Anthony Phillips

The Geese & the Ghost

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Anthony Phillips' first post-Genesis solo album was an extension of the pseudo-medieval folk elements found on Trespass, the last of his Genesis albums. Much of this recording sounds like a lost Genesis album, understandable since Phil Collins does a lot of the singing, and Michael Rutherford is present on guitar, bass, and keyboards, and also shares composer credits with him on major parts of this album. Portions of the material here, in fact, seem to have been derived from pieces they composed together in Genesis' early days that proved unsuitable for performance on-stage. Thus, The Geese & the Ghost comes off as a sort of throwback, picking up stylistically where Trespass or Nursery Cryme (check out the second part of the title track) left off nearly six years earlier. "Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times" can still hold the patient listener's attention, as it moves from bold synthesizer-generated fanfares to intimate classical guitar passages into soaring movements for electric guitar, flute, and oboe no less (there are three flutists here, plus one violinist, two cellists, and a pair of oboists, Bob Phillips and Laza Momulovich, who often get placed very prominently in the mix, probably a first on a rock album) -- but these movements would work better if they weren't quite so repetitive. The 15-minute two-part title track is hopeless -- gorgeous, luscious, languid, and utterly pointless in terms of presenting ideas of any worth or resolving them in any serious way; this is the sort of material that first-year composition students turn in as exercises, but only in the fading glow of the prog rock boom would it see the light of day on a commercial release. It's very arty in an early-'70s manner, midway between early Genesis and Amazing Blondel (note that neither of those groups still existed in their progressive rock incarnations in 1977), without the vibrancy that the former could generate or the impressive musical language or vocalizing of the latter. What Phillips failed to recognize, or couldn't emulate, was the fact that Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and other bigger-than-footnote prog rock outfits always made sure their music was exciting, as well as pretty and complex. Still, it is pretty, and the CD reissue (which is devoid of instrumental credits) has a demo, "Master of Time," as a bonus. That song, a fey mix of sci-fi and faux-medieval sensibilities, never made the final cut of the album, and the demo runs two minutes too long for its own good, but it is sung by Phillips solo (he doesn't have much of a voice, hardly an octave range to judge from this) in a passionate manner, and is played -- on acoustic and electric guitars, with piano and no classical musicians added -- with some effort at excitement and vibrancy.

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