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Anthony Phillips - Anthony Phillips & Harry Williamson: Tarka CD (album) cover


Anthony Phillips

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars One of the most lavish and orchestrated of Ant's works, Tarka is one of his few most enjoyable albums, not some much highlighting his guitar playing as is often the case, but more so his sense of composition and arrangement of a larger ensemble of instruments, and to excellent effect. This would be among his few best albums.
Report this review (#25979)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars File under easy listening

"Tarka" is based on the book "Tarka the otter" by Henry Williamson. The music was apparently originally written as the soundtrack to the film based on the book, but was never used. Thus, it took about 11 years from the album's conception, to its eventual release.

The album is actually credited to Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson (the son of the author of the book) as a joint project, rather than just to Phillips alone. In truth however, their contribution is largely swamped by the lush orchestration, which transforms the whole album into a quasi-classical piece. The classical connection is accentuated by the fact the album consists of four long pieces, or movements.

It sounds to me as if the basic tracks have been laid down first, mainly on acoustic guitar, then orchestrated later. This may in reality not be the case(!), but the balance leans heavily towards the orchestra. The playing of Phillips and Williams is therefore further back in the mix than might be expected.

The music is pleasant if generally under-whelming, with lots of appropriate running water "plinking" on the keyboards and guitar. It is the sort of music that is nice to put on in the background. For those hoping to hear traces of Phillips brief time with Genesis, only the familiar acoustic guitar style gives even a hint of this.

Report this review (#25980)
Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars An album that was years in the making, or rather, years before it saw the light of day - it was certainly worth the wait. Anthony collaborates here with Harry Williamson (Williamson co-wrote, played guitars and keyboards) whose father authored the book about Tarka the otter. I'm not familiar with Williamson's other work, so I cant tell how much he detracted from this album! But it seems to me, based on my knowledge of Ant's work, that his collaboration with Williamson is what keeps this album from being PERFECT. This could easily have been a work as beautiful and grand as SLOW DANCE, but I fear that when Ant works with lesser lights, the outcome is often less than stellar. With rich orchestration - from a real live orchestra, and great themes and musical ideas, this album captures the bucolic mood of the great outdoors, both land and sea. This is "A Day in the Life" of an otter - if anyone can figure out what the hell that is. But I'm sure the otters really dig this album. So will you if you give it a listen: guitars, keyboards, and traditional orchestra - all put at the service of the brilliant Anthony Phillips. It's sure to please and inspire. Ant was astute enough to add a piece written only by him. As he has done so many times before ("Anthem 1984", "Sleepfall/Geese Fly West") he takes you on a musical journey to the corner of your soul. With beautiful synthesizers and a melody played on a lilting, meloncholic oboe, track 4, "The Anthem" is classic Phillips, and classic Prog rock. In fact, that song alone is what brings this collaboration album from 3.5 stars up to 4!
Report this review (#25981)
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is PHILLIPS' most "classical" album to date. In fact, it is a classical score to film (?) that never came out. But it is a goodie! No question that Phillips is not a classical composer. However, in his attempt to compose semi-classical music, he comes up with something altogether wonderful. It's not very good classical music. Yet, if you like orchestral-prog, you will love this album. It is an album in four movements. Heavy on strings, keyboards, guitars, it is lilting and big - both at the same time. Pick this up. You will impress your friends.
Report this review (#54454)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This has to be one of the most gorgeous instrumental albums of all time. Obviously based on the book by Henry Williamson, this is a collaboration between Anthony Phillips and Henry's son, Harry. It's mainly orchestral apart from acoustic guitars and some keyboards and it captures the mood of the book and the film perfectly (although it wasn't actually used in the film). It's hard to believe that music as good as this remained in the vaults for ten years until rescued thanks to Susan George. It's very relaxing music, the sort you can put on in the background and chill out to, although this is not to say it is background "lift music" - it also bears up to concentrated listening. Just listen to the short "Postlude" track, remember the end of the book and feel those goosebumps!
Report this review (#83669)
Posted Thursday, July 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I totally agree with reviewer "chopper". This is indeed one of the most gorgeous instrumental albums of all time! If you played this record in the "classical" section of a music store, none of the bespectacled elites who were browsing through the bins, would be able to guess that Tarka was writeen by one of the pioneers of prog rock. The only track that would give them a clue is the final track, "Anthem" that is heavy on the synthes. Proggers, don't worry though, there are enough Prog elements here to keep you happy. This is huge! A daring and successful project from one of the originals.
Report this review (#83738)
Posted Friday, July 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars Slowly coming, as a river stream from source, through creek size waterline to big river. Same with Tarka. I must confess that I haven't seen the movie, nor read the book. Even this music wasn't used, it is connected with it, inspired by it.

So here I go nature, beware of my mighty footprints. Not big business, this is not wilderness, this is carefuly directed countryside. It's so fragile, or maybe the right word is tender. Strings, soft keyboards, no voice. Flute, piano, these instruments are npt so often used (solely these) in prog rock music. Anthony Phillips is interesting person. I wonder where Genesis could be now with him. Nevermind, this music is easy to listen, but hard to review and decide what it deserves. It seems more like ambient music to me, something pleasant, but not too proggy. Maybe I just lack voice or something more "rockingly".

