“You should hear what Anthony Phillips has been doing since he left Genesis,” heralded an advertisement for the former Genesis guitarist’s 1977 album The Geese and the Ghost. A largely-instrumental album of orchestral splendor, The Geese had a bumpy road to release, but it’s now the subject of a deluxe, expanded 2-CD/1-DVD mini-box set edition that ranks as one of the most striking reissue packages of the year.
Certainly a candidate for the great lost Genesis album, The Geese and the Ghost is a deliberate, atmospheric and largely instrumental record in a baroque orchestral style. Phillips had begun composing the piece in 1969, recording a demo with his bandmate Mike Rutherford. Following his departure from Genesis in July 1970 after the recording of the band’s second album Trespass, he continued to write and shape the medieval-themed music that became The Geese and the Ghost. (The finished album certainly is reminiscent of portions of Trespass.) Though he put the songs on the shelf to pursue other endeavors including the study of classical music and orchestration, Phillips returned to his opus in 1972-1973, writing in tandem once more with Rutherford.
In 1974, the duo became more focused on what was to be a joint album, but Rutherford’s commitment to Genesis threatened to derail it. After some initial sessions with both men, Phillips pressed forward in spring 1975 while Rutherford was on tour promoting The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Following the Lamb tour, Rutherford rejoined Phillips, and other musicians (including students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama) were enlisted to participate in the sessions. John Hackett, younger brother of guitarist Steve, played flute. Phillips himself took on bouzouki, mellotron, harmonium, piano, organ, celeste, glockenspiel, timbales, bells, chimes, gongs and dulcimer, in addition to a variety of guitars. Phil Collins was drafted to provide vocals on “Which Way the Wind Blows” and “God If I Saw Her Now.” On the latter, an ethereal folk-styled ballad, he was joined by Viv McAuliffe. The third sung composition, the piano-driven “Collections,” was performed by Phillips.
1976 proved a difficult year for Phillips, however. Rutherford was once again called away from the proceedings due to his obligations with Genesis, and the band’s label, Charisma Records, declared their lack of interest in releasing the ambitious album. Other labels were similarly disinclined to issue The Geese and the Ghost, perhaps turned off by its lack of much that could be described as rock. Finally, American label Passport Records agreed to release the album, and Phillips set about to completing it in the fall. Finding a U.K. label continued to prove difficult until Genesis’ manager Tony Smith agreed to form Hit and Run Records to distribute the epic recording. Smith also arranged for Vertigo Records to distribute The Geese and the Ghost internationally.
The frequently pretty, often stately, and altogether sprawling and multi-layered album – reminiscent of a soundtrack to a never-made film – was credited in the end to Phillips solo, though Rutherford remained a key player as a musician, engineer and writer. He was also credited with production along with Phillips and Simon Heyworth. The LP barely cracked the U.S. albums chart at No. 191 but its cult reputation grew over the years. In 2008, a deluxe CD edition added a bonus disc with twelve additional cuts: mostly demos and work-in-progress tracks plus the 1973 Phil Collins-sung track “Silver Song,” proposed for an unreleased single.
Esoteric’s new 2015 edition, produced by Mark Powell, has been curated with Phillips’ participation. In addition to the album as remastered by original co-producer Simon Heyworth, it retains the twelve previously issued bonus tracks and adds “Only Your Love,” the intended B-side of “Silver Song” also sung by Phil Collins. It also premieres a new 5.1 surround mix in the high-resolution DVD-Audio format. (The DVD-A is happily in NTSC/region-free format, playable everywhere in the world.) The album’s hypnotic, shimmering sound is well-suited to the 5.1 treatment as mixed by Andy Miles and original co-producer Simon Heyworth. A 24-page booklet is packed with information on the album, and boasts copious liner notes, track-by-track annotations as to the bonus cuts, plenty of memorabilia images, and new commentary from Anthony Phillips. It’s all housed in a compact clamshell-style box which also contains a fold-out poster.
The 2-CD/1-DVD edition of The Geese and the Ghost is available now at the links below! (Note that the U.S. listing shows the set format as “vinyl” but the product description and all specifications are correct.)
CD 1/DVD-A: The Original Album
- Wind – Tales
- Which Way the Wind Blows
- Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times – Fanfare
- Lute’s Chorus
- Misty Battlements
- Lute’s Chorus (Reprise)
- Henry Goes to War
- Death of a Knight
- Triumphant Return
- God If I Saw Her Now
- Chinese Mushroom Cloud
- The Geese and the Ghost Part 1
- The Geese and the Ghost Part 2
- Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West
CD 2: Bonus Tracks
- Master of Time (Demo)
- Title Inspiration
- The Geese and the Ghost Part 1 (Basic Track)
- Collections Link
- Which Way the Wind Blows (Basic Track)
- Silver Song (Geese Sessions Version)
- Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times (Basic Version): Fanfare/Lute’s Chorus/Reprise/Misty Battlements
- Collections (Demo)
- The Geese and the Ghost Part 2 (Basic Track)
- God If I Saw Her Now (Basic Track)
- Sleepfall (Basic Track)
- Silver Song (1973 Unreleased Single Version)
- Only Your Love (1973 Unreleased Single) (previously unreleased)
Tracks 1-12 from Voiceprint CD VP432CD, 2008