ANTHONY PHILLIPS-PRIVATE PARTS AND PIECES I-IV.

ANTHONY PHILLIPS-PRIVATE PARTS AND PIECES I-IV.

Many people think that the home studio is a new thing. That’s not the case. Musicians were recording music at home way DAWs and laptops began to play an important part in the recording process. Anthony Phillips is proof of that.

Anthony Phillips started experimenting with a basic reel-to-reel tape mach in 1966, when he was still a member of Anon. He used the reel-to-reel to record ideas for a song. Sometimes, he experimented with overdubs. However, it was pretty basic. Especially, compared to what Anthony would use later in his career. By then, Anthony Phillips had been part of what would become one of the biggest bands in the world, Genesis.

The Genesis story began in 1967, at Charterhouse School, in Surrey. That’s where Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel and Anthony Phillips formed their nascent band. At first, the band was managed by another former Charterhouse pupil, and now disgraced and convicted DJ  Jonathan King. 

He arranged for Genesis to record several singles and an album, From Genesis to Revelation. It was released on Decca on 7th  March 1969. From Genesis to Revelation failed to chart in Britain, and stalled at 170 in the US Billboard 200. This was an inauspicious start to Genesis’ recording career. Stung by the commercial failure of their debut album, Genesis ended their relationship with Jonathan King. This coincided with an upturn in their fortunes.

Not long after this, Genesis began touring as a professional band. This brought them to the attention of Charisma Records, who signed Genesis.

Now signed to Charisma Records, which had an enviable roster of artists in the late-sixties, early-seventies, Genesis began work on their sophomore album, Trespass.

For Trespass, Genesis were paired with a professional producer, John Phillips. His career had started a year earlier, when he worked with Yes in 1968. After that, John Phillips knew that he wanted to be a producer.

To record Trespass, John Phillips took Genesis to London’s Trident Studios. Between June and July 1969, Genesis recorded the six tracks that became Trespass. It was released on 23rd October 1970.

Before the release of Trespass, critics had their say on Genesis’ sophomore album. The reviews of Trespass were mixed. One of the most influential publications, Rolling Stone Magazine wasn’t impressed by Trespass. It was an album that was: “boring and should be avoided.” Record buyers took this advice.

When Trespass was released, the album failed to chart on both sides of the Atlantic. However, in 1971, Trespass gave Genesis their first number one album…in Belgium. By then, Anthony Phillips had left Genesis.

Following his departure from Genesis, Anthony Phillips studied classical music. He was especially interested in classical guitar. This would serve him well, when he embarked upon a solo career.

Having played on the demos for Peter Gabriel’s ‘Scratch’ album, Anthony Phillips’ solo career began in 1977, with the release of The Geese and The Ghost.

The Geese and The Ghost.

Originally, The Geese and The Ghost was meant to be a collaboration between Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford. That was the plan. However, Mike Rutherford was busy with Genesis, and hadn’t the time to record a whole album. So instead, Mike Rutherford cowrote three songs with Anthony Phillips, and made guest appearances on The Geese and The Ghost. It had been recorded over three years.

The material on The Geese and The Ghost had been recorded between August 1973 and October 1976. Anthony Phillips had spent part of the last three years recording not just his debut album, but his comeback album. It was nearly complete. So Anthony Phillips took the album to Charisma Records.

When the A&R people at Charisma Records listened to The Geese and The Ghost, they decided to pass on what should’ve been Anthony Phillips’ debut album. That’s despite guest appearances from Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. For Anthony Phillips this was devastating. He had hoped Charisma Records would want to release the record, and advance him enough to release The Geese and The Ghost.

Without the money to complete The Geese and The Ghost, Anthony Phillips returned to making library music. He like many musicians during the seventies, was making a decent living out of recording library music. Just as Anthony Phillips had resigned himself to a life as an anonymous musician making library music, he caught a break.

