"Piecing together the missing links" - The three volumes (so far) of Anthony Phillips' Missing Links series of albums. Review by Alan Hewitt.

It is difficult to believe now that this series of albums is now ten years old! Originally designed as a further peek behind the scenes, the "Missing Links" albums have taken on a life and character all of their own, which is every bit as vital as their counterparts in the long-running "Private Parts & Pieces" series.

Originally released as a limited edition cassette in 1989, and as somewhat of a stop gap item whilst Anthony was between record companies; "Missing Links Volume One: Finger Painting" contained a variety of Anthony's best bits from the copious amount of TV and jingle music that he had been composing since the late 1970's. Much of it is somewhat episodic in nature, and uses mainly synthesised sounds to create the necessary "mood" for whatever use the library and TV companies using it, wanted.

The album serves, for want of a better expression, as a "behind the scenes" look at the music that many composers create to earn their living, and as such it is not to be disparaged; especially when you hear the likes of the extremely haunting and beautiful "Force Majeure", "Lord Of The Smoking Mirror" and the enchanting suite of pieces from the "Survival" wildlife programme on "Hong Kong: Land Of Dragons". An album that opens yet another vista on Anthony's career.

The second album in the series, subtitled "The Sky Road", made its appearance in 1994 and was to widen the variety and scope of the series by including a couple of archival pieces from Anthony's earliest recording forays as well as out-takes from albums including the delightful extract from "Slow Dance" in the shape of "Exile", and the truly breathtaking suite of pieces from the Anglia TV series "Lifeboat". Mixed alongside these pieces are several acoustic gems, including the, in my opinion, mis-titled "Bitter Suite" which is as delightful an acoustic piece as you are ever likely to hear. The true heart of the album lies in the outstanding "Tears On A Rainy Day" which features the wonderful saxophone of Martin Robertson. This to my ears, is a much more satisfying album than its predecessor, and is a must in any collection of Anthony's work.

And finally (for the time being at least) we come to the third album in the series, which was released late last year and is subtitled "Time And Tide". This album features a lively selection of the music that Anthony has composed with Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota for various library and TV projects including several, as yet unseen, "Survival" programmes. This is a much more satisfying and varied selection of library music than "Volume One" in the series with highlights including the delightful "Turtle Race" and "Fiesta Del Charangos" and the haunting "Schuan Journey" which also includes the brilliant Chinese flautist Guo Yue.