The Geese And The Ghost

Anthony Phillips

Hit & Run, 1977

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Upon his leaving Genesis after the recording and tour for 1970’s Trespass, guitarist Anthony Phillips returned to school to study music. Between those studies, he began reworking demos originally started in 1969, some of which would have appeared on the first two Genesis albums – or at least in the stage shows – had they ever gotten beyond the demo stage.

In 1974, Phillips teamed up with Genesis bassist and school friend Mike Rutherford (the two, along with Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel, had been longtime friends at Charterhouse Academy and had founded the original Genesis) to begin recording some of those old demos, along with new songs that had been written. With Rutherford’s commitment to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, as well as the Charisma label’s refusal to release the album, the project stayed on the back burner until 1977, when a U.S. label finally agreed to release it.

The project, now entitled The Geese & The Ghost, marked the return of Phillips to the music scene after a seven year absence, but it was as if no time had passed between Trespass and this disc. With Rutherford lending a hand, the music sounds like the logical successor to that album, showcasing the direction Genesis may have gone if Phillips had stayed with the band (he was replaced by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, and you know the rest of that story).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In many ways, the strengths and faults of Trespass apply here. The music mines a pastoral feel, heavy on the acoustic guitar picking and high male voices, alternating between soft and slightly louder passages. Phil Collins also stops by to sing two of the tracks, which was a nice gesture considering he and Phillips had never been in the band together.

Working with Tony Banks on Trespass, Phillips helped play and write on pieces that had drama and resolution; even with its production woes, “The Knife” remains one of the best early Genesis tunes. Left on his own, little of that resolution carries over except in a few places, which naturally are the highlights of the album.

This being progressive rock, there are two 15-minute songs that comprise the chunk of the work. The first is “Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times,” which goes heavy on the whole medieval Olde English thing but does feature some gorgeous acoustic passages; the heavy strum during the “Henry Goes To War” portion sounds like a direct influence on current prog-rock bands like Porcupine Tree.

The second is the two part title track, which is little more than a series of various musical ideas stitched together. Those inclined to dislike early Genesis and prog-rock in general will get bored quickly; fans of this style of music will find some stretches interesting and others middling at best, although a distinct Nursery Cryme influence runs heavy through the middle section of the piece.

The pretty duet “God, If I Saw Her Now” is a nice link between the two, although the real treat on the album is saved for last, the soaring piano and string solo “Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West.” Although the outro runs a bit long, the body of the piece (only 2:37) is one of the most beautiful songs recorded under the Genesis banner, group or solo. Even if you know or care nothing about progressive rock from the 1970s, this song is worth grabbing on iTunes for a chill-out playlist.

A two-CD reissue released in 2008 adds a second disc of basic tracks and demos, including the pretty good lost song “Master Of Time,” making this the version to grab if you are already a fan of this disc. However, converting new fans to this one will be difficult because there is much to look at but little to love, or even feel passionate about, on this debut outing, even if it sounds pleasant as it plays.

Rating: C

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