ALBUM REVIEWS

PHIL COLLINS
 
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ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!

 

Phil Collins - Face Value

WOG RATING: *****

Phil Collins' solo debut remains one of his most personal and emotionally engaging solo albums to date. Not only does the songwriting feature powerfully moving lyrics, the project showcased Collins' ability to successfully fuse pop music with R&B and jazz. The impact of Face Value and Phil's growing abilities as a songwriter would ripple into later Genesis projects, evolving the group's sound on albums like Duke and Abacab into previously uncharted areas. A horn section and the drum box, which later became a Phil Collins' trademark sound by the mid-80s, were utilized to their fullest on the album. Combining all of these influences, artistic experimentation, and Collins' personal musical development spawned a number of memorable songs from the intense "In The Air Tonight" to the jazzy "I Missed Again" to the solemn and scornful "You Know What I Mean" to his cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." Face Value is a true classic in every sense of the word.

Phil Collins - Hello, I Must Be Going!

WOG RATING: ****

Collins' sophomore effort offered tunes like "I Don't Care Anymore" and "Do You Know, Do You Care?" which showcased Collins' darker, cynical side, while tracks like "The West Side" continued to demonstrate his roots in jazz. Hello also featured "Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning" complete with sweeping string section, the tongue and cheek yet disturbingly perverted "Thru These Walls", and a cover tune of the Motown classic, "You Can't Hurry Love." Hello, I Must Be Going! is a highly underrated album, and while it barely gets acknowledged on Collins' Hits collection, it remains my favorite of his solo albums to date. I can't picture Phil Collins ever singing some of this material in this day and age with his squeeky clean, 'adult contemporary' image, but it makes an outstanding time capsule of the next stage of Collins' transformation as a solo performer.

 

Phil Collins - No Jacket Required

WOG RATING: ****

No Jacket Required was more of a straight-forward pop album; somewhat of a change from the projects that proceeded it. While Collins still blended mainstream rock with R&B and soul, hints of jazz and folk that surfaced on other albums were virtually nonexistent here. In their place, No Jacket provided a dance-orientated groove balanced delicately with a few songs like "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore" that were reminiscent of the style of songwriting from previous solo projects. No Jacket Required was one of the biggest and most successful albums of 1985, clinching Phil Collins' superstar status not only as a member of Genesis, but as a musician in his own right. The album scored several hit singles, including: "Sussudio", "Don't Lose My Number", "Take Me Home" and "One More Night." Arguably, Collins' personal musical evolution would again play a pivotal role in the sound of the next Genesis album, Invisible Touch which, like No Jacket, offered far more in the way of straight-forward pop music than Genesis' previous effort, the often dark self-titled album.

 

Phil Collins - The 12"ers

WOG RATING: *

The 12"ers is a budget-priced EP released following the massive success of No Jacket Required. The EP featured extended dance remixes (which were initially on 12" LP singles) of six songs from the No Jacket album. The mixes vary from extremely catchy to just plain awful. Some of the remixes, like "Sussudio," mirror closely what the live versions have sounded like, while others, like "Don't Lose My Number," are far more removed from the popular versions you may know and love - and not in a good way. As a fan, I am glad all of these 12" remixes made it to CD, but if you are not a die-hard Collins fan, you will probably not enjoy this disc... at all. 

 

Phil Collins - ...But Seriously

WOG RATING: *****

Another of Collins' most triumphant achievements as a solo artist, ...But Seriously, again showed the full range of his musical diversity. A far more mature album, Seriously combined upbeat numbers in the vein of No Jacket Required with a continued emphasis on his passion for jazz and R&B. Jazzy material like "Heat On The Street" are offset with socially conscious songs like "Another Day In Paradise" and "Colours," while touching ballads like "Do You Remember" and the introspective "Father To Son" blend seamlessly with vivaciously bubbly numbers like "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" and "Hang In Long Enough." In many ways, ...But Seriously is probably Collins most well rounded album. Like No Jacket Required, Seriously surpassed the success of his previous albums and reconfirmed his status as one of rock's most acclaimed artists. To this day, ...But Seriously remains one of Collins' best selling albums.

 

Phil Collins - Serious Hits... Live!

WOG RATING: ***

As the title would suggest, Collins' first live album as a solo artist basically served as an early greatest hits captured live in concert. Sonically, the album is outstanding, but somehow the performance lost something going from the sold out arenas and stadiums across the planet to the digital domain it resides in today. Collins and his band performed brilliantly on the ...But Seriously Tour, but this album sounds overly polished from studio tampering (similar to the live Genesis albums The Way We Walk I & II) , and some of the raw energy of the concert got misplaced in the transfer.  As I mentioned, the track listing sticks to the hits for the most part, but there are one or two chestnuts for the fans, including "Who Said I Would?" from the No Jacket Required album (which was one of the few tracks from that album that wasn't a hit single!). Overall, its a great collection of material, but at times I find myself forgetting its a live recording.

