Anthony Phillips - A Pocket Discography by Alan Hewitt.
With the likelihood of several new releases by Anthony I thought it might be useful to take a fond look back at his recorded output so far …and WHAT an extensive output it has been! I have deliberately opted not to include the various compilations (including the new one, reviewed elsewhere this issue)and library albums here, that is enough material for a separate feature in its own right. Anyway, here goes…
The Geese & The Ghost (1977) *****
This is the album that kick started Anthony's return to the music business. Recorded over a lengthy period, and involving both Phil and Mike, it is an album of outstanding musical beauty. Evocative, descriptive pieces such as Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times and The Geese & The Ghost itself, mix well with the more left of centre tracks such as Chinese Mushroom Cloud. There are also two delightful songs, one: God If I Saw Her Now harnesses Phil's angelic pipes, and the other: Collections gives us the first indication of Anthony's own unique vocal talents. All in all, a superb introduction to Anthony's music!
Wise after the Event (1978) ****
By now struggling to establish a name for himself against the cynicism of a music industry in the grips of the New Wave, Anthony's second solo album bravely took up the cudgels with still more of his own unique music. Entirely song-based, there are some real gems here too, including the elegiac Regrets and the wonderful examination of man's inhumanity to our fellow creatures: Now What? (Are They Doing To My Little Friends). Poetical lyricism dominates the songs with many plays on words and in jokes. Another excellent album and once again, sporting a delightful cover by Peter Cross!
Sides (1979) *****
This is the album that Genesis chronicler Armando Gallo reckoned was the album that made him wish that Anthony had never left Genesis, and it is difficult to argue with that assessment. A wonderful mix of songs and instrumentals which combines wry examinations of the problems a musician has pleasing the A & R men in the music business (Um & Aargh) and an acidic look at marital problems (Holy Deadlock)and two beautiful long form songs; Magdalen and Bleak House. Ant also rocks out with two superb instrumentals; Nightmare and Sisters Of Remindum. This is a MUST for fans. The CD reissue also contains two bonus tracks in the shape of the single B side: Souvenir and the instrumental backing track to Magdalen.
Private Parts & Pieces (1979) *****
The progenitor of what is now probably the longest running generic series of albums by any artist - ten titles so far and spanning almost twenty five years. This album showcased some of the tracks which Anthony had written, some old and some new, even spanning the period immediately after departure from Genesis. Field Of Eternity even includes a snippet of an old Genesis song. Once again, a great mix of electric and acoustic tracks; the highlights include the glorious Tregenna Afternoons and Autumnal. Upon the release of this album on CD, fans were also given the added bonus of two other archival tracks; Stranger and the legendary Silver Song in a demo form which makes a nice addition to the disc without disrupting the existing flow of the music. Another essential addition to your AP collection.
Private Parts & Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion (1980) ***
A follow-up album to the first of the series, this second one continued the trend of mixing a variety of tracks from the material in Anthony's. Even here Anthony extends himself; the ambitious Scottish Suite originally intended for a "Rock Opera" style project which, sadly never saw the light of day; the music is a delight. Sandwiched in between some of the more experimental tracks are more traditional acoustic tracks for which Anthony is rightly renowned, and including the wonderful Postlude: End Of Season, and the CD also includes the truly magnificent Lucy :An Illusion. I have often said that this album is a bit too episodic for my liking it is nonetheless another useful examination of another facet of Anthony's work and once again the cover by Peter Cross is a pure delight.
1984. (1981) *****
For fans now used to Anthony's guitar work, his album came as a considerable surprise. This is an entire album of synthesiser music; by turns ironic and dramatic and altogether different from anything Anthony had released before. Strangely enough, it even spawned a single which was rewarded with "Single Of The Week" status by one of the UK music papers! Definitely an album to challenge any preconceived ideas you might have about Anthony's music and it is a firm favourite of mine!
Private Parts & Pieces III: Antiques (1982) ****
Contrasting dramatically with the above, this album was a return to Anthony's acoustic roots. A series of acoustic guitar solos and duets with long standing friend Henrique Berro Garcia. This is a delightful mix of music with an irresistible summery feel to it and one which always makes me smile.
Invisible Men (1983 USA/1984 UK) ****
Ever one to take his fans by surprise, this album did so again! Ant goes "Pop" with a collection of rock and pop songs in collaboration with his friend Richard Scott. There are delightful ballads: Falling For Love and I Want Your Heart, as well as a couple of controversial anti-war tracks: The Women Were Watching and Exocet, although the latter had to wait until the CD edition to see the light of day here in the UK, its subject matter was deemed too sensitive at the time of the album's release so soon after the Falklands conflict. Many of Ant's fans don't really like this album and Ant himself always refers to it as the "mortgage" album but I love it! The CD edition also benefited from several additional tracks from the evidently prolific recording sessions.