Passport Records, an American company, got in touch with Anthony Phillips. They wanted to release The Geese and The Ghost. Having failed to interest Charisma Records and then Virgin in releasing The Geese and The Ghost in Britain, Anthony and Genesis’ manager Tony Smith decided to form their own label. They named the label Hit and Run. All they needed now, was a distributor. Then The Geese and The Ghost would be released.

Everything it seemed was going to plan. Anthony Phillips managed to finish his debut album, The Geese and The Ghost. It was scheduled for release in March 1977. Before that, critics had their say on Anthony Phillips’ long-awaited debut album.

When The Geese and The Ghost was released, the reviews were mixed. This fusion of folk rock, prog rock and symphonic rock divided opinions. For some critics, the two part title-track was the album’s undeniable highlight. Other critics thought the track, and the album was over-indulgent. There was no consensus. Record buyers had the deciding vote.

On its release, The Geese and The Ghost stalled at a lowly 191 in the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment. Some critics weren’t surprised. The backlash against prog rock had just begun. If The Geese and The Ghost had been released a couple of years earlier, it might have fared better. This was  a case of being Wise After the Event, which was the title to Anthony Phillips’ sophomore album.

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Wise After the Event.

Despite the commercial failure of his debut album, Anthony Phillips returned to the studio just seven months later. Between October and December 1977, Anthony Phillips recorded what became Wise After the Event at Essex Studios, England. 

This time around, Anthony Phillips recorded more than enough material for an album. It was impossible to fit all the songs onto one album. So an E.P. was released to accompany Wise After the Event. Still, there were songs left over. So Anthony Phillips kept them for his 1980 album, Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion. It’s part of Anthony Phillips’ recently released five disc box set, Private Parts and Pieces I-IV, which was released by Esoteric Recordings. It’s a snapshot of a part of Anthony Phillips’ career. Before that, came Wise After The Event.

Eventually, Anthony Phillips chose nine tracks for Wise After The Event. He had penned eight of the nine tracks, and cowrote Greenhouse with Jeremy Gilbert. Wise After the Event was released in May 1978, on Passport Records in America, and Virgin in Britain.

Prior to the release of Wise After The Event, the album was well received by critics. It was a much more cohesive album than The Geese and The Ghost. Anthony, who took charge of the lead vocal for the first time in his career, was an assured and confinement vocalist. Especially on the ballads. Things it seemed, were looking promising for Anthony Phillips.

It was a false dawn. Wise After The Event failed to chart in America. After two solo albums, Anthony Phillips’ career was at a crossroads. Making this even more galling, was that by then, Genesis were one of the biggest bands in rock music. They certainly weren’t reduced to releasing a limited edition album of 5,000 copies. 

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Private Parts and Pieces.

Five months after the release of Wise After The Event, Anthony Phillips returned. He had had a rethink, and decided to release a different type of album. This time, Anthony Phillips wasn’t going to pursue commercial success. Private Parts and Pieces would be a limited edition release. Only 5,000 copies in Britain. That however, wasn’t the only change.

Private Parts and Pieces Anthony Phillips decided, would be an album of instrumental music. There were only six tracks on the album. They weren’t new songs. Two had been recorded in 1972. The other four had been recorded in 1976. However, they were all Anthony Phillips’ compositions.

Five songs were written by Anthony Phillips. The other track, Field of Eternity was cowritten by Mike Rutherford. It was an old Genesis song. However, he didn’t feature on Field of Eternity. It was just Anthony Phillips and a myriad of instruments on Private Parts and Pieces.

When critics heard Private Parts and Pieces, they were impressed by Anthony Phillips’ latest offering. It was a different approach, given Private Parts and Pieces was an instrumental album. However, still, progressive rock and folk rock shine through. So do elements of classical and world music. Although different to what many critics expected, they gave Private Parts and Pieces their seal of approval.

In November 1978, Private Parts and Pieces was released in America by Passport Records. Despite not being the most commercial album of Anthony Phillips career, they released the album. Unsurprisingly, the album failed commercially. Then in April 1979, Private Parts and Pieces went on sale in Britain. The 5,000 copies sold. Anthony Phillips saw this as a success. This could be an alternative income stream, now his contract with Arista was almost over. 

