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Phillips. Anthony: Missing Links I-IV (remastered)

Continuing with their plan of re-releasing two of guitarist Anthony Phillips albums a year, Esoteric turn their focus on a less celebrated but still hugely successful area of the composer and musician’s catalogue through the 5 disc Missing Links box-set. Coming replete with a lengthy essay in a book of such volume that it has a glue-set spine rather than staples, as with previous clam-shell volumes in this campaign, the look and feel of what’s on offer is first rate, while the music is also up to that high standard, even if five discs of short bits and bobs can be quite a lot to take in. Gathering together a host of Phillips ‘library’ and TV work alongside commission pieces and other knick-knacks, don’t expect a cohesive journey across this beautiful sounding voyage where the discs all come in lovely themed packaging that gives a real sense of belonging.

Musically it’s never easy to know what to expect from Phillips, purely because the man is already renowned for so many different styles and approaches. Most famously, pastoral prog is possibly his main passion and yet with more song based albums, instrumental soundtracks and synth-scapes all staples of a solo discography that stretches from 1977 to 2019 and counting, if there’s one thing for sure and certain, it’s to expect both the expected and the less so. The first disc of the set, subtitled Finger Painting saw the light of day at the tail end of the 80s and corralled music from 1979 to 1989 onto, at the time, a cassette release which focused on Anthony’s library and TV work. The likes of the atmospherically pensive “Rottweiler” where synths pulse and pound and the more ethereal “Gods Chosen Car Park Suite” showing the breadth of the keyboard and effects work at his fingertips. Here there is a real joined up feeling as similar bases are used to spray off in all directions, with the Oriental feeling “Land Of Dragons Suite” just as captivating as the shimmering “Tierra Del Fuego”.

Moving on some five years, The Sky Road expanded on the theme, adding ‘archive’ and unreleased album material to the mix of commission pieces on display. It was an approach which again made for a hugely engaging experience, although to me there’s a suggestion that as a whole things don’t quite feel as vital as on volume one. That said, the sweeping swirls of “Exile” is a captivating opener, whereas “The Bitter Suite”, which turns to Phillips’ stunning acoustic guitar work for its tone, is beautifully poised and positioned to whisk you away on its intention. Add in the short, but swirlingly pensive “Across The River Styx” to the winding “The Sky Road” and masterful “Wild Voices, Quiet Waters” and this is still a voyage that rewards.

Again, the next disc takes a slightly different turn, with Time And Tide (1997) being a collection of collaborations between Phillips and Joji Hirota, where the latter’s influence seems to shine through as a more world wide voice is added to a collection of television and library music. Oddly, I’ve found this disc to be both the most involving and simultaneously most remote, with the similarity of pieces across “Amazonas” and “Peruvian Plains” to “Bedouin Train” and “Kalahari March” allowing the completely joined up feel to break down into an ever so slightly one dimensional outing. On occasion that has found me utterly spellbound by its contents, while at other times, a little disengaged. Still, this is, in the right frame of mind, a thoroughly involving experience.

Pathways And Promenades was next, this 2009 enterprise seemingly disappearing after release. Hence its inclusion here is most welcome, especially given how invigorating it is. “Misty Mountain” is this disc’s moody atmospheric swirl, but “Haven From The Sea” adds intrigue and danger to a set that finds music brought together from all manner of sources somehow feeling like a complete and always intended album. Along with disc one, for me this is the real highlight here, and there isn’t a second wasted whether on the short almost incidental pieces or the longer more considered moments.

Newly curated for this release, disc five, Extra Missing Links, presents 27 cuts from a similarly diverse set of sources for the very first time and rather excellent it is too. From the dextrous Spanish guitar excursion of “Granada” to the 40 seconds of echoing piano that becomes the “Sky Road Link” and from the floating flute of “Wings Of The World” to the very Genesis like “Flight Of The Snow Goose”, this really is a delight.

In all honesty, the bits and pieces make-up of the five discs here does create an experience that’s maybe better dipped in and out of, rather than to be taken during one lengthy sitting. And yet, there’s no doubt that the results of these diverse situational compositions can be hugely gratifying, invigorating and, at the same time, relaxing. More proof, if it were needed that Anthony Phillips really is one of our unsung musical heroes who very much deserves your attention.


Track Listing
CD 1 - Missing Links Volume One: Finger Painting (69:59) - A collection of library and television music 1979-1989:
1. Force Majeure (3:56)
2. Mountain Voices (3:08)
3. Lord of the Smoking Mirror (3:05)
4. Sea Horses (3:04)
5. Dungeons (2:40)
6. Between the Rings (3:09)
7. Evening Ascent (3:30)
8. Streamer (1:17)
9. After the Rain (2:47)
10. Rottweiler (2:47)
11. Sad Fish (2:48)
12. A Song (0:40)
13. God's Chosen Car Park Suite: Processional / Meditation / Cave Painting (6:41)
14. Tropical Moon over Dorking Suite: Estrangement / Myra's Dream / Reconciliation (5:07)
15. Fountain Pool (0:34)
16. C.Q. (1:06)
17. Three Piece Suite: To the Shrine / Through the Forest / Towards the Light (4:05)
18. Boulevard of Fallen Leaves (2:08)
19. Land of Dragons Suite: Land of Dragons, Pt. 1 / Kites / Harbour at Sunset / Dance of the Crabs / Sand Octopus and the King Crabs / Do the Shrimps Know They're Chinese / Land of Dragons, Pt. 2 (12:53)
20. And a Prayer (1:12)
21. Tierra Del Fuego (1:09)
22. Paradise Found (2:13)


