Press File: The Geese & The Ghost

Review #1                Review #2            Review #3            Review #4


Anthony Phillips: The Geese & The Ghost (Hit and Run Music 001) **

Mr Peter Harris, Earl of Tooting and a Classically Trained Pianist, dropped by the other night to have a listen to Anthony Phillips’ new album. Pete’s always liked Genesis, you see, and has a particular liking for subtle, melodic music delivered in a melodically subtle fashion. A bit of orchestration here. A touch of space there. Figured ‘The Geese And The Ghost’ would be right up his street. Halfway through side one however, the shit hit the fan.

"Boring, isn’t it" said he – and to tell you the truth, it was hard to disagree. On the other hand though, it was equally hard to agree, because this is one of Those Albums. In a word, listening to it is frustrating. Like walking out of a cinema totally undecided as to whether you actually liked the film. Like finishing a book that didn’t show much promise to start with, simply because it showed too much promise, right up until the last page, to throw away.

The ads in the music papers describe it as "…a musical panorama, from the intimacy of haunting love songs through the majesty of historical pageants to the drama and destruction of war". Could be, but I can’t really tell you about that one. The copy I’ve got is a test pressing, without a proper sleeve, so I can’t even tell you what the tracks are called. It doesn’t really matter though, because the album comes across as one ongoing piece of music. It’s not supposed to but that’s the way it sounds.

And it sounds good too – quiet, haunting, melancholy and almost admirably understated. The guitar work (particularly during Mike Rutherford and Anthony’s dual 12-string arrangements) is exquisite. Like glass. Phillips could’ve really gone to town on this one – three million piece orchestra – et al - but he didn’t, and in a way, that’s one thing to his credit. The problem is, he doesn’t really seem to have done enough towards making this album into the really excellent piece of work it could’ve been.

Apart from the vocals on three tracks (by Phil Collins, Viv MacAuliffe, and Anthony himself), it’s an instrumental album – and that’s where the danger crept in. With any piece of instrumental music, there’s always the problem of where to draw the line. Do you repeat a theme or a melody once? Twice? Or do you let it go on into infinity. Do you leave it as it is? Or do you build upon it? Reshape it. Use it as a springboard to other things.

You can see the difficulty, and that’s basically where "The Geese And The Ghost" gets lost. Ideas and melodies that’re nice the first and second time around are allowed to repeat over and over again to the point of monotony, while little melodic snippets and chord sequences that could’ve developed into something really amazing are cut off, without warning, long before they’ve been properly explored.

There’s a shapelessness, a lack of cohesiveness to the album. It rambles on with no real focus or direction.

Anthony Phillips has an amazing album wandering around inside of him somewhere. This one isn’t it, but I suppose you’ve got to test your wings if you ever hope to fly.

Dan Hedges - Sounds, March 1977

Anthony Phillips: The Geese And The Ghost (Hit & Run)

They play "The Geese And The Ghost" a lot at my friendly neighbourhood record store – a good sign when with an album which has arrived like this one, unheralded and unreviewed, by an unfamiliar name on an obscure label.

Not, however, that Phillips is himself an obscure or unfamiliar artist. He was the original guitarist with Genesis, whose first two albums he graced with that lyrical electric style now so dear to contemporary axemen like Brian May and Steve Hackett. After "Trespass" he quit the band, for a variety of reasons which must perforce remain private, but which were nothing to do with "musical and personal differences".

Charisma then dutifully shelled out several thousand quid for him to build a home recording studio and work with Mike Rutherford on an album. This is the somewhat belated result. Phil Collins handles the vocal chores on two tracks, and it was his success here that prompted him to try the same thing with Genesis after Gabriel’s departure.

Meanwhile, after the completion of the album, Charisma prevaricated for some three years, advising several complete re-mixes before suddenly deciding against issuing the album. Hence it now comes to you from Hit & Run – the debut, and possibly only, release from Peter’s Gabriel’s management company.

The cover is an amusing parody of the Roger Dean school of rock-and-roll surrealist artwork. On the front, a minstrel strums to a poolside image in medieval Rhineland while a miniature knight on snail-back charges at a lizard. On the reverse a Kaiser Whilhelm II armoured goose is bombed by RAF wall-to-wall Mallards.