3(+) stars.

Report this review (#229499)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was rather positive about the prior album from dear old Anthony. His seventh private parts were quite nice to listen to and I really had a great feeling while listening to "Ice Flight". This album is of another texture and sounds much more classical.

The first movement of this work is truly gorgeous and impressive. This is a superb combo of delicate acoustic guitar, harmony and symphony at the same time. There is a definite "Trespass" feel during most of this piece which is my fave one from the whole album.

The second movement is almost as catchy. Some great violin parts are featured, symphonic moments are present; these features are combined with an overall pleasant orchestral feel. My interest in the music performed throughout this release is unfortunately going downwards with the third movement: this is due to the overall classical feel which is quite frankly too much for my ears. This work has started rather positively but I was quite disappointed after a while.

The shortest and closing part ("Anthem") from this offering is the most pleasant one in terms of my perception. It is elegant, discreet and beautiful. It is a fine way to say goodbye but the whole of this "Tarka" couldn't really move me. Classical and prog music have never been my cup of tea. And never will. Still, this effort is not bad at all and I will upgrade it from average to three stars.

Report this review (#531707)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A realm of beauty. Fifty minutes of joy. Fantastic in any respect. Besides that, the album is a unique example of a crossover genre which must be considered innovative.

The history of concerto for an instrument and orchestra started more than two centuries ago. Concerti for piano, violin, viola, cello, even contrabass, flute or French horn and orchestra are wide known and quite habitual. The rock era brought concerto for group and orchestra (though Lord's first and only experiment never developed into a tendency and still remains one-of-a-kind). But, at least to my knowledge, there was no concerto for acoustic guitar and symphonic orchestra before Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson. Their Tarka was the first ever.

Though maybe it should be better classified as a hybrid of concerto for guitar and orchestra and symphonic poem, due to not so leading role of acoustic guitar which is totally missing in Movement Three; apart from that, Tarka is structured not quite according to the classical model by Haydn and Mozart. Movement One is not an allegro, Movement Two is slow but neither aria-like nor divided into three parts. Only Movement Three meets the classical requirements being a theme with variations in fast tempo. In addition, there's a sort of post scriptum in the end, The Anthem, a slow composition of 'song without words' type.

So, Tarka is a derivative version of concerto, with atypical soloing instrument (acoustic guitar), strong elements of symphonic poem, and symphonic orchestra playing what a rock band should rather play (some moments of Movement Two and Movement Three). I don't know who of the two authors (Phillips or Williamson) played major role as composer and arranger, but anyway the result is top.

Report this review (#1057385)
Posted Thursday, October 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars An orphan film score

Tarka is a large scale instrumental work consisting of three longer "movements" followed by a shorter "postlude", and is Anthony Phillips's most orchestral work. I think it is roughly comparable in style to the orchestral version of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Strictly speaking this is not an Anthony Phillips album, but rather a collaborative work by Phillips and Harry Williamson. The music was inspired by the novel "Tarka The Otter" by Henry Williamson (which I believe is Harry's father).

Originally the music featured here was composed as a soundtrack for a film based on the book. But, as it turned out, the final version of the film (which were finished in 1979) did not include any of this music. Wikipedia states that: "In 1976 Anthony Phillips, formerly a guitarist with Genesis, and Harry Williamson recorded a soundtrack to the film of Tarka the Otter with the support of David Cobham, the producer. Harry had helped to persuade his father to sign the contract, reassuring him that with the music he had composed, the film would be true to the book. When the film rushes were shown, however, it became apparent that there had never been any intention to use this orchestral work in the film." So, apparently the two musicians (as well as the author of the novel) were fooled by the makers of the film.

From the information above it should be clear that this music is a lot older than the release date of the album suggests. It wasn't until the late 80's, however, that this work was completed and finally released in 1988. I find this album a pleasant listen, but isn't anything more than that. Perhaps it would have been excellent as film music, but without the accompanying images this is not strong enough to stand on its own as a work of music.

Report this review (#1140409)
Posted Sunday, March 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Teamed with Harry Williamson, is a mixed bag of various instruments, mainly classical to provide a score to a film that is rich in the sound, peaceful in ambiance and prefers substance to the way music is played. Do not expect any complex progressive rock instrumentation, nor classical guitar being the centerfield of the concert. Every instrument has its place to take in the orchestra. Still, piano and guitar are easy to discern from other instruments and take lead in the melody.

Guitar playing is mastered to the full extent, as we are used at AP's albums. Second movement has even avantgarde elements with percussions and brass instruments.

The music is not chaotic; it is well structured and motives can be found upon deeper listening. "Movement III" provides the finale of the concert as the final piece.

"The anthem" is more a new-age relaxing composition with clear melody and a formidable goodbye to yet another new territory by AP.

A decent album!

Report this review (#2242879)
Posted Saturday, August 10, 2019 | Review Permalink

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