Monday, February 28, 2022

Weather: Which Way The Wind Blows

Anthony Phillips: Which Way the Wind Blows

I’ve been having trouble with this theme (and, based on the lack of posts, I’m not the only one)—not that there is a lack of appropriate songs, because there are tons, but for me, there has to be some reason to write about the song—like a personal story, a political connection, or just because I want to write about the artist or song. So, when this song came up in a search, and I listened to it again (after many years), I realized that this song could actually have worked for our “What If” theme that I enjoyed. Plus it has been nearly two months since I’ve delved into the world of prog-rock obscurity, so why not? 

This song sort of answers the burning question, “What if Anthony Phillips had never left Genesis?” 

I’m pretty sure that I’ve discussed the origins of one of my favorite bands somewhere—original members Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips and Chris Stewart all met in the 1960s at the Charterhouse School in England. Eventually connecting with older Charterhouse alum, the singer, songwriter, producer and convicted child abuser Jonathan King, who named the band and got them signed. Stewart left and was replaced by another Charterhouse alum, John Silver, who was later replaced by John Mayhew. After recording their second album Trespass, Phillips, the guitarist, quit, due to bad health and stage fright, and was eventually replaced by Steve Hackett; Mayhew was sacked and replaced as drummer by Phil Collins. 

So, let’s say that Phillips never left, so Hackett never joined. In the short term, there probably wouldn’t have been much difference because both guitarists, who became good friends, acknowledge that their sound and sensibilities were very similar, but our featured song gives you a sense of what the band might have sounded like after Gabriel left, and Collins stepped up as lead singer. 

After Phillips left Genesis, he wanted to continue a project he had been working on with Rutherford but first decided to expand and improve his musical knowledge and ability, studying classical music, orchestration and harmony, and taking lessons in guitar and piano. Eventually, Phillips and Rutherford returned to their project, which was slowed by the fact that Rutherford’s commitments to the increasingly popular Genesis were taking up more and more time. A push to finish the album came in fall 1974, when Steve Hackett injured his hand, delaying a Genesis tour, and allowing Phillips and Rutherford time to complete the bulk of the recording. In addition to bringing Collins in to sing on two tracks, Hackett’s younger brother John contributed flute on some of the songs. 

The album, The Geese and the Ghost, was finally finished in 1976, but Genesis’ label Charisma refused to release it, so it sat in the vaults until March 1977, just as punk was on the rise, and the sort of lyrical classical/folk influenced prog rock of the album was falling out of favor, and it was a commercial failure. Compare that to Hackett’s first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, which was mostly recorded around the same time, and also included contributions from Collins on vocals (and drums), Rutherford and John Hackett, but was released in 1975, and charted in the UK and (just barely) in the US. 

Our featured song, “Which Way The Wind Blows,” is a quiet ballad featuring Phillips, Rutherford and Collins, and would not have sounded at all out of place on Trick of the Tail, the first Genesis album on which Collins served as lead vocalist, released in 1976. Compare it, for example, to “Ripples,” from that album. 

Phillips tried to move toward a more pop direction, but that also was unsuccessful (although I found this track fun), and while he has released other solo albums, Phillips’ focus was more on soundtracks and “library music,” and occasionally guesting on projects with Rutherford, Camel, and Hackett.