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Sides.

Anthony Phillips only owed Arista one more album. That album was Sides, the most commercial album of his career. Giving Sides its commercial sound was producer by Rupert Hines.

For Sides, Anthony Phillips had written seven new songs and cowrote Holy Deadlock with Martin Hall. These songs were recorded at Essex Studios and Matrix Studios. There, Anthony Phillips and his band recorded the nine tracks. With producer Rupert Hines at the controls, the most commercial album of Anthony Phillips career took shape. It was scheduled for release in April 1979.

Before that, critics had their say on the aptly titled Sides. Side two featured forgettable throwaway pop. However, things improved marginally on side two. The orchestral sounding Sisters of Remindum and Nightmare was much more like what people had come to expect from Anthony Phillips. So was Magdalen, which featured a guitar masterclass from the former Genesis man. However, it was too little, too late.

When Sides was released, the album crashed and burned on both Sides of the Atlantic. Anthony Phillips’ dalliance with commercial pop had been a minor disaster. It wasn’t going to win him any new fans or another recording contract with Arista.

Sides was the last album Anthony Phillips released for Arista. Having discharged his contractual obligations, he returned to the Private Parts and Pieces’ series. 

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Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion.

Just like the first instalment in the Private Parts and Pieces’ series, Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion featured music that Anthony Phillips had recorded between 1976 and 1977.

Originally, the tracks were meant for ‘other projects’, which it seems, hadn’t come to anything. This included The Scottish Suite which supposedly, was meant to have been a commission to bring MacBeth to music. However, this hadn’t come to pass. Since then, these tracks had lain unreleased. Not anymore.

June 1980 was the release date for Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion. Some of these tracks featured Genesis’ Mike Rutherford and former King Crimson drummer Andrew McCulloch. This all-star lineup was part of the album’s U.S.P.

It was going to be a hard sell for Anthony Phillips, who was between record labels. His deal with Arista was over. All he was left with, were distribution deals with Passport Records and Virgin. Their job was to get Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion into the shops. They weren’t going to point out that some of the music on the album sounded dates.

Critics, however, had no qualms. They seemed to take delight in pointing out the obvious. Here was music that had been recorded during another era, between 1976 and 1977. Prog rock was still hugely popular in 1976. However, then came punk and the backlash began. Suddenly, prog rock was seen as the enemy. Its practitioners were called rick, over-indulgent dinosaurs. Ironically, those doing the mudslinging, had been fans of the genre. Then they jumped on the punk bandwagon. After a couple of years, it too hit the buffers, and the post punk era began. Still, prog rock was popular. The genre had evolved since then, whereas the music on Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion was a remnant of prog rock’s past.

When reviews of Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion were published, critics felt the music sounded dated. Some went as far as to say it was a relic of the past. That was harsh. 

Some of the music on Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion was ambitious, beautiful, melodic, multi-layered and nuanced. Other times, there’s a degree of aggression in Anthony Phillips’ guitar playing. It can be a captivating album. However, there’s a but.

Another criticism was that Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion doesn’t sit together cohesively. That’s certainly the case. Instead, it’s more like a compilation. It’s far from the concept albums of prog rock’s glorious heyday. 

Unsurprisingly, Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion wasn’t a huge success. That had never been Anthony Phillips intention. It was more about providing an alternative income stream. Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion did that, to an extent. However, it would be another four years until Anthony Phillips revived the Private Parts and Pieces’ series, as he had signed to RCA.

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1984.

For his RCA debut, Anthony Phillips wrote an album of instrumental electronic music. It was a stylistic departure for Anthony Phillips. He deployed drum machines, keyboards, a myriad of percussion and vocal effects on what was an alternative prog rock album.

It’s as if Anthony Phillips took the criticism of releasing an album of dated material to heart. He had decided to create an innovative album, but one that featured the music he knew best, prog rock.

