Esoteric [Release date: 17.11.14] 5-CD box set
For those Genesis fans still smarting from that TV documentary, here is the real deal. A 90 track compilation of original guitarist Anthony Phillips’ best bits. If Phillips and Hackett are the most prolific in terms of solo output, shame on the film makers that they didn’t feature in the solo segment. What a f—g liberty!
I’ve been intrigued by Phillips’ output for a long time now. After Genesis he produced a constant stream of work but at times albums were only available on import (Passport in the USA who ceased trading in 1988) or small labels (such as Street Tunes in the UK). He also turned to more lucrative film and library music. In this context, his ‘Missing Links’ series is up to volume 4 whilst his Private Parts & Pieces is now up to volume 11. But not all of these releases are represented here.
Essentially this release is an update of Cherry Red’s 1985 compilation, from which it takes its name. Anthony Phillips fans will no doubt be well up to speed, but this anthology will do much to put his work back in the public domain and in music fans’ consciousness.
I am assuming that Esoteric will eventually re-issue all the albums, although many have been available previously via the now defunct Voiceprint/Blueprint label. It was Rob Ayling of that label who did much to flag wave for Phillips in the 1990s even if the remastering and packaging was sometimes a bit iffy. And this collection includes three tracks from ‘The Living Room Concert’ which originally appeared on Voiceprint as a limited edition ringbound lyric book/CD in 1995.
Understandably, much of Phillips first solo album – ‘The Geese And The Ghost’ – is included. It was three years after his departure from Genesis and he enlisted Messrs Collins and Rutherford on several tracks but the album’s gestation was protracted and it wasn’t finally released until 1977. The artist Peter Cross (now perhaps best known for his cat and mouse greeting cards) designed the cover and started an acquaintance which would prevail for future releases.
The 5 discs are not exactly chronological which might be a bit confusing for some. Arguably the key tracks from his core “commercial” albums, such as ‘Wise After The Event’ (1978), ‘Sides’(1979) ’1984′ (1981) and ‘Invisible Men’ (1983) are included but certain albums are missing such as several ‘Missing Links’ including the first in the series, ‘Finger Painting’ (1989). In 1990 Phillips signed with Virgin and produced the more accessible ‘Slow Dance’ represented here by an edited version of one of the two original tracks.
Musically, Phillips veered between pastoral texturing, pop nuancing and English whimsy so in a sense there is a firm connection with the early Genesis albums. Throughout his career he has seemingly eschewed commerciality (although dabbling unsuccessfully) and this gives his body of work a certain timelessness and credibility.
Phillips’ collaborations over the years (including Mike Rutherford – represented here by a single B-side ‘Compression’ – and Harry Williamson on ‘Tarka’ (1988) and ‘Gypsy Suite’ (1995) are included and give the impression of a very talented, rounded performer perfectly at ease in the studio if not on stage. But Phillips’ later collaboration with Williamson – ‘Batte Of The Birds – A Celtic Tale’ (2003) – is absent.
10 unreleased tracks round off Disc Five (mostly recorded in the last decade) and collectors will also want to seek out the previously unreleased single version of ‘Silver Song’ featuring Phil Collins. This handsome package is rounded out with a new illustrated essay by Jonathan Dann and it reminds me of the excellent job Universal did for the Camel retrospective in 2010.
Compilations will inevitably be highly subjective. Aficionados will want to seek out the original albums (which will be difficult for sure) or wait for the inevitable re-configured remastered editions. Invariably, Phillips followers will have the original vinyl. Whatever, this reissue campaign will have the positive effect of raising Anthony Phillips’ profile and invite re-investigation, something that the Genesis documentary makers could only hint at in their flawed history of his original band. ****1/2
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Anthony Phillips is a Featured Artist at Get Ready to ROCK! Radio and is the subject of a recent interview to be broadcast on Sunday, 29 March 2015 at 16:00
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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