Anthony Phillips – The Golden Hour: Private Parts & Pieces XII

Anthony Phillips – The Golden Hour: Private Parts & Pieces XII

Didn’t I already review Private Parts & Pieces XII? Ah, I’m mistaken; turns out what I reviewed in the past was Twelve, the title of Private Parts & Pieces V. Confused yet?

The music of Anthony Phillips has had a profound effect on me since I began listening to his solo oeuvre all those years ago. Like a chameleon changing his colours over time, he’s proven that he can excel in different areas, from pastoral prog with his debut The Geese & the Ghost to delectable pop on Invisible Men and everything in between. His outstanding 90s long-form effort Slow Dance has been a mainstay on my playlist, always a comfort when I’m feeling sad or a relaxing backdrop for when I need to focus.

And yet, I’ve never felt the urge to really tackle his music head-on; I only listen to new albums when I get the chance to review them. He’s an artist who seems to blow with the wind, never settling on a clear direction, which can make it unpredictable whether he’ll make music that’s to my taste on any given album. Also, there’s only so much of his ‘light touch’ I can take before I need something a bit more substantial.

The Private Parts & Pieces series clearly indicates how much of a leaf on the wind he is, not that it’s a bad thing. Reserved for demos and offcuts that don’t fit squarely on a ‘regular’ album, Phillips has returned to this format so often that it frankly dominates his catalogue. While most artists would probably shelve these half-finished ideas, Phillips releases them into the world for general consumption and does so once again this year.

The set starts off with its centrepiece, the 19-minute Wynchmore Hill Suite which features nothing but Phillips on guitar, often double-tracked. His skill on the guitar is undeniable, creating atmospheres of adventure, excitement, danger, melancholy and more just through strumming. Some parts are quite catchy and one could imagine a full band truly taking this work to the next level. It’s a shame no one ever seemed to take a chance on Anthony Phillips.

After Wynchmore Hill Suite there are another 19 tracks to get through, most lasting between one to three minutes. Phillips rotates between instruments, sometimes tickling the ivories, other times creating soundscapes with his New Age synthesiser. After the excitement of the opening suite, every song from here on out is more relaxing. His talent for creating soundscapes is indisputable, but after 20 minutes of what feels like an audio screensaver, I’m starting to get bored.

I was quite surprised when vocals suddenly dropped on Roads in Between, a stark contrast to the rest of the album, which is entirely instrumental. A glance at my phone told me that this was the ‘vocal version’, so I did some digging and found that there was indeed an earlier instrumental version of this song to be found on the Private Parts & Pieces IX-XI box set released in 2018. Like everything else on this album, it’s pretty and nice, but not very memorable. Only one other song on the album features a drum track: Mean Streets, which reminds me that I must reassess that Scorsese film.

An hour of music from this ageing guitarist shows that he still has boundless creativity and talent but not always the discipline to channel it into something cohesive and satisfying. Taken as an hour of relaxing New Age music, this hits the spot. As for anything more, Wynchmore Hill Suite occasionally hits some poignant highs, but is nowhere near the same realm as Slow Dance. I hope that these offcuts signify that Phillips has something more substantial that he doesn’t want to include them on.

01. Wychmore Hill Suite I: Country Mile (3:13)
02. Wychmore Hill Suite II: Ring of Steel (4:48)
03. Wychmore Hill Suite III: Peaceful Land (5:53)
04. Wychmore Hill Suite IV: Jack the Lad (5:15)
05. Twilight of a Diva (2:54)
06. High Flight (2:45)
07. Sarabande Noir (3:16)
08. Kathryn Downes Trad. (2:44)
09. The Golden Hour (2:37)
10. Hour Glass (1:05)
11. Roads in Between (vocal version) (5:12)
12. Benediction (1:08)
13. Soliloquy for Sylvie (2:13)
14. Rushlight (0:44)
15. New World (2:00)
16. Cirrus (1:12)
17. Under the Southern Stars (2:42)
18. Sea Drift (0:47)
19. Night Spectre (1:05)
20. Mean Streets (1:30)
21. Sky Diving (2:43)
22. Summer’s Lease (1:25)
23. His Final Bow (1:40)

Total Time – 58:43

Anthony Phillips – Guitars, Piano, Synths, Vocals
~ With:
Quique Berro Garcia – Classical Guitar (7 & 13)
James Collins – Additional Synths (6 & 15)

Record Label: Esoteric Antenna | Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: EANTCD 1107
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st May 2024

Anthony Philips – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube | Info at Cherry Red Records