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Taken from WEBSITE (Oct 21, 2019)

Anthony Phillips - 'Strings of Light' (2019)

by Bill Golembeski

New Record: AnthonyPhillips - Strings Of Light
New Record: AnthonyPhillips - Strings Of Light

Odd: I always associate Anthony Phillips records with the fall: introspection, heavy beauty, Peter Cross artwork, big dragonflies, genteel English streams, Tudor tunes, (always interesting) Private Parts & Pieces, and distant echoes of Trespass-era Genesis.

And this two-disc Strings of Light album summarizes those autumnal thoughts within 24 composed instrumentals. For the open and patient ears, this music conjures the sublime beauty of the nascent Genesis. Of course, it also captures the really weird ethos of an expansive Ant Phillips catalogue that includes the prog luster of The Geese and the Ghost, vocal albums like Wise After the Event, the clever pop of Sides and Invisible Men, a strange synthesizer epic 1984, and acoustic street cred to burn.

And this is an all "strings record." That's stiff upper lip public school Charterhouse cool! The album orbits with a solo flight around the contemplation of the stars.

Strings of Light begins with the brisk mandolin two minute-plus piece "Jour De Fete," which echoes the comfort of McGuinness Flint's "When I'm Dead and Gone" or John Martyn's "Over the Hill." But then the record ascends into slow and melodic rarified air.

"Diamond Meadows" is a way-back machine to the early Genesis 12-string guitar sound. Odd (again): I half expected to hear Peter Gabriel's voice with the words, "Home from work our Juliet clears her morning meal." Granted, Ant Phillips left after Trespass, but he and Mike Rutherford certainly created that beautiful sound, and then re-created it on The Geese and the Ghost.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Genesis co-founder Anthony Phillips joined us to discuss 'Private Parts and Pieces,' the beginnings of his old band, and whether he has ever considered a reunion.]

And there are more echoes of the past, both musical and historical. "Caprice in Three," "Castle Ruins," and "Mermaids and Wine Maidens" could well be part of Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times. For those of us who have loved Anthony Phillips' sound since Genesis to Revelation, this is sonic euphoria.

Two ideas:

First, the people at Esoteric certainly know this album's appeal. Of course, they would be thrilled if Anthony Phillips-mania caught fire, but this one is targeted at old prog guys who love the eccentric British stuff and wish The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway could have included a few more costume changes.

And second, after hearing about 30 seconds of "Winter Light," my friend Bryan Radue (aka Jazz Guy) simply asked: "Is this a new Anthony Phillips record?" We then discussed other guitarists with 30-second instantly recognizable signature sounds. We bandied names like Pat Metheny, Steve Howe, Ralph Towner, Terje Rypdal, Richard Thompson, John Abercrombie and, of course, Steve Hackett. That's some company to keep!

The rest of Disc 1 follows a similar course. And in the hope of brevity, let's just say the songs fulfill the lyric from Trespass that said, "Visions of angels all around dance in the sky." But because I'm one of those old prog guys (and brevity is not in my nature), let's just (also) say the songs "Restless Heart" and "Still Rain" catch the flavor of rainy nights and quiet candles. And "Skies Crying" evokes the best of early Genesis' almost-religious purity.

But this is a two-disc set, with about 40 minutes each - so the result is a bit of a Strings of Light marathon. "Into the Void" is 20 seconds of percussive guitar. And then, once again, a guitarist's sublime fingers defy gravity. And heck, even I could have identified "Andean Explorer," "Mystery Tale," and "Sunset Riverbank" as Anthony Phillips pieces. The tunes drip deep time like "Stagnation" from Trespass.

And then there were three (and then a few more!): "Tale Ender" is 40 seconds of necessary darkness. "Shoreline" has big brushstroke chords, with spider webbed melodies. "Days Gone By" is languid, like patient rain.

Elsewhere, "Crystalline" is cautious, but gifted with expectations. "Fleur-De-Lys" is the word quietude, defined. "Grand Tour" is a melodic matrix that dabbles in epic musical dimensions. "Home Road" is a minute of urgently strummed strings.

"Life Story," once again, has those "visions of angels all around." It's an intricate piece that flows like an aged English river. It drips with an autumnal melody. It hovers like a specter who refuses the sunset on the prog-rock day. And, it's just gentle, beautiful, and thoughtful music that will always deserve the beauty of a (sadly missed) Peter Cross album cover.

By the way, the compact disc comes with an added 5.1 Surround Sound mix of the album. That said, years ago, Anthony Phillips sang, "Now what (are they doing to my little friends?)"

His vocals (which are also sadly missed on this record) evoke the pathos of the universe. And Strings of Light continues to paintbrush that pathos, while it still dances in the equally acoustic beauty of a nightly gaze - a gaze that peers into all the heavens, with its deeply melodic, and very patient stars.




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