“Missing links and plain sailing” - Anthony Phillips’s new albums reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
1994 is certainly proving to be marvellous year to be an Anthony Phillips fan! First of all, the long awaited release of the second Missing Links album came on 30th May and as if that wasn’t enough, Sail The World appeared on CD on 20th June. Anthony has certainly been busy!
Missing Links Volume Two: The Sky Road, certainly lives up to its promise and fills in several of those irritating gaps in Anthony’s repertoire. The album begins with the elegiac beauty of Exile, an out-take from the Slow Dance sessions in 1989 and is a suitably melodic introduction. The suite of pieces from Anthony’s TV work for the Lifeboat series follows, and serves to demonstrate just how good a writer of music for specific purposes, Anthony actually is. This suite has it all - from dramatic music representing rescues at sea to delicate wistful pieces reminding us that for every member of the crew there are others who can only stand and wait. The suite is, in turn, followed by another, entitled, quite aptly, as The Bitter Suite, a haunting acoustic guitar suite that is absolutely stunning to hear.
Across The River Styx and A Flock Of Souls are perhaps for me, the weakest pieces on the album. Both of them are a little too “bitty” for my liking. The pieces that follow, Along The Towpath and The Sky Road are much better. Tears On A Rainy Day is another beautiful acoustic piece where Ant is accompanied by Martin Robertson on soprano saxophone, and it is amazing to hear the sheer emotion that this particular combination of instruments gives to the music. I for one hope that Anthony and Martin can work more often in the future if this is a sample of what they can do together!
More TV work follows, with the music from two programmes Ant did for the Survival wildlife series. Tiwai: Island Of The Apes and Wild Voices, Quiet Waters have both certainly benefited from remixing and the addition of pieces that were not included in the original programmes for a variety of reasons. These pieces serve to illustrate how Anthony earns a greater part of his livelihood today and how well he uses his talent and craft to aurally illustrate the visual image.
Serenita is another beautiful acoustic guitar piece and one that makes me wish that Ant could indulge himself once again in a completely acoustic guitar album. The contrast between this and the piece which follows it; Timepiece, a synthesised improvisation only goes to show the breadth of Anthony’s musical skills. The album is rounded off by two archival pieces; the first being part of the original demo version of what eventually became Field Of Eternity on the Private Parts & Pieces album and it is a great example of Anthony’s more bizarre works. The final track on this album is one which I know will be of interest to all fans of early Genesis. The Beggar & The Thief was originally written by Anthony and Mike Rutherford back in 1969, but the version on the album dates from 1973. It features the additional talents of David Thomas and Ronnie Gunn, and it brings the album to a marvellous close with one of the best archival songs from that period that has never seen the light of day before.
Over all, this album is far more rounded than its predecessor and there is something here for all of Anthony’s fans - TV music, library pieces, acoustic and synthesised music as well as archival tracks. It really is a fine show case for the talents that Anthony Phillips possesses and I have no hesitation in recommending it to any lover of good music. But then again, you honestly didn’t expect me to say otherwise, did you?
Anthony’s most recent release; Sail The World, is a totally different album to the previous one reviewed. This album features music that he wrote to accompany all thirty eight weeks’ worth of the 1993/94 Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race programmes and as such, it is mindful of the countries that the race goers passed by in the musical themes chose. From the racy, dramatic and catchy opening theme for the programmes we are treated to a feast of music in a far wider variety of styles than one would expect on a TV programme, but extremely evocative of the race and all it takes to participate in it.
The album is one of contrasts from the more racy kinds of pieces such as the
opening theme and Fast Work , to the more tranquil pieces such as Lonely Whales
and Icebergs, both of which remind me of some of the music that Anthony wrote
for Slow Waves Soft Stars back in 1987. There is even some Latin American rhythm
on two tracks called Salsa on which Ant is aided and abetted by that unique
percussionist Joji Hirota. Over all, this is an album that has far more than
your average TV fodder and it will certainly serve as a great advertisement
for Anthony’s skills in this field of musical composition.