Anthony Phillips - Slow Dance album review

Gentle orchestral suite steps out once more

Anthony Phillips - Slow Dance album artwork

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Even 47 years after he left the band, Anthony Phillips seems destined to always have the preface “Genesis founder member” before his name. He can take solace in the fact that many long-time Genesis fans are still delving afresh into his considerable and charming solo body of work. 1977’s The Geese And The Ghost remains the most enjoyable album, but the reputation of 1990’s Slow Dance has consistently risen, albeit at a leisurely pace redolent of the music itself. An orchestral 50-minute instrumental suite, split over what used to be two sides, it takes its time to enchant. Its cumulative effect, however, is certainly worth staying for. Now freshly remixed and remastered by original co-producer Simon Heyworth, it glides across the dance floor as a three-disc set, with previously unreleased vignettes, mixes and demos. The main event, nonetheless, is the original composition itself. Phillips was undergoing financial difficulties at the time of creating this album, and by his own admission took a gamble akin to “a high-wire act in a windstorm”. Without record company support at first – Virgin snapped up the album once they’d actually heard it – he committed many months to the ambitious project. It seeps into your ears serenely, almost imperceptibly. Phillips plays a multitude of instruments and there’s dainty interplay between the time-honoured (a variety of guitars) and the then-modish: keyboards, sequencers and drum machines. Strings and woodwind come in and the intended levels of grandeur arrive. In truth, the easiest comparison for this album isn’t actually with Genesis, though you can still discern traces of Phillips’ softly-softly approach that brushed their beginnings. And Slow Dance doesn’t attain the scale or emotional impact of, say, Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. What it does echo is Camel. Phillips had worked with that band’s frontman Andy Latimer earlier, and the overall mood and pace of this piece has something in common with The Snow Goose. Unhurried and graceful.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.