Mike Rutherford has openly confessed that the departure from Genesis of schoolmate Anthony Phillips hit him harder than the subsequent exits of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett. Bewildering info, given the latter pair’s greater gifts to the band’s canon. Yet this spruced-up reissue of Phillips’ solo debut illuminates a certain simpatico.
Intended as a duet when begun in 1969, the band’s boom meant it wasn’t completed until ‘77. With Rutherford co-writing the bulk, and Phil Collins tackling most vocals, it can effectively be viewed as a lost early Genesis album.
Perhaps it’s a path they’d have pursued without the young Gabriel’s restless intellect. All the elements which non-believers mock are foregrounded: pseudo-mediaeval fanfares, pastoral folky whimsy, 12-string guitars intertwining. The seven-part Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times, laden with oboes and flutes, is as Olde England as John Major’s vision of cricket, warm beer and green suburbs, while the title epic shares DNA with Nursery Cryme: it’s pretty, but immobile. Elsewhere, bucolic songs about love and nature tremble politely.
Thirteen bonus tracks include unreleased single Silver Song/Only Your Love, crooned sincerely by Collins. The Genesis that existed would have argued until these pleasant strands were one complex, captivating web. This is equally vacuous and gorgeous.