Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has had a long relationship with composer/ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips including numerous reissues and last year’s release of his latest album, Strings of Light. Now, Esoteric has reissued and expanded another treasured album from Phillips: his 1995 acoustic live set The “Living Room” Concert.
The album was culled from Phillips’ June 25, 1993 performance as part of the Living Room Concert Series on the U.S. public radio program Echoes. As the series title implies, the concert was recorded at Phillips’ home. As live performances in front of an audience are rare in Phillips’ career, the intimate show was a special one – even if the audience wasn’t physically present. The intimate broadcast consisted of solo, often ethereal tracks played on guitar and piano, including both instrumentals and vocals. He drew on albums including The Geese and the Ghost (the epic, multi-part Mike Rutherford co-write “Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times,” “Which Way the Wind Blows,” “Collections,” “Sleepfall”), Private Parts and Pieces Vol. 1 (“Reaper,” “Flamingo,” “Field of Eternity”), Vol. IV (“Sistine,” “Lights on the Hill”), and the then-current Vol. VIII: New England (“Last Goodbyes”). Phillips also dug back to the Guitar Quintet he had composed in 1976 for a 12-string guitar adaptation of its first movement; he entitled it “Conversation Piece” for its appearance here.
The “Living Room” Concert features a handful of Phillips’s spoken introductions to his performances: alternately mellow and urgent, conjuring many moods while displaying his virtuosic musicianship in styles ranging from classical to New Age. The melodic gifts that have made him an in-demand composer for film, television, and library music are also evident. The emphasis is on instrumental music but there are some lovely and even pop-leaning moments like the pretty, McCartney-esque “Sistine” and “Which Way the Wind Blows,” sung in the songwriter’s own charming and modest voice. (Old friend Phil Collins handled vocal duties in its original appearance.) Phillips switched over from his primary instrument of guitar to piano for the stately closing trio of “Last Goodbyes,” “Collections” (on which he also sings), and the beautifully majestic “Sleepfall.”
Esoteric’s expanded edition adds three previously unreleased bonus tracks. A then-current composition, “Jaunty Roads,” was heard on the radio but not included on the original CD release. The vocal-and-guitar showcase “Lucy: An Illusion” and the Genesis-era “Let Us Now Make Love” from the second and sixth volumes of Private Parts and Pieces, respectively, were performed in Phillips’ home but not included on the original broadcast. The latter is reinvented here as a piano instrumental rather than a full-band vocal piece.
For the reissue housed in a simple four-panel digipak (and sans the lyric book included in original pressings), Phillips’ archivist Jonathan Dann has provided new liner notes in the 12-page booklet offering some background on the original concert though not many specifics about the songs. Phillips’ original 1995 introduction has also been retained. Paschal Byrne has remastered to fine effect. Intimate and arresting, The “Living Room” Concert is a fine addition to Esoteric’s Anthony Phillips library.
- Which Way the Wind Blows
- Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times
- Conversation Piece
- Field of Eternity
- Lights on the Hill
- Last Goodbyes
- Jaunty Roads
- Let Us Now Make Love
- Lucy: An Illusion
Tracks 12-14 previously unreleased