"Listening to the Gypsies play" - The latest album by Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
At long last, this elusive piece from Ant’s back catalogue is finally available from a record store near you! This is the piece which Ant and Harry co-wrote between 1971 and 1975, roughly the same time that Tarka was originally composed. It is a revelation to hear it at last in all its glory and the wait has been well worth it. Mainly but not exclusively written for two twelve string guitars, it also features the added bonus of some exquisite piano work as well.
The music takes the form of three “movements” which capture a gypsy encampment as its inhabitants go about their daily routine. The enchantment begins with a fourth movement in which the inhabitants indulge their passion for things mystical, with a peek into the crystal ball. This piece was written after the others but easily fits into the overall pattern with no problems. The music itself is quite deceptive and does not lend itself to easy listening on first hearing. But just like the gypsy, first appearances can be misleading and subsequent listening will draw you into the web that the music weaves just as easily as it drew Ant and Harry together all those years ago. The combination of two guitars which has always been Anthony’s forte really comes to the fore on this recording and it is delightful to hear the duetting of the guitars almost as if Ant and Harry have become the gypsies that they are describing.
In the canon of Ant’s works, I would have to say that this can best be described as a Private Parts One And A Half album, coming as it does before any of that material in the chronological scheme of things. For those readers who have not been able to hear Tarka before, there is the added bonus of the demos to movements one and two of that work, which have never been released before. To hear the original piano and guitar versions without the orchestra is especially interesting as you can actually hear the genesis of the work, so to speak! It is amazing that despite the amount of reworking that went on, the demos still sound as fresh as ever. As usual, I have no hesitation in recommending INSTANT purchase of this album.