“Once more unto the geese...” - Anthony Phillips’ The Geese & The Ghost album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
So here we are once more…. I know, I’ve used this one before but I don’t care! The Geese & The Ghost is effectively ground zero for my own Genesis story being the first album that I ever bought by a member of the band. Christ, was it really THAT long ago?!
Time may well have flown by but the memories engendered by listening to this album are as fresh as if they happened yesterday. This is an album that has been through its fair share of trials and tribulations. It had to suffer the injustice of the “New Wave” critical backlash upon its first release. Totally undeserved but thankfully, the album and the artist who created it are made of sterner stuff than that!
Subsequent releases have not always hit the mark either. The first edition on CD on the now defunct Passport Records label used an inferior copy master for the digital transfer resulting in even more sound effects than intended! Thankfully Virgin and Voiceprint Records managed to put that right and for many years those editions remained pretty much the definitive article until the album was remastered a few years ago, augmented by a bonus disc of material carefully harvested (pun intended) from Ant’s own archives by his archivist Jonathan Dann, accompanied by the now standard exhaustive sleeve notes by same. Received well both by the fans and critically, it begged the question what could possibly be done to improve upon it?
Well, the one thing that had not been tried was to give the album the 5.1 remastering treatment and so, Ant’s new record label, Esoteric, bravely decided to do so for the current edition. I say bravely advisedly as such a process can sometimes backfire dramatically and Ant’s views on this can be read in a previous edition of TWR where he explains exactly what the process involves.
That said, what does the new edition bring to the story of this much-loved album? First of all if nothing else, it finally reunites the one track from this period which had never seen the light of day officially with the rest of its compatriots. Yes, the legendary B side to Silver Song, Only Your Love is finally available here completing the song cycle that is this album’s crowning glory. I have always said that I personally prefer this track to it’s A side and now you can get to hear why for yourselves.
However, the album is much more than just one track. Here we have The Geese… as it was originally intended and the 5.1 mix adds several surprises to the listening experience. Once again, this is very much like restoring an oil painting when the final oil bath reveals previously unsuspected details lurking under the dirt and grime. Hence, our familiarity gives way to surprise and delight as additional nuances unheard since the album was recorded are finally revealed for our consideration. Thankfully, Simon Heyworth who produced the album originally has trodden extremely carefully and has managed to avoid the pitfalls which lie in wait for the unwary and the resulting mix is a true delight from start to finish.
Once again, Esoteric have shown consummate delicacy and taste in the way in which they have packaged the album, issuing it in a lovely box comprising three discs. The first is the standard stereo mix, the second is the assembled associated tracks, and the third is the DVD containing the 5.1 mix. Each disc is housed in its own natty little slip case and is accompanied with a beautiful booklet including Jonathan Dann’s masterly essay on the history of the album and an introduction written by Alan Hewitt (whoever he is?!). I loved the reproduction of the album artwork poster with the woodcut extracts from Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times on the reverse.
This is already an album whose praises I have sung on more than one occasion I am pleased to say that I can continue to do so with this version which I am confident will remain the DEFINITIVE (a word I don’t like using but which is appropriate in this case) for many years to come. Congratulations to all involved - now, about that 5.1 mix of the unreleased album of Moravian basket weavers’ shanties that you mentioned, Mr Phillips….?!