You are a young guitarist, talented and hard-working, and join a band of school mates. It’s 1967 and everyone is forming bands, so why not? And this one has promise, it records a debut album in 1969 that is well-regarded but doesn’t sell a whole lot, possibly because of its biblical title or maybe because its genteel psychedelic sounds are no longer in vogue. So the band changes direction and you record another album (called Trespass) but by then you’re no longer sure this is the best setting for your musical aspirations. This has a lot to do with crippling stage fright and struggles with illness. So you quit.
Almost fifty years later, you are still making music and have a catalogue comprising dozens of delicately crafted albums. But everyone remembers you as ‘the first guitarist in Genesis’.
Welcome to the world of Anthony Phillips.
Now Mr Phillips is a fascinating artist; composer, guitarist, keyboard player, songwriter, soundtrack creator for film and television, and creator of library music. Many fans of progressive music jumped on his first solo album, 1977’s The Geese and the Ghost. And liked it too; it’s a lovely LP, with a fine guest vocal by Phil Collins to boot.
The Anthony Phillips catalogue is extensive: around thirty albums under his own name and a dozen collaborations. One thread running through the releases is the quaintly titled Private Parts & Pieces, the first of which appeared in 1978 with the most recent being released in 2012.
In 2018 Cherry Red Records gathered together three recent-ish Ant albums and popped them into a pretty box labelled Private Parts & Pieces IX—XI, added a fourth CD of unreleased and re-mixed pieces (named, with admirable consistency but little imagination, Private Parts & Extra Pieces III) and sent it out into the world.
Having collected and enjoyed quite a number of the series, I snapped this box up when it appeared before me, and very happy I was too.
Private Parts & Pieces IX: Dragonfly Dreams is the earliest album in this set. Released in 1996, it is a collection of exquisitely executed guitar pieces. Although there are folk (or at least bucolic) flavours, the feel could be best described as neo-classical. Not in an uptight dinner-suited way, but a glass-of-Pimm’s-at-your-elbow, sitting on a shady riverbank, idyllic England kind of way. It’s lovely.
Showing his accomplishments on keyboard (piano, mainly) Soirée (Private Parts & Pieces X, 2000) has a stately beauty and quiet presence that make it enjoyable in either foreground or ambient settings. Knowing Phillips as a guitarist of considerable skill, it is a delightful surprise to find a depth and confidence in these pieces. It is also lovely,
In 2012 City Of Dreams was released; volume XI in the Private Parts & Pieces series. It is a very different sounding album, full of variety and mostly synthesised. With thirty-one pieces in under an hour, none of these vignettes outstays its welcome, which is nice in terms of it feeling like a tiny Anthony Phillips jukebox, but a tad frustrating if you love one of these brief pieces and want to hear it further developed.
Which brings us to the bonus disc, Private Parts & Extra Pieces III. This one also has much variety: guitar-driven fantasias (12-string and electric), piano excursions, synthesiser remarks. There are even a couple of Anthony’s collaborations with fellow guitarist Quique Berro Garcia.
The pieces—ranging in length from over six minutes to under two—were recorded during various sessions between 1990 and 2012, though there is no sense of this timespan in the listening, probably because all have been remixed for release. No throw-away, this. It’s like an introduction to the music of Anthony Phillips and most enjoyable.
Indeed, that last sentence could apply to this entire box. A lovely, thorough introduction to the instrumental works of a prolific musician who is so much more than the foundation guitarist of some biblically named prog band.
Anthony Phillips — Private Parts & Pieces IX—XI Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red (2018)
January is about reflecting on some of Vinyl Connection’s acquisitions during the preceding year. Some are 2018 releases, others are re-issues that appeared during the past 12-months.
Back To The Pavilion was the title of Private Parts and Pieces II, released in 1980.