Anthony Philips: ‘Missing Links I – IV’

❉ Another side of the Genesis founding member uncovered across five discs of film & TV scores.

“With plenty of in-depth notes, photos from Ant’s archive and fantastic remastering, this is a great addition adding depth and shining a light into the more obscure corners away from Ant’s main album releases and is an excellent companion collection to the Private Part and Pieces series.”

As part of Esoteric’s extensive (and welcome) series remastering and expanding the solo career of former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips, this new box set collects the four Missing Links compilations that Ant put together showcasing his extensive and expansive work for TV & Film.

The limited edition Missing Link series were originally released between 1989 and 2009, and are now loving complied together in one box, including a bonus CD Extra Missing Links which brings together a swathe of previously unreleased material from the archives, and compiled by Ant and his archivist Jonathan Dann, who also provides sleeve notes and historical information in the well curated 64 page book, featuring plenty of Ants excellent photography as well as the original sleeve notes and track information Ant wrote for the original releases.

Much like his companion volumes of Private Parts & Pieces, this showcases a different side to Ant’s compositional skills, and spread over the five discs, and the 115 tracks there’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover.

Interestingly, as I was writing this review Neil Brand was presenting a programme on BBC 4 about the music of television, and how sometimes songs are chosen at random, or luckier composers get asked to write music for television.

Ant has previous experience in this arena, as before his first album was released, he composed several tracks for library music label Himan Music, some of which were included in the Private Parts and Pieces collection, and the music he composed for the ATV series Rule Britannia couldn’t be found (subsequently it has been discovered and included as part of the bonus material on the 1984 album remaster).

The idea of the Missing Links series was one that Ant was encouraged with by friend and fellow musician Roger Patterson, and, coming in between record deals, saw him go through his archive and pull together 22 tracks for a limited edition cassette (with side one labelled The First XII & side two The Second XII) and pulls together tracks used in dramas, and recorded for other projects, and was labelled Finger Painting: A Collection of Library and TV music 1979-1989.

Part of the collection are the soundtracks for a series of Channel Four one-off dramas, and these (titled after the plays themselves) are an integral part of the collection, including the wonderfully named God’s Chosen Car Park, whilst other tracks like Paradise Found (which was used in an Oil of Ulay commercial) and Fountain Pool (which was used in an advert for New Zealand Lamb) and the majority of these were commissioned specifically from Ant – with the rest coming from sessions in 1979 & 1986 specifically for library music.

Meanwhile the longest suite on here Land of Dragons was written specifically for the Anglia Survival programme about wild animals in Hong Kong and all showcase a different side of Ant’s work, the melodic instrumental nature of the work, means these pieces are far subtler than if they were designed for an album, and so take a while to bed into your consciousness, however (like so many different pieces on this set) they showcase Ant’s song writing skills, and of course his phenomenal guitar work.

Volume II subtitled the Sky Road, picks up pretty much where disc 1 left off, and collates music Ant recorded for the Central TV programme Lifeboat – in the Lifeboat suite, whilst the survival connection comes back in both Tiwai: Islands of the Apes and the Wild Voices, Quite Waters Suite, as again Ant’s melodic skills, and knack of building atmospheric music, was perfect for these visual shows.

With Ant raiding the archive, we get the full version of the previously unreleased song The Beggar and the Thief (originally recorded in 1973) and an instrumental alternative of this track appears on disc 5.

There are also several tracks that were recorded but didn’t appear on albums like Exile (which opens the album) from the Slow Dance era, and again contain many hidden gems, and sketches of songs that would go into different directions on several of the Private Parts & Pieces collection, and is another alternative anthology collection, compiled long before it was fashionable to do such a thing.

Volume III, Time And Tide, sees the return to specific library music and TV themes spanning the years 1992 & 1997, including two Theme for Five ident themes recorded for a Channel 5 rebrand, and several pieces of music featured again in the Survival series, with this being one of Ant’s regular TV gigs.

This is also a collaborative piece, being credited to Anthony Phillips and Joji Hiirato whose percussion work, and work on flutes, recorders and shakuhachi provides an excellent musical foil for Ant, and the mixing of the two musical styles works really well on here.

This volume is sequenced more like an album rather than a curated collection, with several of the pieces (including the opening duo of Amazonas and Peruvian Plane) written and set to flow into each other (a trick that works really well here) and with more structure (and a more contemporaneous sound) the album flows beautifully as a piece of instrumental beauty.

The continuity of the work and styles the two musicians bring to the project make this more than just a historical curio, and it’s one of the strongest sets in the box, and Joji’s work on tracks like Songoku and the brilliant Kalahare March which showcases Joji’s Japanese drumming, helps this set of nature themed works really hang together as interesting piece of musical work.

Volume IV, Pathways and Promenades collects compositions that were released on various label samplers, multi-artist compilations, charity albums and previously unreleased library work to create a new collection of material that had been released but was unavailable.

As Ant explains in the sleeve notes, “I felt it was a tough ask to expect people to buy entire compilation CDs for one track, so why not unite them in a single release.”

As a performer, composer and musician Ant is known for being generous with his time, and material, and a result there is plenty here from tracks that he donated to different multi-artist compilations and pulling them all together here is a real crate-diggers’ best-of, particularly as the lifespan of such albums is usually quite short, and to find them is a real labour of love.

Collecting such great tracks like Promenade, Sombrero and Halcyon Days, all with great compositional skill and style by Ant, this is a great compilation of previously released and archive tracks, more in the spirit of the first two compilations.

Wrapping the box off in style the previously unreleased collection pulls together greater archive material from Ant’s collection, adding the previously mentioned instrumental version of the Beggar and the Thief that shows how the track developed, not to mention atmospheric pieces like Malvern Hills or Stakeout.

From these five discs there’s a hell of a lot of content to get through, and as this was designed mainly for TV there is a different ambience to these than tracks created for albums, and as a result the music is a very different beast, and whilst this was written to accompany different visuals it loses something without the films they were written for.

However, these tracks have a charm all of their own, and are worth deep diving into to get an alternative view of Ant Phillips’ varied and successful career.

With plenty of in-depth notes, photos from Ant’s archive and fantastic remastering, this is a great addition adding depth and shining a light into the more obscure corners away from Ant’s main album releases and is an excellent companion collection to the Private Part and Pieces series.

If you’re a fan of well-written instrumental music, this is a great diversion from the main albums, and the set is worth it for disc three alone.

‘Anthony Phillips: Missing Links I-IV’, 5CD Remastered Box Set (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC52743) was released 27 November 2020 by Cherry Red Records, RRP £24.99Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records.

 Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.

 James R. Turner is a music and media journalist. Over the last 25 years he has contributed to the Classic Rock Society magazine, BBC online, Albion Online, The Digital Fix, DPRP, Progarchy, ProgRadar and more. James’ debut book is out in September and he is head of PR for Bad Elephant Music. He lives in North Somerset with his fiancee Charlotte, their Westie Dilys & Ridgeback Freja, three cats and too many CDs, records & Blu-Rays.

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