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Anthony Phillips The Living Room Concert

Anthony Phillips - The Living Room Concert

Anthony Phillips live at home in the studio

The 1993 Living Room Concert is the first of three "live-but-without-an-audience" albums from Anthony Phillips’ back catalogue and the only one to appear in the current series of re-issues on the Esoteric label. The Live Radio Sessions (1998), the most recent of these three in terms of both recording and release dates, will not be included in the reissues series (neither will Meadows Of Englewood). The third album of that kind was recorded and broadcast in 1978, way before the Living Room Concert, though it was released much later (in 2003 as Radio Clyde). They could be released as a double set in the style of, say, the Private Parts & Pieces boxes.

A live performance recorded without a present audience – is that actually live at all, or is it a quick (perhaps “cheaper”) studio recording? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. This concert is “live” in that all the recordings were made at the same day without any overdubs or (major) post-production and some of the pieces are introduced. What’s more, many pieces come in different arrangements due to the live situation and the absence of other musicians. It is a “studio recording” in that you can do second takes for a piece despite a tight schedule, you can leave out the odd song and, of course, the recipient cannot watch the artist perform.
Anthony Phillips 1992 A few facts and numbers about the 14 tracks on the re-issue: There three bonus tracks. Only nine of the original tracks were broadcast on the radio, eleven tracks made up the original release in 1995. These include three piece that were not broadcast (Flamingo, Field Of Eternity, and Sistine), while Jaunty Roads was broadcast but not included in the release. Two pieces on the release have never been heard before like this, Let Us Now Make Love and Lucy: An Illusion.

The tracks were selected from the studio albums The Geese & The Ghost, Private Parts & Pieces (PP&P) I, IV and VII, and the two aforementioned pieces that were recorded for the Virgin release of Ant’s catalogue (PP&P II and VI). The three tracks from Private Parts & Pieces I as well as Which Way The Wind Blows and Conversation Piece were also part of Radio Clyde, while Lights On The Hill and Lucy: An Illusion were also part of the Live Radio Sessions.
Most of the live versions on this album are a bit shorter than the originals (Jaunty Roads is the exception). In many cases the pieces are played a bit faster, and while that may be due to the artist’s nerves, some tracks actually benefit from it (Reaper comes to mind). It may also be due to the simpler arrangements: Playing solo, Ant had to rewrite or reduce all the arrangements so they can be performed on one guitar or one piano. Reaper is also a good example for abbreviations – a passage that is played eight times in the original is repeated only five times here – and for little mistakes. There are hardly any major mistakes on the album (but spot 5:22 on Let Us Now Make Love). Flamingo is the only piece with radical cuts. The modified repetition is dropped right from the beginning, which makes the piece only half as long.

The original tonalities were retained, with the following exceptions: Henry is down a full step, Flamingo a quarter step, Jaunty Roads a minor third; Sistine has been raised half a step. Ant’s vocals are weaker than in the original versions, except for Lucy, which is a noteworthy performance. There have been no changes in the lyrics. The order of the pieces on the CD does not quite follow the order of the 1993 broadcast. This is something you can learn from Jonathan Dann’s very instructive essay.

Some other notes on individual pieces: The postlude in Which Way The Wind Blows has been shortened and changed (the E – E flat – D part is repeated only four times before a toccata-style section and open cadences at the end). Henry includes the reprise of the Lutes Chorus; the quiet intermezzo in Henry Goes To War is more playful than the original. Conversation Piece was never recorded for a studio album, and there is no point in it either. The conversation sounds like someone saying the same thing repeatedly with lots of emphasis, only to win some spice at 4:19. The Phillips classic Lights On The Hill is played without the annoying drum box; it is some ninety seconds shorter than the original. As in the Anthology, Last Goodbyes, Collections and Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West make up a perfect sequence. The latter piece was not even mentioned in the tracklist of the original Living Room Concert release; it was simply subsumed under Collections.

The Living Room ConcertUnfortunately, this new release does not include the Lyric Book that came with the very first edition of the Living Room Concert CD. This book (no ISBN) had all the lyrics from Ant’s solo oeuvre, except for It’s Not Easy, which he felt embarrassed about. If you were to update and re-issue it you’d only have to insert She’ll Be Waiting, as Credo In Cantus would be left out again. This makes the Lyric Book a collector’s item, just like the Living Room Concert CD with the delicious artwork by Helmut Janisch (who happens to be one of the founders of the German Genesis fanclub it). The artwork is inspired by and makes use of elements of the artwork of Ant’s previous albums (in this, it compares with Helmut’s work for the 2019 Rocking Horse Music Club project) as well as collages of Ant’s releases, handwritten notes and other things.

It is good to see that a slightly exotic album like this is re-issued. If you are new to Anthony Phillips you may want to pass, but others who enjoy his music will derive pleasure from these tracks and their new presentation. They are worth listening to, they are less contemplative than the original versions – and the recording includes Ant’s uniquely humorous introductions.

Author: Andreas Lauer
English by Martin Klinkhardt
Photo by Helmut Janisch

The Living Room Concert, remastered and expanded comes in a Digipak and is released by Esoteric/CherryRed. Order it at amazonUK or directly at CherryRed

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