“A handy reminder of why he’s revered as a player, tickling the ear with pleasurable sounds”: Anthony Phillips’ Strings Of Light reissue

Celebratory 2CD set defies former Genesis guitarist’s claim that he was never a brilliant player

Anthony Phillips - Strings of Light reissue
(Image: © Esoteric)

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When Strings Of Light came out in 2019 it was Anthony Phillips’ first album in seven years, following the 12th instalment of his Private Parts & Pieces series in 2012.

While most of the tracks were new, he’d found himself revisiting ideas from his old band Genesis. He’d also dug even further back to his formative guitar-playing days. when he’d listen to The Byrds, George Harrison and a hippie Charterhouse friend, Tony Henderson.

The sound of the 12-string guitar is one of the defining features of Genesis, and something that schoolmates Phillips and Mike Rutherford had become obsessed with. The pair studied every trick and technique and created their own mannerisms through experimentation with tunings, chord inversions and so on.

When Phillips left in 1970 his 12-string reverberation imprint remained – Steve Hackett would arrive and take up the mantle.

Phillips’ songs and deft fingerstyle continue to be influential today; Big Big Train’s Gregory Spawton has cited him as an inspiration many times. 

So Strings Of Light is a handy reminder of why he’s so revered as a player, as well as tickling the ear with some pleasurable sounds, such as Jour De Fete’s mandolin vivacity, the divine, nine-note chord thrum of Diamond Meadows and the Vivaldi-esque Winter Lights.

Amid the chiming strums and flourishes, Phillips’ humour peeps through just once, in the warped, scratchy, boogie-woogie of Mouse Trip; and there are avant-garde vignettes such as the ominous, destructive clang of Into The Void and the Ligeti-like atmospheric Tale Ender.

“I never thought of my playing as particularly brilliant,” the ever-modest Phillips told Prog in 2019. We respectfully disagree; here’s a man who loves form and uses it in melodic and moving ways to great effect. Check stunning closer Life Story – played on a 1931 classical guitar made by legendary Barcelonan luthier Francisco Simplicio – for proof.

Strings Of Light is on sale now in 2CD format.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.