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Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 5 / 2009

Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips


Anthony Phillips was the original guitarist with Genesis and appeared on their debut, 'From Genesis to Revelation'. Malcolm Carter examines three of his solo albums, 'The Geese and the Ghost', 'Wise After the Event' and '1984, all of which have been recently reissued.

Anthony Phillips was the original guitarist in Genesis and was, therefore, part of the band when they made their best album, their debut ‘From Genesis To Revelation’ in 1969. He left the band in 1970, the same year that they released their second album, ‘Trespass’. The reasons for his departure from a band that went on to be shift millions of albums around the globe are well documented elsewhere, but it has to be said that listening to these albums over 30 years since the oldest one was originally released that he probably did the right thing musically by leaving. All three of these ‘solo’ albums, 'The Geese and the Ghost', 'Wise After the Event' and '1984' now come as two CD packages courtesy of Voiceprint and they must be in the running for the most beautifully produced reissues of 2009. The sleeves of 1977's 'The Geese and the Ghost' and 1978’s ‘Wise After the Event’ were striking to begin with but Voiceprint have really gone to town and done a brilliant job on the repackaging. They have kept, thankfully, the artwork from the original sleeves and while a CD inlay can never match the beauty of a 12” sleeve the reproduction is sharp and the colours faithful. The booklets are full of lyrics, photos and information by Jonathan Dann and Anthony Phillips which are worth the price of the CDs alone. All three reissues are beautifully presented and it’s obvious they have been put together by people who care about such things. Spread over the extra disc that comes with each package are demos, early mixes and songs that didn’t make the original issues for one reason or another. It all adds up to a real feast for any early Genesis fan. It took Phillips seven years between leaving the band he founded and releasing his first ‘solo’ album, ‘The Geese and the Ghost’. While a lot of the music is some way removed from the first Genesis album, if not so different in places from ‘Trespass’, there is an obvious Genesis sound due in no small part to the presence of both Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. The beautiful title track goes all the way back to 1969 so was born back in the days when Phillips was part of Genesis anyway. The two songs Phil Collins contributes vocals to were recorded way before the drummer took over main vocal duties in Genesis and give some indication of what was to come when Peter Gabriel left the band. Because of the Genesis connection much of Phillips work has been overlooked because of the ‘prog-rock’ tag their early work attracted. But on his first solo album that’s an unfair description. In 1977 when punk and disco ruled prog-rock was a dirty word and Phillips was making music that in some ways was out of time, but has stood the passing of years much better than either punk or disco. There is no sign that the music on any of theses reissues is at least 28 years old this year. It’s obvious now that Phillips was producing modern classical music, music that is timeless and impossible to pin down to the year in which it was made. What will be the icing on the cake for any Genesis / Phil Collins fan on ‘The Geese and the Ghost’ will be the inclusion on the second disc of ‘Silver Song’, which was recorded for the original album but never used and has been only been previously available on poor quality bootlegs. Showcasing the 12 string talents of both Phillips and Rutherford there will be as many who feel that the song should have been left as an instrumental, as so stunning is the guitar playing of the duo, as there are for who Collin’s vocals will be the highpoint. Thankfully both instrumental and vocal versions are included on the second disc. Phillips second solo album, ‘Wise After the Event’, following on a year after his debut, was produced by Rupert Hine and shows a poppier Phillips. While there are some lengthy pieces like the title track and ‘Now What(are They Doing to My Little Friends)’ which clock in at ten and eight minutes respectively and which reflect the suites on his debut, the shorter songs like ‘We’re All As We Lie’ and ‘Greenhouse’ are immediate pop / rock songs. They are not as complex as the long tracks Phillips is adept at writing and show that Phillips really should have troubled the singles charts when these songs were originally issued. For anyone who has yet to be transfixed by the beautiful music Philips has made then ‘Wise After the Event’ is the place to start. With only one co-write and taking on more vocals it is more of a Phillips solo album than ‘The Geese and the Ghost’ even with telling contributions from some of his famous friends. It’s been said that the intention with this album was to introduce Phillips to a mainstream audience and twenty one years after its original release it’s difficult to understand why it didn’t. Again the extra disc with this package is made up of demos and instrumental mixes, which while fascinating for die-hard fans are also pleasant listening for those who are hearing Phillips for the first time. ‘1984’ which Phillips started recording in 1980 divided his fans. Looking back now one can easily see why. An album which only features, according to the sleeve credits, ‘occasional guitar’ by Phillips and which is dominated by synthesizers may have been more of its time in 1981 when it was released, but the absence of Phillip’s stunning guitar playing must have been a shock to fans at the time. To be fair there are snatches of his trademark guitar on this album, but the introduction of drum machines and a synth-dominated album was not what was expected from the ex-Genesis man. But with the whole album written by Phillips it showed that he could still write decent melodies and while this album has dated more than the other two in this reissue series, one has to applaud Phillips for trying something different. It’s not a bad album by any means and hasn’t dated as badly as some produced in that period. In fact there are some segments in the nineteen minute ‘1984 Part One’ track that are simply stunning in their simplicity, but one feels that it will be the least popular of the three reissues. A major attraction though will be the inclusion of ‘The Rule Britannia Suite’ which Phillips was commissioned to write for a six-part ATV television series and which are released here on the second disc for the first time along with early mixes of the tracks that appear on the original ‘1984’ album. All pieces are short, the longest one being less than two minutes and they fit in nicely with the ‘1984’ album as they are all performed on the Polymoog ARP 2600 Phillips was using on the original album. They will be of considerable interest to fans of Phillips. So, two albums of beautifully produced, timeless, almost indescribable music dominated by the guitar playing of one of our most underrated musicians, and one album where he shows that he can take on another genre with ease and still create sublime melodies and music that holds the attention. If you’re a fan of Phillips you may have already bought these reissues, they are excellent, but for the uninitiated start with ‘Wise after the Event’ and be prepared to discover some breathtaking music. As a footnote I would just like to add that the music has been lovingly re-mastered by Simon Heyworth and both Phillips and Jonathan Dann played a major part in the reissue program. Now, as Simon Heyworth is involved, is there any chance that the collaboration that Phillips and Harry Williamson made in 1988 under the title of ‘Tarka’ could get the same treatment as Heyworth also produced that? Apart from a new re-master of the beautiful acoustic-based music that recalls the first solo album by Phillips it would be an excuse to see the stunning Susan George back in the CD racks!

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Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips

Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips

Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips

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