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Anthony Phillips - Wise After The Event CD (album) cover

WISE AFTER THE EVENT

Anthony Phillips

 

Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 135 ratings

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7headedchicken
5 stars Like many of the great whimsical prog albums, some aspects of Wise After the Event may not reveal themselves until many listens later, and some moments may even come across as being dull at first. As with the Genesis albums it is often compared to, you really have to sit down and examine what's going on to fully understand it. The most diffucult thing to grasp for most will probably be the vocals, sung by Phillips, partly because they are relatively low in the mix, and partly because he doesn't sing with the dynamic power that some lead singers use. He has a very soft, whimsical voice, suited for telling stories, but it's very musical and expressive, and there are some absolutely stunning passages, especially in the tearjerking "Regrets", and the subtly complex title track where you can hear a man just pouring his heart into the microphone. I'm thinking in particular of the part in the title track where the strummed rhythm part drops out and the atmosphere changes to an orchestral and keyboardy string-pluck climb as Anthony applies volume swell-like crecendos to his sung notes to bring to the music emotional tension that is more commonly reserved for classical pieces. And if the part in "Regrets" with the "shouting out in the dark fo you to love me" and "cutting life from the hopes of an outstretched hand" doesn't make your goosebumps think they've seen a ghost, then you have no soul. There's also some great singing on "Pulling Faces", and the last track (on the vinyl; I have not heard the CD version, so I'm not counting "Squirrel" in this review), but what stands out most about this album are the arrangements. Even the simplest songs on here are fully embellished to a truly astonishing degree, lending much reward to repeated listening and close attention. The sound is essentially built around a folky layered 12-string foundation, but with a full band including dark synth washes, delicate pianos, and plenty of orchestral instruments. The feel of the sound could be compared to the kind of folk-prog with space/psychedelic tendencies that are on Selling England By the Pound, except this album stays closer to the calm side of that album, with the exception of "Pulling Faces", by far the most "rocking" track, with some very loud electric guitars, some nice tempo changes, and superb Michael Giles drumming. "We're All As We Lie" is probably the most ornate, with an expertly mixed cornocopia of instruments including what sounds to me like backwards sitar (although there's no sitar in the liner notes - either The Vicar is counting the sitar as one of the guitars listed, or he's just shaping the guitar tones in his usual way), tuned percussion, brilliant saxophone from Mel Collins, and a melody that begs to be sung along to, all overtop of the most perfectly inviting 12-string part that makes for a highly memorable album intro. At first, I thought "Birdsong" and "Moonshooter" sounded too similar to each other, but closer inspection revealed "Birdsong" to be slightly more complex and progressive, with "Moonshooter" being more of a soft-psychedelic pop song, reminding me a little of an early Pink Floyd delicacy like "Fearless" or "Fat Old Sun." I love the pause right before the chorus where the laid-back drum part joins and the chord chages to a minor V, and Anthony Phillips sings the song's name into the gorgeous melody that follows with its lush background, and the dreamy "carry on shooting your own moons" part after that. As light-hearted and whimsical as much of Wise After the Event is, the closing song "Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends)?" is a very serious purpose piece speaking out against the sport of hunting. Only Anthony Phillips could have taken such a topic and done it this beautifully and effectively. I would imagine that even just reading the lyrics (with choruses sung by God, and verses sung by the hunted animals) could make even the most avid hunter at least consider a new perspective. The music and vocal part only add that much more convincing plea to the song's worthy cause. Tying everything together, we have a short untitled instrumental at the end of side one with themes from the closing piece that foreshadows the album's rather dark ending, and the cover art is almost as interesting as the music - after viewing it, you will not be surprised once hearing the sound - very fitting. Please give this album a try if you haven't heard it - there is much to love here.
7headedchicken | 5/5 |

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