"The Genesis Of A Musician" - An introduction to the solo recordings of Anthony Phillips. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photos courtesy of Carol Willis/Hit & Run Music Ltd.
Where do I start with the career of a musician as prolific as Anthony Phillips? Well, I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any. As any self respecting Genesis fan knows, Anthony was one of the founding fathers of the band back in 1967 and he contributed to their first two studio albums, "From Genesis To Revelation" and its successor "Trespass" before leaving to explore his own musical world and express it in his own musical language.
The imminent re-issue of Anthony's remaining back catalogue of recordings has prompted me to write this feature, and also the numerous requests for more information on Anthony from our readers, to those of our readers who may think some of this material seems vaguely familiar... if I might paraphrase from one of Anthony's own album sleeves... "Any resemblance between themes here or in other editions of TWR or The Pavilion is entirely uncoincidental..."
The first recording to feature Anthony after his departure from Genesis appeared in 1975 and was the Charisma Records compilation of religious music, "Beyond An Empty Dream" which included the hymn "Take This Heart" which featured the Charterhouse School Choir - hardly indicative of Anthony's musical style! The track nevertheless served notice that was still alive and making music.
The first release by the newly established Passport Records in the USA was to be Anthony's next foray into records. The album, "Intergalactic Touring Band", was the brainchild of Passport's owner cum-director, Marty Scott and was based around the idea of a futuristic rock band touring the galaxy establishing contact with other civilisations - a sort of musical Star Trek. Ant's contribution was limited to a couple of tracks including the single "Reaching Out", on which he plays guitar. The Genesis connection was also present on this album with appearances by Peter Gabriel's keyboard player, Larry Fast and Percy Jones who was to feature heavily on the later Brand X albums with Phil Collins.
Anthony's first solo album, "The Geese & The Ghost", appeared in March 1977 and immediately defined the parameters of his music: tasteful, lyrical, and skilfully arranged and played. Originally intended as a joint venture with Mike Rutherford, the album eventually became Ant's baby as Mike's commitments to Genesis became more pressing. This is very much the album by which all the others are judged, and as such it is an extremely successful debut with as stunning a variety of music and songs including delightful performances by Phil and Mike, along with Steve's brother John Hackett on haunting flute. Very much a product of the early Seventies, the album suffered by appearing at the height of the Punk phase in Britain's musical development. The album has gone on to be one of the most consistent sellers from Ants back catalogue.
The development of Anthony as a musician and lyricist was clearly defined in his next two albums, "Wise after the Event" (1978) and "Sides" (1979), both of which concentrated more on songs, especially at the behest of the record company who were still on the look out for the elusive "hit" single. The breadth of the styles on both of these albums cannot be understated, there is something for just about everyone on them, including some fine songs and some breathtaking instrumentals and, on occasions, where he puts in a vocal appearance himself, Ant is revealed as a fine singer with a distinctive voice which gives a unique character to the songs in question.
However, music is more Ant's forte and it was with his next album that he began to reveal the many layers of his true musical persona. "Private Parts & Pieces", released initially as a free album with the first 5000 copies of "Sides" in the UK, and subsequently picked up by Passport Records in the USA, was a delightful mixture of acoustic and electric guitar and piano music gathered from the vast array of music which Anthony had amassed since leaving the band.
It was also to become the precursor of an entire series of albums, eight in all so far, which have widened the perceptions of Ant's fans and at the same time, garnered an entire new following, eager for more of his own unique brand of music. From that first album, each subsequent issue has delved into a different facet of Ant's music. "Antiques", for example, displayed Ant's virtuosity with the acoustic guitar, as indeed did the austerely beautiful "Twelve". "Ivory Moon" and "Slow Waves, Soft Stars" were two sides of the coin as far as keyboard music was concerned, the former being solo acoustic piano and the latter, a gathering of 'subversive synthesiser pieces', as Ant referred to it.
He had already shown his command of the synthesiser technology with 1981's album "1984" which, despite its title, had no relation to the George Orwell novel, although it could certainly have been used as a soundtrack to the film.
Outside of the "Private Parts & Pieces" albums, Anthony has issued an increasingly varied range of albums including the stunning "Slow Dance" in 1990, and two generic archival albums under the title of "Missing Links", which as there title suggests, attempt to fill in still more of the gaps in his musical repertoire.
The latest releases by Anthony go even further to emphasise his talent and the variety of his music. "Echoes" is alive in studio performance, highlighting the exquisite nature of his music in the live context (yes, we will get a live concert out of him some day - honest!!). and the most recent "Anthology" album underlines the musical maestro that is Anthony Phillips, with a selection drawn from most of his albums spanning his almost twenty year solo career, and selected by readers of his own fan club, The Pavilion.
Whatever the future holds for Ant as a recording and /or performing artist, one thing is clear, his legacy of music will be cherished by his fans and wondered at by those to whom his music is still an unknown quantity.
Recommended Listening. A choice of CDs by the editor of TWR...