When 1984 was released the reviews were mixed. Some critics felt that Anthony Phillips had embraced and understood how to use the technology to its potential. The result they felt, was an album that paid a fitting homage to George Orwell’s masterpiece. Others critics weren’t convinced, and thought the four track album was somewhat over-indulgent. Just like before, there was no consensus on Anthony Phillips’ sixth album.

Again, records buyers were left to cast the deciding vote. 1984 wasn’t a commercial success, and RCA took a bath. It wasn’t the best way for Anthony Phillips to begin a new chapter in his career. So Anthony Phillips returned to the familiarity Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques.

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Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques.

Anthony Phillips latest instalment in the Private Parts And Pieces’ series was the first of two collaboration he released between 1982 and 1983. He collaborated with guitarist Enrique Berro Garcia on Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques. 

The entire album was penned by Anthony Phillips. Then he and Enrique Berro Garcia entered the studio.

Anthony Phillips played  bass plus six-string and twelve-string classical guitar. He also produced Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques. Enrique Berro Garcia contributed six-string and twelve-string classical guitar. Once the two suites and six other tracks were recorded, Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques was ready for release.

Just like previous albums, Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques divided the opinion of critics. The reviews were mixed on an album where rock and classical music melted into one. There were elements of folk rock and prog rock on Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques. They joined a healthy serving of classical music. This was nothing new.

Progressive rock musicians had been doing this since the late-sixties. It was hardly innovative. However, Enrique Berro Garcia and Anthony Phillips were undeniably talented musicians. Proof of this was Hurlingham Suite and Suite in D Minor. Both tracks oozed quality. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t innovative music. Not everyone felt the same way.

After some harsh words from critics, Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques seemed to fall on deaf ears. It seemed it was just Anthony Phillips’ loyal fans who bought Private Parts And Pieces III: Antiques. Maybe, Anthony Phillips luck would change when he released the second of two collaborations?

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Invisible Men.

Things didn’t get much better in 1983, when Anthony Phillips and  Richard Scott collaborated on Invisible Men. It was a concept album based around the 1982 Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. The song titles on Invisible Men mark reflect events that happened during the Falklands War. This includes Exocet, which is about the ‘accidental’ sinking of the Belgrano. It’s one of ten tracks on Invisible Men.

Eight of the ten songs were written by Anthony Phillips and  Richard Scott. The other two came from the pen of Anthony Phillips. However, Richard Scott more than played his part. He added some lead vocals, programmed a Roland TR-808 drum machine and played guitar and piano. After recording sessions during 1982 and 1983, Invisible Men was complete. It proved to be an ironic title.

What was meant to be a powerful, politically charged album received mixed reviews from critics. Some publications didn’t review the album. The Falklands War was still a controversial subject, that divided the opinion of politicians, historians and the public. They passed on Invisible Men, and what was a well intentioned album failed commercially. As far as the record buying public were concerned, Anthony Phillips and  Richard Scott might as well be Invisible Men. 

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Private Parts and Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables.

After the commercial failure of Invisible Men, Anthony Phillips decided to revisit the Private Parts and Pieces’ series for the fourth time. Amongst his small, but loyal fan-base the series was popular. However, beyond his existing fan-base, very few people, apart from some Genesis fans knew the name. So Anthony Phillips set about rectifying this.

That was supposed to be the case. It was a case of good intentions. At the start of the project, Anthony Phillips decided to release an album of experimental and improvisational music.

Again, this was nothing new. German musicians had been releasing some of the most groundbreaking experimental and improvisational music since the late-sixties. Innovative groups  like Can, Neu!!, Harmonia, Ashra and Popol Vuh had changed the musical landscape in the seventies. So had Klaus Schulze. He was joined by Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt, Michael and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. This quartet of pioneers were now solo artists, and were continuing to influence another generation of musicians. Would Anthony Phillips?