CD 2 - Missing Links Volume Two: The Sky Road (59:02) - A collection of archive, commission and unreleased album material:
1. Exile (4:56)
2. Lifeboat Suite: Opening Theme / Sunday Morning / Another Shout / Across the Sandbar / Storm Warning / Kim Waits / The Rescue of the Janet C / Let Not the Deep Swallow Me Up / Closing Theme (10:30)
3. The Bitter Suite: Pt. I / Pt. II (9:57)
4. Across the River Styx (0:45)
5. A Flock of Souls (1:46)
6. Along the Towpath (2:03)
7. The Sky Road (1:38)
8. Tears on a Rainy Day (4:34)
9. Tiwai: Island of the Apes / Bats / In the Firmament (3:42)
10. Wild Voices, Quiet Waters Suite: Twilight on the Lake / Waterstar (4:38)
11. Serenita (2:11)
12. Timepiece (1:50)
13. Field of Eternity (alternate version) (3:56)
14. The Beggar and the Thief (6:36)


CD 3 - Missing Links Volume Three: Time and Tide (66:34) - A collection of television and library music 1992-1997:
1. Amazonas (1:23)
2. Peruvian Plains (1:06)
3. Manatee Garden (2:41)
4. Turtle Race (4:01)
5. Indio Wedding (2:42)
6. Underwater Forest (1:57)
7. Fiesta Del Charangos (2:23)
8. Slow Hand Sloth (1:51)
9. River Chase (1:03)
10. Sacred Kingdom (2:00)
11. African Dream (1:29)
12. Bedouin Train (2:26)
13. Sandstorm (3:09)
14. Kalahari March (2:53)
15. Songoku (3:50)
16. Schuan Journey (3:19)
17. Slow Boat to China (4:15)
18. Back in the Land of Dragons (2:05)
19. Shadow Puppet (3:22)
20. Sea Jewel (3:05)
21. End Theme for Five (1:02)
22. Minnow Dance (1:03)
23. Sunken Galleons (1:57)
24. Haunting the Dark Sea (2:00)
25. Time and Tide (2:09)
26. Okavanga (2:08)
27. Under Desert Stars (1:17)
28. Lost in a Desert Night (1:25)
29. Blue Lagoons (2:33)


CD 4 - Missing Links IV: Pathways & Promenades (65:49)
1. The Golden Road to Samarkand (1:32)
2. Promenade (4:00)
3. Sceptred Isle (2:45)
4. Danza Cucaracha (5:43)
5. Fallen Idol (2:22)
6. Cascades (2:06)
7. Sky Dawn (6:13)
8. Misty Mountains (2:34)
9. It's All Greek to Me (2:28)
10. Haven from the Sea (2:22)
11. Heavenly Gene (2:16)
12. Ironclad (2:40)
13. Water Gardens (2:35)
14. Night Train (1:03)
15. Sleeping Giant (1:35)
16. Sombrero (2:38)
17. Irish Lament (1:23)
18. Aurora (3:04)
19. Without You (1:39)
20. Sad Exodus (2:28)
21. Summer of Love (3:11)
22. Light Rain (3:17)
23. Halcyon Days (5:55)


CD 5 - Extra Missing Links (63:24)
1. Opening Theme for Five (0:29)
2. Empire of the Elephant (2:42)
3. Great Rift Valley (2:32)
4. Dwellers of the Deep (3:04)
5. Exile Link (0:46)
6. Freeway Dude (1:27)
7. Sumatra (2:23)
8. Tears on a Rainy Day Link (1:08)
9. Is There Anyone Out There? (0:56)
10. Antibes Cocktail (2:48)
11. Tropical Moon Romance (2:10)
12. Sitar Pastoral (4:17)
13. Wings over the World (2:24)
14. Stakeout (1:51)
15. Bush Babies Suite (3:46)
16. Sky Road Link (0:41)
17. Citizens of the Coral (3:03)
18. Estrangement (piano mix) (1:59)
19. Night Search (2:08)
20. Granada (2:41)
21. A Noble Spirit (1:22)
22. In the Heart of Africa (3:09)
23. Malvern Hills (3:26)
24. Flight of the Snow Geese (3:36)
25. Never Meant to Be (1:06)
26. New Alchemists Suite (4:35)
27. The Beggar and the Thief (instrumental version) (2:55)

Added: December 5th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Missing Links @ Cherry Red
Hits: 782
Language: english

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