Private Parts & Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables (1984) ****
Returning to the acoustic form which was to dominate the next three albums in the series; Private Parts & Pieces IV still combined a healthy selection of acoustic and synthesised music. Anthony had been experimenting with the synthesisers he had acquired in the late 1970's and several pieces turn up here, including the dramatic Earthman. The wonderfully descriptive Arboretum Suite continues the acoustic vein and is almost a "Tone Poem". Once again, the CD edition benefits from a couple of extra tracks which are welcome additions.
Private Parts & Pieces V: Twelve (1985) ***
Another entirely acoustic album; loosely based around the twelve months of the year. This is very much a demanding album and not one which is the easiest to listen to as an introduction for a new fan. There is a Spartan elegance to the music itself, and this is perhaps the closest Anthony has come to a "Chamber" concerto. The CD contains no extra tracks which would, in any case, disrupt the existing flow of the album.
Private Parts & Pieces VI: Ivory Moon (1986) ***
Another acoustic album but with a difference. This is the first album which really demonstrated Anthony's talents at the piano instead of the guitar. Included here are several of the pieces from the abortive "Masquerade" project as well as other long form evocative tracks. There is the same sparse feeling to the album and it demands a lot from the casual listener, but as with all of Anthony's albums, it does reward the listener who has the patience to persevere. The CD also has the additional bonus of another archival track: the piano demo of an old Genesis song: Let Us Now Make Love, which is a delightful addition.
Private Parts & Pieces VII: Slow Waves Soft Stars (1987) *****
After the last two albums of almost pure acoustic music, the seventh album in the series marked a welcome return to the mix and match format of electronic and acoustic music. There is a delightful suite of synthesiser pieces which evokes the icy drama of the South Pole and sandwiched in between these and other synth pieces, are several more of Anthony's superb acoustic performances: Carnival and Goodbye Serenade to name but two! All in all this is one of my favourite albums from the series and is a wonderful addition to any collection.
Tarka (1988) *****
Anthony saw out the 1980's with another surprise. This project was another with a LONG pedigree, begun back in the early 1970's. Its gestation took almost fifteen years but the end result was simply stunning! In collaboration with Harry Williamson, the musicians managed to evoke the full range of moods and atmospheres of the wonderful story of Tarka, aided and abetted by the orchestral palette which is also mustered here. This is the album where Anthony's music came of age and this is, without doubt, an essential purchase.
Slow Dance(1990) ******
Yes, this is the one where the rating system goes out of the window! Following on from 1988's orchestral masterpiece,1990's Slow Dance album mustered orchestral forces of another kind. This is an album which demonstrated quite emphatically that Anthony had well and truly mastered the synthesiser and was able to draw the full range of colours and moods from them as well as including some fine guitar licks from his trusty Stratocaster into the bargain. If it is any indication, when the album came out it took me THREE weeks to write my review and even then I wasn't happy with it! This is the ultimate AP album for me and if you don't enjoy this one; you must be deaf, or dead - or both!
Missing Links Volume 1: Finger Painting (originally cassette only edition1989/US release 1991/UK release 1995) ***
Initially released in 1989 as a limited edition cassette, this album was to wait two years for a proper CD release. Eventful times for Anthony with the demise of Passport Records and the loss of his longstanding record company, and before the advent of his new contract with Virgin Records. As its subtitle "A Collection Of Television And Library Music 1979 -1989" states, this is a gathering of some of the music which Anthony has accumulated during his various TV commissions. As such, much of this music is necessarily shorter and more episodic in nature than you would otherwise expect of Anthony. Nonetheless, there are many interesting and entertaining tracks here including the dramatic Lord Of The Smoking Mirror and Force Majeure. The real highlight though is the Survival wildlife music suite: Land Of Dragons which is Anthony at his descriptive best.
Private Parts & Pieces VIII: New England (1992)****
The first album from this series of the 1990's and one of the best all round, again. Once more Anthony mixes up acoustic and electric music and some of his finest moments are here. The New England Suite is pure magic and indeed, so is the Pieces Of Eight suite which I argued strongly for as the title of the album !! There is also an increasing rarity these days: a song: Unheard Cry, one of the most poignant lyrics I have ever heard and Anthony's vocal delivery is superb! Once again an excellent album.
