"Anthems for the new millennium" - Anthony Phillips' "Tarka", "Slow Dance" and "Gypsy Suite" albums. Review by Alan Hewitt.

Continuing our examination of Anthony Phillips' back catalogue, we come to the "Tarka", "Slow Dance" and "Gypsy Suite" albums...

Tarka - Blueprint Records BP219CD

This album is definitely the one in which Anthony's music finally came of age. Whatever superlative you choose to use can be applied to this album in equal measure. Simply put, if recent readers liked Steve Hackett's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" project, you will love this album!

The album was a long time in the making, as Anthony himself explained... "Well, originally we hoped to get the score to the film they were doing of Tarka The Otter in 1977/78... it was a good nepotistic line; Harry Williamson being the son of the author; Henry Williamson..." However, the advent of "New Wave" music and the debacle that attended that, meant that the project was shelved, not before Hit & Run Music (Anthony's publishers at the time, put up some money to finish the orchestral score.

Having achieved that, the music still had to wait until 1988 before enterprising film entrepreneurs Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale were played the rough mix by the projects' long-time champion, Simon Heyworth, who convinced them to use it in a film which has, sadly, still to see the light of day. Not so the music thankfully which was released in November 1988. The album is a delightful mix of orchestral soundscapes which overlay the original guitar duets by Harry and Anthony.

It really is impossible to describe the music properly, except to say that I am sure that if the book's author had had any say in a soundtrack to a film version of his book, he would choose this! Ironically for a project so well received at the time, PRT were bankrupt within a year of the record' s release and it wasn't until the pioneering work of Rob Ayling's Voiceprint Records, that brought the album back into the light and most fans heard of it.

The reissue also benefited from being re-mixed and also included the bonus of "The Rising Spring"; an out-take from the original sessions which had previously only been available on the now much sought after "Anthem From Tarka" single.

Slowdance - Voiceprint VP184CD

Having survived the collapse of PRT in 1989, Ant returned to the fray with another big album, "Slowdance", which was to be the first fruit of his new contract with Virgin Records, although the music had been completed in advance of this contract.

How best can I describe the effect of hearing this album? Well, suffice to say that it still holds the record for the most playings on day of purchase of any album in the Hewitt collection! The album really does have something for everyone on it - from grand orchestral moments to very delicate keyboard pieces and the awesome Strat solo toward the end of side one is worth the price of the CD alone.

Anthony himself said that he was trying to showcase what he could produce in the way of film music, and all I can say is that the album is a soundtrack "in waiting" - eventually someone will realise that you don't need a fancy sounding Greek or French name to write a good film score, and I am sure that this gem will be discovered one day. In the meantime, do yourselves a favour and give it a few listens - I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Gypsy Suite - Voiceprint Records VP189CD

This album is closely related to the "Tarka" project in as much as they were both born out of the same period, a highly fruitful collaborative writing time, in which Anthony and Harry Williamson produced several remarkable works. This album is the very antithesis of the others mentioned here, due to its very "camp fire" atmosphere. The whole album is a delightful series of guitar solos and duets which manage to capture the essence of a Gypsy encampment from daybreak to the magical mystery of "Evening Circle" where the camp gathers round the fire to relive the day's events.

Voiceprint also decided to include several of the demo pieces from the original "Tarka" project on this disc, which are a fascinating chance to hear a "work in progress" as it were, and it never ceases to amaze me how fresh the originals sound, even after all this time. Which only goes to prove once again, how talented these two musicians actually are!