Cherry Red's Esoteric Recordings imprint is happily determined to leave no stone unturned in its reissue series dedicated to the solo recordings of founding Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips. The latest album to receive its deluxe multi-CD/DVD format is Phillips' 1990 release, Slow Dance. The original LP has been expanded with an entire bonus disc of previously unreleased session material, plus a region-free DVD containing surround and stereo mixes.
Slow Dance, a two-part orchestral suite, was recorded by Phillips in 1988 and 1989. The follow-up to Tarka, his collaborative album with Harry Williamson, Slow Dance became Phillips' first "proper" solo recording since 1981's electronic-infused 1984 (not counting Private Parts and Pieces and Missing Links anthology-style releases). Its genesis, no pun intended, came with the success of the Private Parts volume Slow Waves, Soft Stars. That intimate album had fit right into the burgeoning New Age market, with its soft, ethereal soundscapes. Though Phillips hadn't intended to write for any particular genre, he was offered a sufficient advance by Passport Records, his then-label, to create a larger-scale piece. Slow Dance would both fit into the New Age milieu and also showcase Phillips' compositional skills which could be applied to film and television soundtrack work.
Phillips crafted Slow Dance as a two-part suite, with each part filling up one side of the original vinyl album. He played a variety of keyboards and guitars, as well as bass and drum machines, while the compositions were fleshed out with additional instrumentation including clarinet, oboe, piccolo, trumpet, harp, drums, and percussion. Finally, majestic strings were added. The end result blended New Age-style reflective music with muscular, more rock-oriented passages, both rendered with accessible and even catchy melodies. Indeed, the deliberately-unfolding Slow Dance at times recalls Genesis' early progressive works thanks to its modern take on classical influences.
The title of the album came at the suggestion of Virgin Records, the label which picked up the project after Passport Records folded, because the listener at the label felt that it might have made a suitable soundtrack for a ballet. Indeed, Slow Dance is filled with evocative and varied music within its instrumental framework, conjuring up a visit to a far-off place or time...perhaps even into the future, based on its integration of then-cutting-edge keyboard sounds.
The album, on CD One, has been remastered by its original co-producer and engineer, Simon Heyworth. It's joined, on CD Two, by nine previously unreleased tracks from the album sessions. These include alternate mixes highlighting certain instruments in particular sections, and two versions of a potential single for the album ("A Slower Dance" and "Slow Dance Single Demo (Alternate Mix)." (The latter is an alternate mix because the original mix first appeared on 1998's The Archive Collection Vol. 1.) Given the 50-minute length of the complete suite, it's easier to appreciate its varied segments in these more compact presentations.
"Touch Me Deeply" and "Clarinet Sleigh Ride" are two outtakes recorded during the sessions but ultimately discarded as the suite took shape as two lengthy parts only. The third disc of the set, a region-free NTSC DVD, presents the original album in both high-resolution LPCM stereo and 5.1 surround (96/24 DTS, and Dolby Surround options). The surround mix isn't flashy, but rather, it expands the soundstage of this often-lush composition in subtle ways.
Esoteric's reissue is housed in a digipak in the style of the label's reissue of 1984. A foldout poster with the album artwork is enclosed as well as a 16-page booklet featuring lengthy and informative notes by Jonathan Dann. Track-by-track annotations are also helpfully supplied for all of the bonus tracks on the second disc.
Anthony Phillips' Slow Dance is available now at the links below from Esoteric Recordings.
CD 1 / DVD
- Slow Dance (Part 1)
- Slow Dance (Part 2)
- Theme from Slow Dance
- No Way Out (Alternate Mix)
- A Slower Dance
- Guitar Adagio from Slow Dance
- Touch Me Deeply
- Clarinet Sleigh Ride
- Slow Dance Single Demo (Alternate Mix)
- No Way Out (Original Mix with Drums)
- Lenta Chorum
All tracks on CD 2 previously unreleased.