“Dances With Cockroaches and other TV oddities” - Pathways & Promenades, The latest in the Missing Links series of albums by Anthony Phillips reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Strangely enough, I knew nothing about this release until Anthony pressed a copy into my hands during the interview which you can read elsewhere in this edition! Continuing the trend of the previous three albums in the series, this one manages to tie up quite a few loose ends from the material which had previously only been available on things like sampler albums etc which are notoriously hard to get hold of - specially in the case of some of Ant’s stuff!
The album opens with a suitably dramatic track; The Golden Road To Samarkand, which was certainly a track I had never heard before. Haunting and languid a fittingly descriptive opener. Promenade is welcome addition although it had appeared on the Archive Collection Volume one, this is the complete track and a gloriously summery one it is too - Ant at his acoustic best!
Sceptred Isle is another of those wide screen compositions which Anthony is so good at. Shades of Slow Dance and the Lifeboat TV series here for me in this majestic evocation of the jewel in the crown that is England! From the sublime to the ridiculous with the strangely titled Danza Cuccuracha (Cockroach Dance) original issued on the 1996 Touch Sampler. The title is misleading however, because here you have yet another marvellous example of Ant’s acoustic playing, a melancholy and wistful tune but great to hear at last.
Fallen Idol, is another majestic and stately piece of synth composition which conjures up an aural picture of its subject in suitably sympathetic style. The mood lightens somewhat next with Cascades a rippling synth track which shimmers like the cascades it describes - library music at its descriptive best.
Sky Dawn, was originally composed for the charitable CD; The Sky Goes All The Way Home, back in 1999 here it finds a welcome home. Another wonderfully languid acoustic track which has shades of a much earlier piece running through it although the title escapes me! Coupled with this, Misty Mountains is a good example of contrasting styles. From the warmth of the former, we are taken to the ethereal heights of the Himalayas for a bird’s eye view of the peaks - brittle and frosty but every bit as evocative.
It’s All Greek To Me, well what a title! Bouzouki driven, this one really
conjures up the warmth and beauty of the Aegean and the “wine dark sea”
of the Iliad with just a touch of wry humour in the playing another lovely piece.
The atmosphere changes next as the weather draws in and we have to find a Haven
From The Sea, once again we have echoes of the wonderful Lifeboat series here
in this dramatic evocation of the ever changing face of the sea.
Heavenly Gene continues the trend of wonderfully haunting synthesiser compositions which Ant has become increasingly well known for over the last few years. Shimmering and glorious like sunlight on a glacier. We are then dramatically taken into the world of Ironclad, another example of Ant’s skill in televisual composition - I can imagine this one accompanying a particularly dark episode of Doctor Who for example.
The mood lightens considerably for Water Gardens which uses a theme which Ant had originally used for the WWF film project; Hoi Ha Wan (Bay Beneath The Sea) a follow-up to the Survival programme Land Of Dragons about the wildlife of Hong Kong. Oriental in style and a delight to hear.
Night Train and Sleeping Giant take us into the twilight world of caves and their denizens although in the case of the former, it was actually used for a 1994 documentary about the making of the Channel Tunnel!
Sombrero to my ears doesn’t really evoke a hat - more the tension and suspense leading up to the Magnificent Seven dealing with the bad guys on a dusty Mexican plain. From Mexico we are off to Ireland with Irish Lament a moving and quite poignant piano based piece redolent with sadness and longing for home - emigrants leaving for the New World perhaps?
Aurora, like its predecessor, Ironclad, originally appeared on the 1990 German TV series Terra X and like that track, it is suitably impressive, a shimmering synth track which would not have been out of place accompanying some of Agents Scully and Mulder’s more esoteric exploits in the X Files. Without You too, wouldn’t seem out of place on that TV series accompanying one of the more wistful moments but is a beautiful piano piece which really deserves lyrics to go with it - Ant at his romantic best.
Sad Exodus has an almost hymnal quality to it. When I hear it I instantly think of cathedrals and choirs, a requiem in miniature - beautiful!
Summer of Love - not quite the Hippy dream of the late 1960’s although I am sure Ant remembers that well! A trip through a heat haze and a glide through the thermals as we fly above the busy world below. The weather forecast changes as we have Light Rain which has already been used extensively on UK TV so you may recognise it.
The album ends with Halcyon Days which I certainly remember from the days when Ant very kindly asked for my assistance in selecting potential tracks for the Dragonfly Dreams album. I always wondered what happened to it because it was originally intended for the Japanese edition of that album and then disappeared, which was a shame because it is a peach of a track , augmented by the percussive skills of Joji Hirota. Anyway, here I t is, restored at last and a suitably enigmatic ending to the album.
This series has been a revelation in more ways than one. Cynics might say that these are the “also rans” and if you look at it in that kind of black and white way then you are probably right. However, of you step back and think about the sheer diversity of the music contained on this disc and those that have preceded it in this series, then you have a marvellous broadening of your appreciation of Anthony’s talents as a composer and some bloody good music into the bargain!
Anthony Phillips : Pathways & Promenades - Missing Links Volume IV. Voiceprint Records VP526CD