Anthony Phillips: Harvest Of The Heart

A brilliant summary of an overlooked career.

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So, whatever happened to that bloke who played guitar with Genesis in their early days?

The one who left after the Trespass album? You could be forgiven for asking, because to most people, Anthony Phillips has spent the past four decades out of the spotlight. Perhaps none too surprising for someone who left Genesis because he suffered from stage fright. However, he’s recorded a vast selection of albums which, when gathered together on this five-CD collection, tell the tale of a hugely talented and inventive artist.

This stretches from 1969 all the way through to 2012. You can hear the many sides to Phillips’ compositional and performance originality, and that is the astonishing thing about the broad spectrum encompassed by the tracks here. There are the folksy moments and the classical regimens, as you might have anticipated. But what you might not be aware of is how Phillips, unfettered by the demands of being in a growing band, actually explores a more cutting-edge approach, as can be heard on the music taken from various volumes of his Private Parts & Pieces. Here you feel the joy Phillips so obviously has in letting his imagination loose. You can also appreciate why he’s been commissioned to write the music for so many soundtracks as he is gifted at capturing atmosphere.

Even on his more obviously mainstream albums, such as Sides and Invisible Men, he has an endearing quirkiness. This probably prevented him from achieving the commercial acclaim of Peter Gabriel, but now it makes songs from these projects stand outside of their time. With hindsight, you appreciate the depth he was displaying, as well as his considered melodic approach.

While Harvest Of The Heart is a stunning exploration of what Phillips has achieved, it does a lot more than this. As you listen through his tapestry of creativity, you start to realise he is a startlingly important figure in the world of music. Because, while others might have gone on to hit greater heights as far as the mainstream world is concerned, Phillips has always been taking risks, and in doing so he isn’t mirroring what was going on at the time, instead anticipating it. This gives much of the music here a fascinating twist, because you’re hearing the constant evolution of a true artist.

The accompanying booklet puts Phillips’ achievements into perspective, and makes you appreciate just how much he has done since the Genesis era. In all, this is a fine and enthusiastic summary of an ongoing, peripatetic career.