“Reaping the harvest” - Anthony Phillips’s Harvest of the Heart compilation reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Genesis fans have been spoiled of late when it comes to compilations and DVDs etc although these have seldom been quite what was advertised as was demonstrated by the furore over both the R-Kive and Together And Apart projects. No such problems with this compilation however.
Those of you with a long memory may well remember the compilation album of the same name as this and ironically on the same record label which appeared in 1985 and which was the first true attempt to compile an over view of Anthony’s career. Always a difficult job when you have an artist as prolific as Anthony Phillips whose work has covered such a broad range of styles but it was a decent stab at the task and even sported a handful of previously unreleased tracks for the collectors among us.
Well, almost thirty years on and Anthony is back in the Cherry Red Records fold or rather their associate, Esoteric Records and to celebrate that here we have the Harvest Of The Heart - An Anthology set. Anthology does not really do this release justice but then again, words would really fail to describe the very cornucopia of delights contained within its five discs (yes, your editor has eaten a dictionary!).
Seriously though, the compilers of this edition have paid great attention to not only the reputation and catalogue of the artist in question but also the desires of the fans for something much more satisfying than the usual compilation fodder. The end result is a simply breathtaking release which manages to bring just about every facet of Ant’s career into view (OK, so the underwater Reggae mix of Um & Aargh is missing but that is a minor quibble really). Beginning with F Sharp (that’s The Musical Box to the uninitiated among you) with stops at just about all of Ant’s albums in between along the way.
There are also a couple of bona fide rarities, Silver Song, the legendary song featuring Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins is here and whilst on the subject of Mike, we also have the rare B side: Compression previously unavailable on CD and the edited version of the classic Slow Dance something which I baulked at when I heard it had been done but the end result is a highly satisfying resume of this classic album.
Here we have marvellous examples of Ant’s skills as a song writer including the plaintive Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?) and Unheard Cry, alongside such superb instrumental works as Exile which I still can’t believe was an out-take from the above mentioned Slow Dance album! As a guitarist, Ant’s work in that field is generously represented here too as is his equally excellent work for the piano and synthesiser.
Many fans might not be aware of Ant’s equally prolific career as a composer of music for TV and film usually under the blanket definition of “library music” and the fifth disc in this set places the emphasis squarely on that side of Anthony’s catalogue along side a batch of previously unavailable music to boot!
As if that was not enough, the package also contains a superbly written and authoritative essay on Anthony’s career by my former Pavilion cohort, Jonathan Dann whose knowledge on the subject puts mine to shame. The booklet is lavishly illustrated with many items of memorabilia and photographs, some of which I had never seen myself!
The end result is something which manages to achieve what the recent Genesis projects do not: a satisfying and enjoyable package for existing fans and a wonderful balanced over view of Anthony’s career for the new fan wondering where to start. Whichever of those you happen to be, this package lives up to that over hyped word: “definitive” and is something which any self respecting music fan should be proud to have as part of their collection. Well done to all at Esoteric for taking the time and effort to put this together and to Jonathan Dann whose efforts deserve a medal in my book. Oh, and to somebody called Anthony Phillips whom I believe had something to do with it!