Phillips, Anthony - Wise After The Event

Year of Release: 1991
Label: Virgin
Catalog Number: CDOVD322
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:30:00

In my quest to highlight superb but virtually unknown (and/or often overlooked) music on these pages, there was little choice but to include Wise After The Event. Released in May 1978 and produced by Rupert Hine, it was Anthony Phillips' second solo album - some would say his first because The Geese & The Ghost was truly a collaboration with ex-Genesis cohort Mike Rutherford. Whereas the aforementioned piece was an extension of the very delicate 12-string guitar oriented work he contributed to his former band, Wise... indicates a subtle change in direction. The ear for texture and acoustic sounds is still there (and would never leave), but some of the aggression that critics felt he lacked in the past was starting to show.

"We're All As We Lie" instantly marks out Ant's new sound ... rhythmic, robust guitars, which at the same time remain fine and delicate. John G Perry (bass) and King Crimson exile Michael Giles (drums) meshed perfectly as a rhythm section, providing relatively simple but always interesting undercurrents to the melody. Another member of the Crim family, Mel Collins, guests on warbling soprano sax.

Ant's surreal sense of humour inhabits many of the lyrics on the album, but comes out to play on [one] track especially, as he depicts a game of golf between such luminaries as Buzz Aldrin and Plato. Quite what one is meant to make of the passage where the Pope bribes Martin Luther King I have no idea, but who says Prog never has its lighter moments?

Ant sings lead all the way through Wise...: Fans have always debated whether he should ever sing at all! Personally I have always loved his voice; what it lacks in technicality it makes up in sheer feeling. He sounds especially plaintive during the opening of "Birdsong," singing the verses over his trademark 12-string guitar lines. Come the chorus Perry and Giles return, driving the piece forward with purpose, with some sensuous piano and strings thrown in later for good measure. The electric lead that plays the song out indicates how much Phillips had learned since departing his childhood band.

A gentle reprise of "Birdsong" leads into "Moonshooter," a languid, poetic love song. The core of the music is as usual electric and acoustic guitars, woven together intricately, always giving the melodies room to breathe.

The title track of the album is one of the heaviest, with eerie soundscapes giving way to a pendulous electric guitar riff and semi-tortured, questioning, vocals. The chorus breaks down into precision picking before the main riff kicks off again. This track, above any of the others, defines Ant's departure from the delightful but airy and fey musings of the past. Not conventional rock for sure, but far more muscular than anything to be found on Genesis' Trespass (except "The Knife") or The Geese & The Ghost. The tumbling instrumental intermission is pure Prog in its developments, and shows a (comparatively) darker side to his writing. Again there is a brief instrumental link, to end what was the first side on vinyl... Polymoog and 12-string in lilting harmony.

"Pulling Faces" is a quirky little sci-fi based tune, bombastic in its ascending opening. The vocalist maybe stretches his voice a little too much at the high end, but that's a minor complaint. Giles throws in some playful patterns, rich synth backdrops reign supreme, Phillips' electric guitar is more brash than usual, and overall it's a lively affair.

"Regrets" is a total change of mood, beginning with just vocal and piano. Ant's mournful voice is perfectly suited to the words "So let the rain fall/ crashing on me/ and blind my eyes/ for the love I can't feel" - cheerful stuff! Almost surreptitiously he is joined by a full orchestra, beginning as soft strings and woodwind before rising up with grandeur and sweeping the piece along. Rich without being sickeningly sweet, "Regrets" is a beautiful piece, which showcases Ant's versatility and depth of composition. The crashing, tragic climax is superb, and one has to wonder what would become of an album of Ant's music played entirely by orchestra, with the man himself just on piano and vocals...

"Greenhouse" is a return to the guitar led songs, a cute and catchy piece co-written with Jeremy Gilbert. Compared to the magnificent "Regrets" it feels a tinge throwaway, but is still a fine, well-constructed song. Overall this album doesn't actually have one truly weak track.

"Paperchase" begins in as very similar in mood to "Moonshooter," warm and languid. With the subtitle "May Never Wears a Frown" the lyric is inevitably upbeat, but in a worldly-wise way rather than youthful thoughtless optimism. More slightly odd but intriguing imagery is to be found here: "We'll treat the world as on wedding days / on an on through the paperchase?"

