"Having a Field Day" - Anthony Phillips's new double album Field Day reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Well, first things first, a few corrections are in order to previously received information about this album. It is NOT another in the Private Parts & Pieces series, nor indeed does it sport artwork by Peter Cross as had been mentioned previously in TWR. Now that I have cleared that up I can get on with the serious business of trying to tell you what this album actually IS instead!
If "Slow Waves Soft Stars" was referred to by its creator as an album of "subversive synthesiser pieces" then Field Day could be categorised as an album of subversive acoustic guitar pieces. That would be that, if I were that lazy and if Ant's music was that easy to categorise! Thankfully, as usual, Mr Phillips expects me (and you, dear reader) to work a little bit harder than that!
Field Day has been an incredibly difficult album for Anthony to put together, his music is never facile or simple and anyone who thinks that acoustic guitar music is easy to write and play should have a chat with either Ant or Steve Hackett and you will soon change your tune (and guitar tunings probably!). Field Day comprises a heady mix of material which conveys a wide range of atmospheres and moods although the overall feel of this album is one of wistful nostalgia. As usual, the music is extremely visual and tracks such as Weeping Willow on Disc Two perfectly describe their subject. Dawn Over The Field Of Eternity revisits one of Ant's early guitar pieces making it almost a prequel to the original and just as delightful. A new version of the classic Nocturne is here too. Anthony has always maintained that he was never satisfied with his playing on this track although I cannot for the life of me see why! The new version is a delight, however! There are distinct echoes of previous albums recurring throughout the discs too… Credo, Cerise and Runaway Horses from Disc One for example are a delightful nod back to the Dragonfly Dreams and New England albums and those of you familiar with Anthony's work will no doubt find more echoes among the sixty one tracks that populate the two discs that comprise the album. Good themes, like a good cast in a film/play are always worth repeating though, aren't they?! With two albums' worth of material in the one package, each disc over an hour long, no one can accuse Anthony of short changing his fans, and with sufficient variety in terms of both content and instrumentation - this time Ant has even given details of the instruments used on each track and I for one did not realise he had so many stringed instruments lurking about the place! There is something for everyone here; an album of introspective but not maudlin music which will refresh the senses in unexpected ways - an album of light and shade; chilled wine on a summer lawn or mulled wine by the fire on a cold winter's evening; the album is all those things and a grower too. This one will take many listenings before you can grasp the scale and variety of the music itself - which is exactly what Anthony's music is all about - excellent stuff!
Anthony Phillips: Field Day Blueprint Records BP362CD.