“Rediscovering The Parts & Pieces” - The remastered editions of Anthony Phillips’ Private Parts & Pieces III and IV albums reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

I have reviewed these two albums once or thrice before but even now after thirty years, it seems that they still have the power to surprise me.

Private Parts & Pieces III - Antiques, was, at the time of its release something of a sea change for Anthony after the somewhat episodic nature of its predecessor. Combining the talents of two such superb exponents of the six string acoustic guitar as Ant and Quique means that the end result is an assured and beautiful album and yes, I know I am somewhat biased but I defy anyone hearing this not to be charmed by the exquisite nature of the music. A series of warm, and relaxed duets conjure up a variety of atmospheres and moods with some deft playing. Picking a favourite from music which is so enjoyable to the ears is always hard so I won’t do it here. Instead I will focus on the additional material which Ant and his archivist, Jonathan Dann have augmented this disc with.

Frosted Windows (Variation 1) is a somewhat shorter version, every bit as brittle and brilliant as the original. The alternative mix of Esperansa gives us a delightful outing for Ant’s twelve string which is always a joy to hear and here it is without the equally enjoyable melody line which Quique subsequently added. Bandido is given to us in another early take which does not wander too far from the version fans are familiar with but its jaunty rhythm is as infectious as always. Old Wive’s Tale presented here without overdubs is another delight, and one of the most enjoyable performances on the entire album. The real surprise among the additional tracks is definitely the last one; El Cid, every bit as enigmatic as the legendary figure from Spanish history. Amazingly previously relegated to a library CD under the uninspiring title; Andalucian Sunset, here we have this truly wonderful piece in the setting it deserves.

Private Parts & Pieces IV - A Catch At The Tables has always been another favourite of mine from this series. From the deliciously tongue-in cheek Arboretum Suite, and yes I can assure you that Winkworth Arboretum IS a real place folks, this is one of those magnificently humorous sound pictures that only someone of Ant’s talent can really bring to life. Earth Man with its dramatic Polymoog sound still manages to evoke a certain drama even if the sound has dated somewhat - this one would not sound out of place in an episode of Dr Who! Dawn Over The Lake with the dreaded drum box would sound dated too if it were not for Ant’s timeless twelve string which lifts this one far above the run of the mill.

Bouncer, well it wouldn’t be an album by Ant without some sporting reference now, would it? This one always reminds me of a rather rotund bulldog out on a walk for some reason but there you go! Eduardo on the other hand is a brilliant character portrait vividly played on Ant’s 8 string Rudloff guitar. Heart Of Darkness gives us another wonderful example of Ant’s talent with synthesisers, here combining both Pollymoog and Mellotron in an almost sepulchral performance.

Without doubt the heart of the album is the bizarrely titled, The Sea And The Armadillo. Don’t believe a word of it, this one owes far more to the fields of Italy and the Pampas of South America mind you, the Armadillo does have its part to play as the musical instrument known as a Charango which features so prominently in it is made from the armoured body of just such a creature. Don’t let that put you off though, the resulting music is rich, warm and full of vibrancy - Ant at his very best.

Next we have that rarity from Ant then as now - a song. Sistine. Once again I do have some doubts as to the original inspiration for this one. The song itself is a heartrending tale of love and loss during war. Ant’s vocal manages to convey just the right amount of emotion here in another enjoyable performance.

When the album was originally transferred to CD back in the 1990’s fans were treated to the addition of a couple of tracks which had only been available on the long since deleted LP; Harvest Of The Heart. The first of these, the synth driven Erotic Strings is here again as is A Catch At the Tables, another magnificent example of Ant’s playing and worthy of a place on any album and for the observant among you, see if you recognise the earlier piece Ant reprises during this one.

For the benefit of this new version we next have the solo guitar version of Flapjack without the later guitar overdub. This will undoubtedly sound slightly strange to those of us familiar with the album version but stick with it, this one is every bit as enjoyable. The album concludes with Theme From Operation Whale - a suitably dramatic guitar version of a Greenpeace film to which Ant contributed music.

There you have it, two more albums of superb music from Mr Phillips. Older fans will no doubt appreciate the additions that have been made to the two discs whilst newer fans get the chance to relish a veritable musical feast for the ears. Either way, this is music that should have appeal to any lover of good music.