Ant's love of nature is well known, and is often demonstrated by the amount of background music he does especially for wildlife documentaries. A title such as "Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?)" has every little bit of potential required to be twee, annoying and whiny. However it achieves none of the above, and is perhaps the strongest cut on the record. A song of conservation and destruction but sung with soul and intelligence and taste - somewhat of a paradox? The lyric is quite shockingly graphic in it's violence, but without being gratuitous, and the blend of acoustic guitar, piano, and synth strings in the final chorus is as rich and lush as anything ever produced from the Genesis camp.

"Now What" was the final track on the vinyl release due to time constraints, but the CD version includes the bonus "Squirrel", previously exiled as a hardly-heard B-side. The irony of all this is that the animal in question was featured so largely on the delightfully detailed Peter Cross album cover - by the time the track was dropped it was too late to change the design so "Squirrel" endured on the album in sight, if not in sound.

Maudlin and without apology, it is a piano and voice musing upon a dying example of the aforesaid creature. Genuine compassion is a hard thing to find but you will find it here, and in much of Ant's work. It is a reflection of the man, whose personal compassion and modesty are of an intensity rare in the music world...

If one wants a true picture of what Anthony Phillips is capable of in band format (as opposed to totally solo) Wise After the Event is a good a place to start as any, and probably better than most. Heavyweight Prog it is not, but for thoughtfully constructed, involved songs it is a perfect example. Sadly it's not the easiest CD to obtain at the moment - Virgin's questionable policy of retaining the rights but seemingly refusing to distribute in any significant numbers means that, apart from lucky finds in record stores, going to a specialist dealers the best ways to obtain a copy. However, what has been done cannot be undone. Hopefully this album will once again receive the distribution that it deserves, and the record affectionately nicknamed "Stupid Before The Occurrence" will be a pillar of the Genesis solo canon, alongside A Curious Feeling, Voyage of The Acolyte and Peter Gabriel

Originally released in 1978 (as Tony notes); Arista in the UK (SPART 1063), Passport in the US (PB928) and Canada (9167-9828), by Vertigo in Europe, South America and Japan (various cat nos., all listed at Ant's site) -- these being LPs (aka vinyl); 1991 CD reissue also released in Japan by Virgin (VJCP-23049); "Squirrel" is on the CD reissue only.

We're All As We Lie (4:34) / Birdsong (6:43) / Moonshooter (5:52) / Wise After The Event (10:30) / Pulling Faces (4:32) / Regrets (6:02) / Greenhouse (3:00) / Paperchase (5:28) / Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends?) (8:21) / Squirrel (4:28)

Anthony Phillips - vocals and harmonica
Michael Giles - drums
John G Perry - bass (Wal custom)
The Vicar (aka Ant!) - guitars and keyboards
Jeremy Gilbert - keyboards (7), harp (9)
Mel Collins - sax (1), flute (2)
Rupert Hine - producer, misc. percussion
Orchestra conducted by Gilbert Biberian, arranged by Anthony Phillips

The Geese & the Ghost (1977/1990)
Wise After The Event (1978/1991)
Sides (1979/1990)
Private Parts & Pieces (1979/1991/1995)
Private Parts & Pieces 2 - Back To The Pavilion (1980/1991/1996)
1984 (1981/1991)
Private Parts & Pieces 3 - Antiques (1982/1993/1996)
Invisible Men (1984/1991/1996)
Private Parts & Pieces 4 - A Catch At The Tables (1984/1991/1996)
Private Parts & Pieces 5 - Twelve (1984/1991/1996)
Harvest Of The Heart (1985)
Double Exposure (1986)
Private Parts & Pieces 6 - Ivory Moon (1986/1991/1996)
Private Parts & Pieces 7 - Slow Waves, Soft Stars (1987/1991/1996)
Tarka (w/Harry Williamson) (1988/1996)
Slow Dance (1990/1996)
Missing Links Vol.1 - Finger Painting (1992/1996)
Private Parts & Pieces 8 - New England (1992/1996)
Sail The World (1994)
Missing Link Vol. 2 - The Sky Road (1994)
Gypsy Suite (w/Williamson) (1995)
The Living Room Concert (1995)
Private Parts & Pieces 9 - Dragonfly Dreams (1996)
The Meadows Of Englewood (w/Guillermo Cazenave) (1997)
Survival - The Music of Nature (1997)
Missing Links Vol 3 - Time & Tide (w/Joji Hirota) (1997)
The Live Radio Sessions (w/Cazenave) (1998)
The Archive Collection Vol 1 (1998)
Soire? (Private Parts and Pieces X) (1999)
Radio Clyde (2003)
The Archive Collection Vol 2 (2004)
Field Day (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Tony Emmerson

Artist website:
Hits: 1338
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]