Back in 1965 Anthony Phillips formed a band called Anon. Sadly, Anon was just what they were destined to remain except for two very important facts. First, the band was formed at Charterhouse, a huge and expensive school near Godalming in Surrey. Second, Mike Rutherford was also in its ranks.
One of the first things Anthony wrote was a song called “Patricia”. As Anon evolved into Genesis, the line-up included not only Phillips and Rutherford, but also Peter Gabriel, and Tony Banks. Anthony's “Patricia” became “In Hiding” and would appear on the first Genesis album. After signing a recording contract and releasing a couple of singles From Genesis To Revelation came out. The year was 1969.
1970 saw Genesis supporting the likes of Fairport Convention, Deep Purple, and Atomic Rooster. This was also the year that they signed to the Charisma label, appeared on the BBC Nightride programme, and released the breakthrough Trespass album. A feature of that record and the early Genesis sound was the gorgeous guitar work of both Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford.
The venues quickly got bigger and bigger as Genesis emerged as one of the bands to see. The story goes that it all proved too much for Anthony Phillips who left the band on the advice of his doctor following a battle against stage fright. Genesis of course continued their meteoric rise and became literally huge. Anthony could only watch from afar.
Now thanks to the Voiceprint label his solo albums are being lavishly re-released. They have been re-mastered, and carry an additional disc of bonus material, including many previously unheard gems, along with extensive album notes and great artwork.
The Geese And The Ghost
At the time he left Genesis he had already started to write the material that would eventually appear on his first solo album, The Geese And The Ghost. Within days of his departure he had written “Which Way The Wind Blows”, “God If I Saw Her Now”, and “Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times”.
However, some of the ideas dated back much earlier. The title track itself had been co-written with Rutherford back in 1969 and had originally been called “D Instrumental”. Also from that era we have the track “Collections”. Sadly, the album was shelved for several years as Anthony decided to undertake formal musical studies at the Guildhall School of Music in London.
Richly set within Medieval themes of pageants, and battles the album has now been released as part of the Voiceprint series complete with an incredibly generous bonus CD. The effect on hearing this excellent album is like discovering an unheard Genesis gem from the Trespass, Foxtrot, or Nursery Cryme era.
To underline the point Phil Collins, who by the time the album was released, had replaced Peter Gabriel as Genesis’ voice, appears on “Which Way The Wind Blows” and the wonderful “God If I Saw Her Now”. Mike Rutherford, who was able to take a break from Genesis because of an injury to Anthony’s replacement Steve Hackett, adds his excellent guitar skill. The result is an album of spine tingling beauty and extraordinary quality.
Sadly, the release of the album was delayed even further when Charisma decided that it was somewhat out of step with the changing music scene of the time. It was 1977 after all. Fortunately US based label Passport rescued the album and the second half was completed.
Genesis manager Tony Smith, who also managed Anthony, went as far as to create a special label, Hit & Run, to help release the album in the UK.
The album fully justifies that sort of faith. The musicianship is of the highest possible quality and the writing has both depth and individuality with the end result setting it aside from its more illustrious counterparts. The Geese And The Ghost is a remarkable album, that radiates beauty, pageant, and fanfare at every turn.
At it’s centre is “Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times”, a seven part musical extravaganza. As you can imagine with track titles such as this the album is rich with a quirky quintessentially English flavour and despite the passage of thirty plus years it has aged remarkably well.
The bonus disc contains twelve additional gems. This is an absolute must for not only fans of Genesis but anyone who recognizes the sheer quality of the music, and writing on offer.
Wise After The Event
The following year, 1978, saw the release of Anthony’s second solo album, Wise After The Event. Some of the tracks namely “Regrets” again date back to his days in Genesis. Several more such as “Birdsong” and “Squirrel” were from the period immediately after his departure from the band.
This is more of a 'song based' album rather than the long intricate instrumental pieces that graced The Geese And The Ghost. Opening with “We’re All As We Lie” there are highlights aplenty in another highly satisfying set.
The gentle “Birdsong and Reprise” leads nicely into the gorgeous “Moonshooter”. For this album Anthony was encouraged to provide his own vocals. The result is a sometimes quaint, faintly quirky, and always endearing performance that sits nicely against his trademark quality writing.
The ten minute title track provides an excellent centre piece to the album. Lush orchestration is added to “Regrets” whilst the painfully sad “Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?)” came from Anthony’s horror at seeing seals being clubbed to death in a cull shown on the news. “Greenhouse”, “Paperchase”, and “Squirrel” all maintain the album’s quality.
Again the bonus disc contains a wealth of goodies. This time fourteen tracks ranging from demos to alternative takes are included.
1979 was a busy year for Anthony Phillips. Two more solo albums, Sides, and the first of the Private Parts & Pieces series were released and he also helped old friend Mike Rutherford on his Smallcreeps Day album. In 1980 he released Private Parts & Pieces Part 2:- Back To The Pavilion and commenced work on his latest idea, 1984.
1984 represents something of a sidestep in his career. Perhaps this is best explained by the man himself when he says in the informative album notes, ‘what did come to mind was an idea to use a lot of interesting synth sounds, current electronic sounds if you like but at the same time to be quite descriptive and almost semi-classical in a way’.
He had, in fact, recently acquired two synthesizers, a Polymoog and an ARP 2600. They had already appeared tentatively in some of his previous albums, albeit adding mere splashes of colour behind his characteristic acoustic style. For 1984, however, he constructed the whole album around the instruments. It came as something of a shock to his many followers and admirers alike and certainly divided opinion.
Having said that, Anthony had been engaged in studying music at an extremely high level for some time and as a result classical influences are written deeply into the music.
During the writing for the album he was also commissioned to write the music for a television series called Rule Britannia. He was asked to provide music that sounded like ‘Vaughan Williams with a twist’. He succeeded in his brief and his music for the series was extremely well received, successfully managing to tap into the essential ‘Englishness’ required.
Having completed Rule Britannia he returned to work on his 1984 project. The album is divided into four sections opening with the four minute “Prelude ‘84” and ending with the shorter “Anthem 1984”. Sandwiched between are the two central sections of the work.
“1984 Part One” clocks in at just over nineteen minutes whilst “1984 Part Two” measures up at fifteen and half. Anthony sums up the response to the album by saying, ‘many thought I’d deserted my acoustic roots and gone barmy; others notably in Italy and the US loved it.’
True enough you either like synth based albums typical of the era or you don't. Either way this one does contain some sweeping classically based movements that are compellingly attractive.
The bonus disc is made up of alternative mixes and early demos. Included in among them is the six part "Rule Britannia Suite", and the excellent "Ascension".
In summary, all three of these re-releases do justice, at long last, to the work and career of Anthony Phillips. Despite always being referred back to his time in Genesis and the reasons for his departure Anthony has subsequently carved out an impressive career in his own right.
Certainly, The Geese And The Ghost sits nicely alongside his former band’s early work. The additional contributions of Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford emphasize the point.
Meanwhile Wise After The Event sees him reluctantly tackling vocals, whilst 1984 captures him take a huge gamble by producing a synthesizer work that contains many classical inspired gems within its sprawling ambition.
Voiceprint have done an excellent job in releasing all three with high quality bonus material, artwork, and biographical album notes from all involved in the various projects including of course the man himself.