This whimsical approach extends to the music, which is still very much in the Genesis territory. Though the slow, reflective quality of the music sometimes becomes depressing, nevertheless there is always an underlying sense of levity that is absent from the bulk of the work of Mike Oldfield, with whom Phillips will be inevitably compared. Three straightforward songs – "Which Way The Wind Blows", "God If I Saw Her Now" and "Collections" – might all have been sunk by their tiresome homespun philosophy, were not the overall schmaltziness handled so sympathetically.

"Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times", one of two long pieces, is given a jokey commentary; an earlier mix made the track a Western B-movie pastiche with full-blown "Blazing Saddles" orchestrations. Here, the arbitrary continuity is in danger of detracting from what is a very fine piece of music; themes develop and recur, mock Tudor fanfares segue into acoustic guitars, with a backing courtesy of Rents Spector.

Mastering at Trident Studios meanwhile hasn’t totally cleaned up the semi-garage production. Thankfully, the surface noise on the fret board and crackles on the tape remain. We’re spared the gleaming studio sterility.

Overall, it’s a languid, stylish sound; close to muzak. Anthony Phillips’ next album will be "Macbeth" with Glenda Jackson and Michael Jayston. Honestly.

Jonathan Barnett - New Musical Express, March 1977

Anthony Phillips: The Geese & The Ghost (Passport)

This album is another Genesis spin-off, and it sounds like it.  Which is not meant as a criticism, simply a statement of fact.  As far as I can tell, Anthony Phillips had a short tenure as Genesis' guitarist during their very early days.  He plays on their first album (released here, shortly after The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, as From Genesis To Revelation), and I have not been able to determine whether or not he played on Trespass.  However, for reasons not made public, he was replaced by John Hackett, who played flutes on three tracks here.

This album is much softer and seems to lean toward a more benign or benevolent sort of fantasy than that displayed by Genesis.  Although the sound is not far removed from the sound of Genesis, it is somewhat more mellow and considerably more influenced by the Baroque, Renaissance and English Folk music forms.

The problem I'm having in terms of reviewing this album is that I always like to review an artist on his or her own terms.  With three members of the current line-up of Genesis (Michael Rutherford and Phil Collins also appear in major roles) playing on an album by a former member, and a vocal sound which, even when not supplied by Phil Collins, sounds exactly by Genesis, it's impossible to do that.  Which is unfortunate, because the music here does stand on it's own.  This is a very pleasant album, which, while not a masterpiece, will provide many hours of enjoyable listening.  And unfortunately, it will probably be completely overlooked as "just another Genesis spin-off"

Robin Cook, publication unknown.  Spot the factual mistakes in this review!

Anthony Phillips: THE GEESE & THE GHOST (Passport)

The appearance of this album took me somewhat by surprise, in the sense that I hadn't been expecting any recorded product from Anthony Phillips.  He was Genesis' original guitarist, playing on their first two albums FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION and TRESPASS, at a time when the group was considerably lesser-known both here and in Europe.  He departed from their fold in 1970, making way for current axeman Steve Hackett, and hadn't been heard from musically since.

If nothing else, THE GEESE & THE GHOST proves that Phillips has never stopped thinking along his old group's stylistic lines.  Two of their members collaborate with him on this project, in fact.  Mike Rutherford contributes instrumentally as well as co-writing much of the material, and Phil Collins chips in with two lead vocals.  Even his successor's brother, John Hackett, does some flute work, in addition to guest shots by other players (including some full orchestration).

Phillips' style closely resembles the mellower aspects of Genesis, with a penchant for instrumental story-telling mixed in.  Over half of the playing time is occupied by two lengthy pieces, "Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times" and the title track, the former being a more cohesive structure and the latter offering slightly more daring in its changes.  Introspective balladeering occupies most of the remaining grooves, with an appealing exception in the elegant, moody instrumental "Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West."

Although many of it's moods are musically valid and quite listenable, THE GEESE lacks the adventurousness and variety of Hackett's solo disc VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE, for example.  Six years on from his work with Genesis, Phillips' music still projects a feel of the work of one part of a larger musical whole, with certain stylistic limitations still intact.  Nonetheless, it's appealing in a Mike Oldfield type of approach and offers another proof of the high caliber of musicianship brought to us via Genesis, both past and present.

Cliff Michalski, Scene, April 1977 

Back to Press