The answer to that was no. When Private Parts and Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables was released, it was mostly, the work of Anthony Phillips. That’s expect on Sistine, when he was aided and abetted by a bugle, bagpipes and harmonica. Describing the music as experimental would require a stretch of the imagination. The nearest Anthony Phillips comes to experimental, is deploying a Moog or drum machine. Mostly, the music has a familiar sound. That’s not surprising. 

While some of the songs had been recorded between 1983 and 1984, other tracks had been recorded as far back as 1979. Five years was a long time in music. It was as if Anthony Phillips couldn’t resist using up tracks he had recorded before. Some of these tracks have an almost unfinished sound. It’s as if they were work in progress. The result is an album that was disjointed and lacked cohesion.

When Private Parts and Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables was released, some critics called the album predictable and “archaic.” Especially some of Anthony Phillips’ guitar playing. It had the same progressive sound that albums released on albums during the seventies. For critics and record buyers, it was wearing a bit thin. Little did they know that there were another seven volumes in the series still to be released.

Only the first four feature in the five disc box set Private Parts and Pieces I-IV, which was recently released by Esoteric Recordings. It’s far from the lavish box sets that many record labels release. Instead, it’s similar to other box sets that this label has released. 

They’re best described as expense spared. That’s the case with Private Parts and Pieces I-IV. It looks as if it belongs at the budget end of the box set market. The five discs are housed in a cheaply made box and feature what can hardly be described as in-depth, informative sleeve-notes. Despite, all this, Private Parts and Pieces I-IV will cost music lovers around £27, $41 or €35. Private Parts and Pieces I-IV however, isn’t worth that.

Even though Private Parts and Pieces I-IV comes with an album of ‘bonus’ tracks. Private Parts and Extra Tracks, this includes alternate tracks and variations. The quality of these tracks varies. That’s the case with many discs containing bonus tracks. They should come with a government health warning, that: “this is an hour of your life that’s gone forever.” Sometimes that’s the not the case. The Led Zeppelin, Spooky Tooth and Velvet Underground box sets are cases in point. However, Anthony Phillips Phillips has never enjoyed the critical acclaim and commercial success of these three giants of rock.

With Private Parts and Pieces I-IV, this chapter of Anthony Phillips’ career seems to be a case of potential unfulfilled. He’s obviously a talented songwriter and musician. However, the four albums Private Parts and Pieces I-IV lack cohesion. They come across as compilations rather than studio albums. That’s no surprise. Sometimes, tracks recorded for an album are augmented by tracks recorded years previously. This results in albums that features music that’s disjointed, dated and lacking cohesion. Other times, albums feature songs recorded over a period of several years are passed off as albums, rather than as a compilation which is essentially, what they are. A case in point is Private Parts and Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion. That’s sad.

Listening to Private Parts and Pieces I-IV, should’ve enjoyed much more success than he has. He’s still a relative unknown, despite releasing over twenty albums. Many of these albums showcase a talented musician. However, Private Parts and Pieces I-IV doesn’t feature Anthony Phillips at his very best. While there’s undoubtably quality on the four albums, they fall short of being cohesive albums. On Private Parts and Pieces IV: A Catch At The Tables, the music was predictable and “archaic.” Things could’ve been very different 

With his undeniable talent, Anthony Phillips came part of the road that leads to critical acclaim and commercial success on Private Parts and Pieces I-IV. However, on each of the album in the Private Parts and Pieces I-IV box set, Anthony Phillips takes a wrong turn. Maybe with the right person guiding his career, Anthony Phillips could’ve reached greater heights? 

Although Anthony Phillips’ career has lasted nearly fifty years, and he’s enjoyed a degree of success, I wonder whether he has his regrets? Would he change how he approached the four albums in Private Parts and Pieces I-IV? If he did, then Anthony Phillips’ may have fulfilled the potential that’s apparent throughout Private Parts and Pieces I-IV.

ANTHONY PHILLIPS-PRIVATE PARTS AND PIECES I-IV.

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1 Comment

  1. Lovely to see Anthony Phillips get some love. I enjoy his work immensely, especially the PP and P series. Thanks for the reminder!

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