“Stupid before the occurrence… oh no, we’ve done that!” Anthony Phillips’ Wise After The Event album reissue reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Yes, I know, we’ve done that joke before but I couldn’t resist! As I said earlier, Esoteric Records have been doing Genesis fans proud over the last few years and fans of Anthony Phillips’ work in particular as their excellent series of reissues and the Harvest Of The Heart box sets have demonstrated. Here we are with that problematic second album by Anthony, 1978’s Wise After The Event.
An album that tends to divide opinion among his fans, this one as some are not enamoured of his vocals or indeed prefer him as an instrumental artist to the detriment of songs at all. And that is indeed a shame as this album to my mind contains some of his strongest work as is eminently demonstrated on this new reissue. As usual, the disc is accompanied by an excellent booklet outlining the story of the album written by Ant’s archivist Jonathan Dann explaining the development of each track including the unreleased material which no doubt will be the main area of interest for long standing fans. It is nice little touches such as the fold out mini poster which accompanies this set which also marks out Esoteric as a company who put that little bit more effort into the presentation of their releases.
Ant’s decision, aided by that of producer Rupert Hine to sing the material himself was a brave one. Ant’s voice is not the greatest you will hear, as he himself will be the first to admit, but as you can hear as you listen to this album, it does have a certain charm and naivete which in these days of mass produced chart fodder certainly makes for a refreshing change.
That and the fact that there is also a depth and humour to the lyrics, with many an interplay or pun on words to be heard throughout the album makes for a much more entertaining effort all round. The new mix of the album also manages to bring details previously obscured to the fore which, as someone who has been familiar with this album since its release all those years ago, makes the entire listening experience a delight once more. Highlights of the album for me include the opener: We’re All As We Lie, the deeply emotional Regrets and the haunting Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?) all of which are every bit as fascinating and emotive today as they were back in 1978 and in the case of the latter just as pertinent too!
Fans expecting or hoping for further extras this time round will perhaps be disappointed that the second disc does not contain any additional material to that which graced the 2008 Voiceprint edition. That said, what we have here is infinitely more interesting than you will find on most similar repackaging. The selection of alternative mixes, demos and single edits, all help to illustrate the development of the tracks and indeed the album itself and are accompanied once again by thorough and informative sleeve notes in the booklet which comes with the album by Ant’s archivist Jonathan Dann.
Existing fans will know what to expect with this album but newer fans who are investigating its riches for the first time will be in for a treasure trove of delights and once again, Esoteric Records have managed to combine style AND substance in an extremely satisfying fashion here and this release does them and the artist whose music it is more than justice - well done all round.