Anthony Phillips

Private Parts & Pieces, Vol. 6: Ivory Moon

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Anthony Phillips has turned his Private Parts & Pieces into a cottage industry, with Ivory Moon being the sixth in this series and the first to feature Phillips exclusively on the piano. The album, subtitled "Piano Pieces 1971-1985," includes two sections of music first written for an earlier work, Masquerade, which presumably dates from 1971. All of the pieces, however, were recorded in 1985 at Englewood Studios in London. The songs have an intimate and spontaneous quality, as if Phillips was tinkling the ivories in your own home. And yet, as a solo pianist Phillips is merely adequate, prone to sentimentality and occasionally ham-handed flourishes. In lieu of his earlier Private Parts & Pieces, Ivory Moon is easily eclipsed. The longer works, notably "The Old House," fail to engage the listener on the level of a "Scottish Suite," requiring careful attention lest the music seems to meander. The album is not without its charm; the thoughtful "Sunrise Over Sienna" recalls the more accessible moments of Harold Budd, while "Tara's Theme" and "Sea-Dogs' Air" are keyboard cousins to the ornate guitar pieces found on the earlier PP&P releases. The success of his earlier acoustic works rested on technique as much as melody, and Phillips simply has a better arsenal of sounds at his command with a guitar in his hands. Ivory Moon sheds light on a different side of Phillips -- less flattering than the controlled arrangements of Back to the Pavilion, but with a transparency that fans may find illuminating. Note that the 1997 Resurgent CD reissue includes a bonus track, "Let Us Now Make Love."

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