Missing Links Volume II: The Sky Road (1994)*****
Two years separate Anthony's final album from his all too brief sojourn with Virgin Records and it was two years well spent. Once he re-emerged with another new record label: Voiceprint, there was a spate of albums beginning with this one: The Sky Road. Another collection of library music but much more varied and representative than its predecessor. There are some fine moments here: Exile an out-take from the Slow Dance sessions, the Lifeboat Suite which sits along with several other examples of the music which Anthony has contributed to the Survival wildlife series. There are also two archival gems dragged kicking and screaming from the vaults in the shape of Field Of Eternity and The Beggar & The Thief both of which date back from the late 1960's and early 1970's. Another album which old and new fans alike will enjoy.
Sail The World (1994) ***
What a busy year 1994 proved to be for Anthony and his fans.
This, the second album of the year from him was the result of a commission to
write and record music for the TV coverage of the Whitbread Round The World
Yacht Race a massive television series covering all thirty three weeks of the
race. The music therefore, had to encompass the highs and lows of the race from
running before a South Atlantic gale or being becalmed at sea, to watching the
antics of penguins and whales. The resulting album certainly managed to serve
this purpose and also gave Anthony's fans a deeper insight into what it takes
to write and compose for the demands and strictures of television - an excellent
if underrated effort!
Gypsy Suite (1994) ****
Rounding off a phenomenally busy year for Anthony, comes this delightful album. Once again, it is a collaborative effort with Harry Williamson dating back to the early 1970's. Camp fire music is how Anthony describes it and there is a certain homespun quality to the music, derived as it is from duets on acoustic guitar. Accompanying the suite, are the demos from their other collaborative effort: Tarka, which makes a nice counterpoint and this is another essential album for fans.
The Living Room Concert (1995) *****
This album gave the fans an idea of what their hero might sound like in concert. It is a live recording taken from a studio performance for "Echoes" an American Public Service Radio programme recorded in Anthony's studio in the summer of 1993. Collected here are many of Anthony's classic tracks; Reaper, Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times, and Flamingo on which Anthony demonstrated his talents on guitar and piano. A delightful and essential album. Even more so for the original limited edition which was accompanied by a booklet containing the lyrics to all of Anthony's published songs.
Private Parts & Pieces IX: Dragonfly Dreams (1996)****
Back to form again, with another in this ever growing series. Another wonderful mix of synthesiser; piano and acoustic guitar music, some of it dating back as far as 1980. Another rare song appears too and serves as another example of his skill as a lyricist of exceptional calibre. There is the usual mix of wry humour in the puns played with some of the track titles, but the music is nothing if not exceptional and this album is a breath of fresh air!
The Meadows Of Englewood (1996) ***
The Late 1990's were extremely busy for Anthony and his next album was another collaborative effort; this time with one-time guitar student; Guillermo Cazenave. Mixing extemporised instrumentals there are the usual acoustic gems and an example of Anthony's unique humour in the final track!
Missing Links Volume III: Time & Tide (1997) **
A third compilation of music from the television work which Anthony has become increasingly involved with. Many of the pieces here are drawn from programmes about wildlife; and many were co-written with another long standing collaborator: Joji Hirota. There are moments of excellence here as always but the overall flow of this album is somewhat lacklustre compared to its predecessors.
The Archive Collection Volume One (1998) *****
OK, so I admit it. I am a little bit biased here because this album was the result of delving into Anthony's archive which has been going on ever since the accidental finding of several archival items for the Genesis Archive box set in Anthony's attic. It was decided to continue the search and organise something of a similar scope for Anthony himself. Organised by Jonathan Dann, my long suffering cohort in The Pavilion, the album goes ALL the way back to the heady days of Anthony's time in Genesis and includes one classic from that time in the shape of F#1, the demo of a track otherwise known as The Musical Box. There are many interesting and delightful examples of Anthony's craft throughout the years here. Another essential addition!
Private Parts & Pieces X: Soiree (1999) ***
Anthony's latest album is the tenth in the Private Parts & Pieces series, a return to solo piano music but much more enjoyable and afar more rounded example of the craft. Unlike its predecessors, however, with one exception, this album is comprised of totally new music. The one exception being: Creation which dates back all the way to November 1968! A somewhat warmer example than Ivory Moon, and an enjoyable effort.
Phew! There you have it … Anthony's back catalogue in a nutshell! I am sure that the new (and not so new) projects Anthony has planned will be equally as rewarding!