Archive Collection Volume 1 & Volume II
(Esoteric - 5CDs)
We’ve been here before, back in 1998 (volume one) and 2004 (volume two), when Phillips first delved into the box beneath the bed in search of… well, the oddest of the oddments, the scrappiest of the scraps, the most awesome of the orphans. But remastered and bolstered with a stack of further material that either didn’t fit, or had not even been unearthed for the original discs, those two old CDs can now be left to gather dust. Because this is the definitive survey.
The initial vision has not changed - to lay bare the workings behind one of the most unique catalogs of the age. Out-takes, alternates, demos, remixes and exceprts spread out from the late 1960s into the mid-1990s, and with no regard whatsoever for chronology, we slip from a 1972 guitar overdub to a 1990 demo for a potential single; forward towards his then-most recent thoughts and back to a demo by the Anon, the mid-1960s schoolboy band that eventually became Genesis.
Demos for the soundtrack to Tarka the Otter, schemed with the original author’s son Harry Williamson in 1988, rub shoulders with the building blocks for Genesis’ “The Musical Box,” and swathes of that band’s earliest repertoire are laid bare..
Indeed, Genesis watchers will find much to appreciate in the form of Mike Rutherford’s occasional collaborations, and demos that predate Phillips’ departure from that band. But fans of Phillips’ subsequent solo career are equally rewarded.
The “Scottish Suite II,” recorded between 1973-1976 is here in its near complete form; while disc five rounds up the entire unreleased Masquerade Tapes, a 1981 theatrical project which has hitherto been sighted only in dribs and drabs across Phillips’ Private Parts and Pieces collection.
In truth, and in keeping with the origins of the material, not everything in the box is priceless, even for diehard collectors. Some ideas were abandoned for very good reasons, it appears, and some snatches make more sense when they’re affixed to their final form.
On the other hand, there are a multitude of moments that you wish had either been taken further or pursued to the end, while the 60 page booklet is detailed enough that even the briefest tracks take their place in the canon.
Across the board, Esoteric’s on-going approach to the Anthony Phillips catalog ranks among the most lovingly-executed of all such outings, and this might well be one of its crowning glories. Which isn’t at all bad for… what did we call them earlier? “The oddest of the oddments, the scrappiest of the scraps, the most awesome of the orphans.” They’re solid gold, regardless.