The problem with George Orwell's 1984 is that too many people want to stick their own oar into it. When David Bowie mooted transforming the novel into a musical in 1974, Orwell's widow Sonia Orwell famously asked, "Why would anyone want to set that to music?" -- and Bowie ultimately agreed with her, rewiring his initial concept as the Diamond Dogs album, and emerging all the stronger for it.
Since then, other artists have been less sensitive. Rick Wakeman and the Eurythmics both famously made pig's breakfasts of the original concept, and one approaches Anthony Phillips' stab at the tale with understandable trepidation -- an emotion that only renders the overall experience all the more thrilling. Musically, it is true, 1984 is very much a child of its sonic era, as the then-latest in keyboard technology trills and flourishes around Phillips' characteristic eye for experiment and esoterics. But a predominantly instrumental concept leaves little room for the embarrassing lyrical passages that other Orwellian overtures are prey to -- indeed, without the giveaway title, little here even acknowledges any debt whatsoever to the erstwhile Eric Blair, allowing 1984 to stand instead as simply another excellent Anthony Phillips album, no more or less conceptual than any of its predecessors. ~ Dave Thompson