“Instantly recognisable, all detuned guitars and intricately detailed melodies… it feels like we’re waiting for Peter Gabriel’s vocals”: Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson’s Gypsy Suite

Remastered and expanded set from the former Genesis guitarist has its roots in the mid-70s, but feels timeless and evocative

Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson - Gypsy Suite
(Image: © Esoteric)

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Haunting and majestic, sonorous and plaintive, this bumper set bundles together Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson’s 1995 album Gypsy Suite along with demos for their earlier collaboration Tarka.

Phillips and Williamson – whose father, Henry Williamson, wrote the children’s book Tarka The Otter – first started sketching ideas for these songs in the summer of 1971, but it wouldn’t be until four years later that they’d knuckle down and start creating the music that would eventually become Gypsy Suite.

Its four movements may stretch back to the mid-70s, but the purity of the music and its delivery has made these pieces almost timeless. Phillips is instantly recognisable, all detuned guitars and intricately detailed melodies – his playing on Movement II: Siesta is so stirring and warm that it’s all you can do to drop everything and wonder why you’re suddenly weeping.

He and Williamson do evocative very well, conjuring up aural colours and shapes that transport the mind. And inevitably, there are moments when – this being Phillips at his showboating 70s best – it feels like we’re waiting for a break in the music to usher in Peter Gabriel’s vocals, so familiar is the guitarist phrasing and tone, though never to the detriment of the songs themselves.

This reissue also features the demos for Phillips and Williamson’s rejected score for the 1974 movie Tarka The Otter, which was eventually completed and launched in 1988. It’s completed by the unreleased Movement III: The Hunt – a rousing, revolving piano piece that sounds as though it should be the accompanying soundtrack to a dark and complex murder mystery.

It’s strange to think now that they struggled to find a label to release the original album, though the duo did turn down a deal with a Virgin imprint that offered them a multitrack tape recorder in lieu of an advance payment. No matter – these songs have transcended the years, shining as brightly and bold now as they ever did.

Gypsy Suite is on sale now via Esoteric.

Phil Weller

You can usually find this Prog scribe writing about the heavier side of the genre, chatting to bands for features and news pieces or introducing you to exciting new bands that deserve your attention. Elsewhere, Phil can be found on stage with progressive metallers Prognosis or behind a camera teaching filmmaking skills to young people.