Glenn Phillips – At the Rainbow

People keep searching for that pot of gold. You just know it’s there, somewhere over the rainbow. For fans of Glenn Phillips that gold has been found. Glenn Phillips At The Rainbow is just that. Recorded November 3, 1977, at London’s famed Rainbow Theatre, this live album captures the guitarist at the peak of his then-still-being-formulated powers.

The concert topped off a 15-date tour of England during which Phillips and his then-band – venerable bassist Bill Rea, long-time drummer Doug Landsberg and pianist/second guitarist Dave Wilson – were performing in support of the then-just released Swim In The Wind and Phillips’ earlier debut, Lost At Sea.

Captured during perhaps the longest road trip for any of Phillips’ post Hampton Grease Band bands, At The Rainbow burns with the intensity and interplay which only comes from a group of musicians playing together night after night. Indeed, while the album, like all of Phillips’ recordings, showcases his prowess and expressiveness as a guitarist, At The Rainbow finds him really cutting loose on his solos, assured that the band is laying a foundation upon which he can build – and build – and build.

At this point in Phillips’ career, his playing was more fluid, his notes ringing off each other to create a whole rather than each making a statement of their own. A somewhat simpler approach? Far from it. More soulful? Definitely. Such is the case when artists are first finding their identity. And that is what makes At The Rainbow so revelatory. At the time, one would have thought Phillips had reached the pinnacle of his playing. Almost forty years on, we realize he was just getting started.

Longtime fans will recognize the titles here – “Dogs,” “Lies” and “Phoebe” among them – but their delivery is something you would know only if you were in the audience that Thursday night in Finsbury Park.

During its heyday as a music venue, the Rainbow Theatre’s status was legendary, not unlike the Fox Theatre’s here in Atlanta. The Rainbow is where Eric Clapton was prompted into performing live again as he was coming out of heroin addiction. It was the Rainbow where the enigmatic June 1, 1974 by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Nico and Brian Eno was recorded. Countless other, far more popular artists – The Jam, Ultravox, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Thin Lizzy, The Ramones, Sweet, Little Feat, Fairport Convention, Queen and Van Morrison – also recorded live albums there.

Almost forty years later, Phillips, too, has added to the canon of the theater’s legacy, while providing a much-need missing piece to his own. The building that housed the Rainbow Theatre is now home to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian Pentecostal Church. While singing the praises of the Holy Spirit may be commonplace in the old Rainbow today, Glenn Phillips created a joyful noise on that same stage four decades ago. The difference, of course, is then you didn’t need to fill the coffers with money in seeking salvation, you only had to purchase a ticket and give yourself to the music.

Glenn Phillips
At The Rainbow