private Parts & Pieces IV, describing the beauty of Winkworth Arboretum and this piece has fond memories for both Ant and myself, the beauty of the place captured perfectly in this acoustic version. This was followed by a brand new piece which has never been recorded, although some of the themes to it definitely sounded familiar to this listener - one for a future release I think.
Jaunty Roads brought a sunnier moment to the proceedings, a firm favourite of mine from the latest Private Parts & Pieces album, it certainly is a winner on this recording. To round off the performance, a contrast - Last Goodbyes, a melancholy piano piece from the new album leading into the sweeping grandeur of Collections from The Geese & The Ghost - a suitably epic way to round off the performance.
As a demonstration of both the breadth and depth of Anthony’s music and his talents as a player, anyone listening to this broadcast couldn’t fail to be impressed - I know my opinion is slightly biased (understatement of the decade - JD) but I make no apologies for my enthusiasm. If this had been a concert I would not have been the only one cheering for more at the end. Hopefully Anthony may try at least one “gig” and I can assure you Ant, the audience is out there waiting! (you have been warned - JD).