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Anthony Phillips - The Geese And The Ghost CD (album) cover


Anthony Phillips


Symphonic Prog

4.02 | 335 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is the first solo release by former Genesis guitarist Phillips, some six years following his departure from the band owing to severe stage fright. In Armando Gallo's definitive biography of the band, he cites this album as being the reason why he ached at the fact that Phillips had left his favourite band. That is, in my opinion, mightily unfair to Steve Hackett, who made a tremendous contribution in a unique fashion. However, you can see why Gallo made the comment, because this is, undoubtedly, a magnificent piece of work, one that makes you wonder why vast commercial success has eluded this incredibly talented man.

There is, of course, a very strong Genesis connection at play here. Mike Rutherford contributes both musically and in production, whilst Phil Collins gives lie to all those who think he cannot sing by appearing on two beautifully performed tracks, and John Hackett, Steve's brother, also contributes with his distinctive and perfect flutes.

This album embodies, to me, just about the perfect combination of pastoral, symphonic, classical English progressive rock. Without a shadow of a doubt, the quite incredible Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times was a direct influence on much of the medieval themes that Ritchie Blackmore was to develop with the excellent Blackmore's Night, and if you are an admirer of that type of folk prog, you will find yourself falling deeply in love with this fourteen minute opus. Proof positive that you do not need raging guitars or swirling keyboards in order to create a symphonic, pastoral masterpiece. Just combine a virtuoso guitarist and, in a move that surprised many, also an extremely talented multi instrumentalist, with a strong sense of classical music, and a host of classical and talented musicians, and you get just about the perfect suite. Quiet and melodic, it never once fails to excite or move the listener.

The two Collins contributions are really quite brilliant. Which Way The Wind Blows is the first and is quite achingly beautiful. You leave this track wishing that Collins & Phillips had done far more work together.

The second is God If I Saw Her Now, a duet with the late, great, Viv McAuliffe, and if there has been a better male/female vocal collaboration this side of 1800, then I would like to know what it was. Gentle, but exhilarating in its mellowness, your heart aches with the vocals and lyrics with the sense of love lost, never to return. Combine this with just about the finest exhibition of acoustic guitar and flute, and you have just about the perfect love song.

About the only criticism I can offer is the almost criminal brevity that Chinese Mushroom Cloud has to offer. A dark and extremely foreboding instrumental piece that evokes said catastrophe, quite why he left it short of a minute long is rather beyond me. This leads into the two part title track, which is wondrous. Almost deceptively simple, this track is, perhaps, the one which reminds you most strongly of the Trespass connection, certainly in some of the darker acoustic guitar passages, and the sparse, but effective, electric guitar bursts, merged with Phillips' surprisingly adept use of the mellotron, and this at a time when it was virtually a capital crime to utilise this instrument in the wake of all things punk. To prove Phillips' worth as a composer, it sounds as fresh in 2011 as it did in 1977, perhaps more than Trespass does now (although I am a big fan of that LP). The orchestration utilised, in particular woodwind, fully enhances the experience, and the second part brings us some more experimental sounds that would have been interesting in the Genesis context.

Phillips himself sings the rather lovely Collections. I would never state that he has the strongest voice, but, strangely, his voice does tend to suit his own compositions (in the main, there are exceptions in the catalogue), and this gentle vocal over piano and swirling flutes can bring no cause for complaint.

The album closes with the orchestral piece Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West, and, if you close your eyes, you can see them do so as the music concludes in a marvellous display of classical symphonic music.

Anthony Phillips' solo career has been a long one now, and he has released some exceptional works. This was the first, and it remains one of the finest albums released by any artist listed on this site. An album which will appeal to all of those who appreciate the finer, classical, side of symphonic prog, this is a work which every single discerning lover of class music should own in their collection.

Five stars - a masterpiece of progressive rock music. This review is, by the way, of the original vinyl release, but there is now a two CD version for sale with "extras". Get it. You won't be disappointed.

lazland | 5/5 |


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