Released in 1989, I was introduced to Slow Dance via the Woolworth’s bargain section where I picked up the cassette for 50 pence. And so, it slipped into my consciousness, well in this case semi-consciousness – bedtime listening. Relaxed, I would drift into the arms of Morpheus. Not even conceived of at that time, but what would a 5.1 remix do for this charming piece?
The 5.1 mix adds considerable depth to a piece with classical overtones, had Mozart or Strauss had the range of instrumentation available to them, then what were already complex compositions would have been even more layered. Layered is what Slow Dance is, music that would be equally at home with a full orchestra as with the knobs and sliders of electronica; 1989 was an eventful year and I was thankful for the sense of peace that this album brought.
Anthony Phillips manages to produce musical themes that are whimsical and stirring, dark and Arthurian, and at times even a bit Beatrix Potter. Phillips’ take, in the sleeve notes, is that Part I is the main piece and the stronger, though for me that has always been Part II which I find more to my taste. That said, I also find it best heard in a single sitting, velvet in a world of sandpaper. Space, time, a decent cognac in a lead crystal glass and chill. The pitch for this back in 1989 was ambient, it is much stronger than that often throw away term, and much of the ambient output of that time. I always loved that it had depth and texture in a time when, for me, pop was superficial (I think it may be worse now).
The extensive sleeve notes with photographs take this Esoteric Recordings package to another level, and combined with the disc of extras, Slow Dance Vignettes, give a slight insight into the construction. Many of these pieces are seemingly suitable for use as incidental music in some BBC drama of the era (they possibly were too) and Clarinet Sleigh Ride is a good as any other Christmas themed music I have heard.
I find it difficult to write reams on instrumental albums, how you interpret them, how you hear them can be very subjective, but from an objective position there is much that will appeal to lovers of classical music as well as progressive, and as the notes fade again for Slow Dance I cannot help but wonder why this man has not been accorded a Promenade, truly worthy as he is of that level of recognition.
This reissue replaces my ancient cassette, my love is renewed and I believe it deserves to be purchased and enjoyed. See you at the Royal Albert Hall soon Anthony!
01. Slow Dance Part I (24:00)
02. Slow Dance Part II (26:30)
Time – 50:30
Slow Dance Vignettes
01. Themes from Slow Dance (3:33)
02. No Way Out (Alt Mix) (4:26)
03. A Slower Dance (5:39)
04. Guitar Adagio from Slow Dance (1:35)
05. Touch Me Deeply (4:02)
06. Clarinet Sleigh Ride (3:58)
07. Slow Dance Single Demo (alternate mix) (2:41)
08. No Way Out (original mix with drums) (4:25)
09. Lenta Chorum (1:16)
Time – 31:35
Slow Dance 5.1 mix (50:30)
Anthony Phillips – Keyboards (Emax (Part I), Jupiter 8, Casio CZ5000, Roland 808), Guitars (Alvarez 12-string, Fender Stratocaster, Yari Classical, Ovation Six String), Bass (Gretsch Fretless Bass), Tom Drum Machine, Yamaha QX5 Sequencer (Part 2)
Martin Robertson – Clarinet
Ian Hardwick – Oboe
Michael Cox – Flute, Piccolo
Tjborn Holtmark – Trumpet
Julie Allis – Harp
Ian Thomas – Drums
Frank Ricotti – Percussion and Off Spin
John Owen-Edwards – Conductor
Gavyn Wright – Leader
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Date of Release: 16th June 2017