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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Anthony Phillips - Slow Dance

This 2-CD/DVD set consists of Anthony Phillips release of Slow Dance. Originally released on the Virgin label, this showed his orchestral side to him. And it is a very interesting release that embarked on. Reissued this year by Esoteric Recordings, it is time to give Slow Dance another chance and give Anthony the recognition he deserves. He’s been overlooked from the history of his time with Genesis as an original founder.

Anthony Phillips appeared in the first two Genesis albums which were the 1969 debut of From Genesis to Revelation which showed their psychedelic-pop, Bee Gees, and pastoral baroque music. But it wasn’t until they released their second album and signed to a new label with Charisma Records in 1970 with Trespass that showed their beginnings of their progressive rock roots digging deep into of complex music with a story that had a beginning, middle, and end.

Anthony left the band to pursue studying Classical Music. While he lacked Theory-based music, he practiced eight hours. But let’s get straight to Slow Dance. It started back in June of 1988 when he worked on the album. He wrote the pieces for the material very quickly. Just as Slow Dance was almost done, Ant went to the States for a few days to be with his family. And then the news came to him that Passport Records in which they released his solo albums, ceased.

This wasn’t good news. Not only Anthony was without a record company, but he had to pay a debt to management of repaying the money. Now he had no idea whether or not he wanted to delay the album and look for other work, but he decided to plow on. After Tarka was completed with guitarist Harry Williamson, Engineer Simon Heyworth who worked with him since The Geese and the Ghost, helped him out on the Slow Dance project.

He also used a real string section on his album during the recording at CBS studios in February of 1989. And then, he signed to Richard Branson’s Virgin label at the spring of 1990 as the album was released in September of that year. It was a long process in the making to bring it to life. As I’ve mentioned, Anthony Phillips’ music is different from his time with Genesis.

It was very different from his previous albums on Sides, The Geese and the Ghost, Wise After the Event, and 1984. It showed Anthony’s orchestral side that showed elements between Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, and Jean-Michel Jarre. It took me a few listens to delve deep into Slow Dance, but it grabbed me more and more to understand why he was ahead of his time. It may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but it grows on you.

The first movement begins with ambient strings coming in with a heavenly introduction. Ant’s classical guitar sets gentle tones along with wind instruments. It feels that you have walked through the forest of lost hope as the images come through your head of what’s happening. There are some moments of early Genesis and bits of The Enid’s In The Region of Summer Stars.

Phillips takes you for a ride towards scenes for a fantasy film that’s been done right. The synths delve deep, deep into the watery tunnels with no chance of escaping. There is some alarming organ notes, percussion, and clapping rhythm sections. Along with the vocalizations from the keyboards and fanfare sections, Phillips brings the sombering electric-classical guitar for this melancholic sound.

It’s almost at times from the first movement. set to a scene of the continuation of Disney’s Fantasia. The last three minutes of the pieces shows Anthony giving the listener a chance of hope of knowing that a new day will happen and it will start over again to be back of where you were.

The second movement starts to open doors to another parallel infinite universe as if you can imagine something terrible has happened with ascending and descending guitars and militant drums. But all of a sudden, it rises up from the ashes of the electronic drum pads. There is this very interesting Jazz section for a little bit as Anthony shows a teensy-weensy bit of a Allan Holdsworth-sque vibe into the mix.

It changes at the 14 minute and 17 second mark as it becomes a battlefield featuring the string section. It’s a bloody uphill battle. Epic fanfare horns and knowing its going to be hard, difficult, and brutal and thanks to the drum program it is again an epic moment in the second act. You can imagine Ant is a conductor at heart to create this scenario of what’s happening.

Now let’s be honest Anthony is not Leopold Stokowski, but he is bringing the magic and ideas in his head come to life. You can imagine the men who are making the sacrifices in the battle sequence, knowing whether or not it is going to be their last goodbyes they say to their families. It then changes into an aftermath of what has happened. The strings come forth near the end of watery effects to give the second movement, a mourning farewell.

The second disc which is Slow Dance Vignettes. It contains nine pieces during the making of the album. And three of them stood out for me. The Guitar Adagio from Slow Dance is a penultimate section from the first movement that has the gentle tone. You can close your eyes and imagine a sun rising through the west as Anthony channels Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi’s acoustic side with both Laguna Sunrise and Fluff.

With Clarinet Sleigh Ride, Ant delves into the waters between both Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk in the background. It’s an unearthed track from the sessions that I’ve never heard before and it’s very interesting to have some of these melodic rising pieces as if Anthony Phillips was doing a score in the late ‘80s for a special on PBS.

Then, there’s this newly mixed version of the string parts with an emotional heart-tugging stir between the crossover of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Bach’s Air on the G String with Lenta Chorum. There’s also a DVD containing a 5.1 mix of the album by also. When Slow Dance was released in that year in the UK on September 24th, it was the last album to be released on Vinyl, Cassette, and CD. It’s been considered a fan favorite along with Ant himself.

I hope one day Anthony Phillips goes back and revisits this album and moving from the electronic parts he used on the album and bring a real orchestra to give Slow Dance a chance to be reborn. The package is amazing. It contains the 2-CDs and the DVD, followed by a replica poster, a 16-page booklet containing promos of the album in Japan, original master tape, liner notes by Jonathan Dann interviewing Phillips about the origins, making, and release of the album, and a note written on manuscript paper that says “NO WAY OUT. PIECE V”.

If you love the music of Anthony Phillips, then Slow Dance is really worth exploring and highly recommended to show again Anthony’s orchestral, new age, and symphonic side to him.

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