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Phillips, Anthony: Slow Dance (expanded remaster)

With Passport Records enthused by original Genesis man Anthony Phillips' previous album, 1987's Slow Waves, Soft Stars, the label promptly and for the first time in many a moon, offered the mutli-instrumentalist an advance for his next work, which would go onto become Slow Dance. Buoyed by this change in attitude, Phillips set about upgrading his studio and equipment to allow him to reappraise and expand his musical template. As is so often the way, fate had other plans when Passport ceased trading, however, having already spent the money they had promised, Phillips, instead of seeing this as the defeat most people would, set about writing and recording anyway. In the process he had to hire more equipment (a 16 track recorder, to double up on his newly acquired one) and, through the generosity of a loan from his friend and collaborator Simon Heyworth, a classical ensemble.

By this stage the album was already well underway, as Phillips, invigorated by his new musical options, moved his focus from the pastoral, guitar and voice led fare he was best known for, into a symphonic classical hybrid that landed somewhere between Oldfield and Vangelis. Pouring these efforts into two, LP side length pieces, the results were quite startling, a beauty, poise and drama brought to the quiet but effective style the man of many talents was known for. There's a soundtrack feel as a 'story' is revealed and played out through a remarkably cohesive framework. The first piece both being around the 25 minute mark is smooth yet proud, a flowing style brought to bare with real intent, while the second movement proves a little more 'song based' in that there are much more obvious movements and sections, the mood and tone evolving even more clearly than before. Taken as a whole the 50 minutes-plus are sublime, the quiet insistence constantly drawing you in to what feels like a fully formed world.

The 'organic' instruments that make an appearance come in the shape of clarinet, oboe, piccolo, trumpet, harp, drums (although the majority comes from a 'drum-box') and percussion. Everything else coming from the fingers and mind of Phillips as he masterfully pieced together a host of ideas he had had kicking around for a number of years, but hadn't previously had the opportunity, or technology, to realise. Let loose with a wider range of synthesizers and more in depth recording techniques (by late 80s standards), it suddenly became clear just what he was capable of.

This beautiful remaster comes housed in a five panel digi-pack (not the clam shell box most of Esoteric's previous Phillips remasters have arrived in, unfortunately), with album art poster and a new lengthy liner essay featuring the thoughts of Phillips and Heyworth. Even more impressively it also features an immersive and very welcome 5.1 surround version of Slow Dance, which even more than most of Phillips' work, benefits hugely from this conversion as it allows you to reside right in the album's heart.

Equally interesting is the bonus CD in this three disc set where early demos, possible 'single mixes' and two pieces that were worked on at the same time but shelved, are released (with the exception of "Slow Dance Single Demo") for the first time. As has previously been the case in this Phillips reissue campaign, this is no throwaway set, instead revealing the evolution of the album itself as the string sessions, experimentation with real drums (which works beautifully, but also let you understand why drum-box was used so extensively due to the mood change real drums create) and use of guitars are all highlighted in a way the final mix never tried to. As a companion piece it comes highly recommended.

Having finalised the album and racked up considerable debt in the process, Phillips took on any studio work, TV music projects and anything else that he could, before Virgin records, after having heard a 'sample cassette', expressed their interest in releasing not just Slow Dance, but also the majority of Phillips' catalogue as part of a CD reissue campaign; digging the multi-instrumentalist out of what could have been a deep financial hole in the process. As Phillips says himself in the liner notes, now it all looks like a cunning plan that came together quite masterfully, but it could easily have gone the other way. Thankfully it didn't, allowing us to celebrate some 27 years down the line, one of the strongest album's in a long, impressive and varied catalogue.


Track Listing
DISC ONE: SLOW DANCE NEW 24-BIT RE-MASTERED ORIGINAL STEREO MIX
1. SLOW DANCE PART ONE
2. SLOW DANCE PART TWO


DISC TWO: SLOW DANCE VIGNETTES (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
1. THEMES FROM "SLOW DANCE"
2. NO WAY OUT (ALTERNATE MIX)
3. A SLOWER DANCE
4. GUITAR ADAGIO FROM SLOW DANCE
5. TOUCH ME DEEPLY (DEMO)
6. CLARINET SLEIGH RIDE
7. SLOW DANCE SINGLE DEMO (ALTERNATE MIX)
8. NO WAY OUT (ORIGINAL MIX WITH DRUMS)
9. LENTA CHORUM


DISC THREE: DVD SLOW DANCE NEW 5.1 SURROUND MIXES & 96 KHZ/24-BIT ORIGINAL STEREO MIX
1. SLOW DANCE PART ONE
2. SLOW DANCE PART TWO

Added: July 1st 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Slow Dance at Cherry Red
Hits: 189
Language: english

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