Phil Collins - Both Sides

WOG RATING: ***

Perhaps only second to Face Value, Both Sides offers what seems to be some of Collins' most intimate material. Rather than the well constructed 'studio-perfect' album that fans were accustomed to getting, Collins created a stripped down, often somber, album with basically no outside assistance from other musicians. Collins assumed control of all instrumentation, arrangements, and production on what sounds like an album of refined demo recordings. Stand-outs on the album include the touching ballad "Everyday", the optimistic "Survivors", another incredible ballad called "Can't Turn Back the Years" which is among Collins' most underrated songs, and socially conscious epics "Both Sides of The Story" and "We Wait And We Wonder." While these tunes are among the most powerful songs on the album, they came across much better with a complete band backing Phil when he toured in support of the project. Sadly, much of the rest of the album does not fare as well and gets lost in the blandness of Both Sides. The melancholy mood carries on, track after repetitive track, with little to no up-lifting breaks in the material. The drum box is not only used on this album, its abused! It is a true shame, because there was some great songs on this album that never got the due they deserved. 

 

Phil Collins - Dance Into The Light

WOG RATING: **

Dance Into The Light saw a return to the more polished studio sound of days of old, with a complete band supporting Phil. More importantly, the drum box was put to rest! Despite that, the album never quite gels together. Granted, there are a few great tunes like the catchy title hit, the biographical "Lorenzo" and the mid-tempo "It's In Your Eyes," many tracks are unmemorable and, in some cases, down-right bad. "You Can Wear My Hat" sounds like a bad Paul Simon leftover, his cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is dry and insincere sounding, and other tracks are incredibly sappy and lifeless. Strangely, one of the b-sides from this album, "It's Over," is, in my opinion, better than many of the tracks that were selected over it for the final product. I'm not sure why this album seems so sterile and uninspired. Perhaps in comparison to the passion that comes across on some of the other albums, this one just pales in comparison? In any case, despite a couple of solid pop songs, Dance Into The Light is by far Phil's worst solo album. 

 

Phil Collins - Hits

WOG RATING: *****

Summing up Phil Collins' success as a songwriter on a single disc is no easy task. Hits, however, does a fantastic job! Aside from the one new track, a smooth jazz influenced version of the Cyndi Lauper classic, "True Colors," featuring Babyface, the album is packed from beginning to end with countless radio hits and Collins' standards. Of course, not everything can make the cut due to the limitations of space on the CD, so a few classics don't appear here like "Don't Lose My Number" from No Jacket Required, "I Missed Again" from Face Value, and "I Don't Care Anymore" from Hello, I Must Be Going!, but who's counting?! The mastering of this collection is first-rate and the inclusion of the studio version of the Collins and Philip Bailey hit "Easy Lover" was a nice surprise (since the studio version was only previously available on Bailey's Chinese Wall album).  All in all, the set makes a nice introduction of Collins' career and a great take-along CD for Phil Collins fans on the go!

 

Phil Collins & Mark Mancina - Tarzan (Soundtrack)

WOG RATING: ****

After the somewhat disappointing Dance Into The Light album, I suspected that Phil Collins was starting to lose his 'touch' as a songwriter. The Tarzan soundtrack; however, was a welcomed return to form. Not only was the material good, but some of the lifelessness of the last album had been replaced with energy and enthusiasm. "Two Worlds" featured roaring, aggressive drums that had been hibernating since ...But Seriously, if not earlier, and the ballad "You'll Be In My Heart" exuded more feeling than all of Dance Into The Light and half of Both Sides combined. While the album features the instrumental score from the film, the soundtrack's star attraction is the pop-orientated Collins tunes with vocals, including one track with boy-band, N'Sync (but don't hold that against him!). Not only did the multi-platinum Tarzan project shoot some much needed adrenaline into Collins waning album sales, he was honored with an Oscar for "You'll Be In My Heart." In fact, the success Collins achieved with this Walt Disney soundtrack landed him an opportunity to record another soundtrack for the Walt Disney film, Brother Bear.

 

Phil Collins - Testify

WOG RATING: ***

Phil Collins' latest solo album is very mid-tempo/ballad heavy, but it's much more palatable than Dance Into The Light. Interestingly enough, Testify sounds like a hybrid between Dance Into The Light and Both Sides, with a strong emphasis on love songs and, in a few cases, a polished demo-esque feel with heavy utilization of Collins' trademark drum box and keyboards. Gratefully, the more stripped down tracks are contrasted with genuine drums and real instrumentation on other songs providing far more balance than exhibited on Both Sides. Among the highlights of the album are Collins' cover version of Leo Sayer's "Can't Stop Loving You", "The Least You Can Do" (my personal favorite), "This Love This Heart", and the title cut.
 
Testify is a beautiful love letter to Phil's (then) wife and family, and contains a few excellent tracks with incredibly personal lyrics, but if you're looking for Phil to rock the way he did on some of the Tarzan soundtrack (like on "Son of Man") or even on ...But Seriously (like on "Hang In Long Enough" or "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven"), you're not getting it here. Not at all.  In fact, Testify opens very anti-climactically  in mid-tempo doldrums and ends in a similar fashion, which detracts from the material as a whole. Still, the album is well-written for the most part, and it grows on you quickly. Aside from a few weak songs like "Wake Up Call" and "It's Not Too Late," the album holds its own. In many ways, Testify completes the next phase of Collins' musical evolution and reaffirms his status as one of modern music's finest adult contemporary songwriters. 

 

Phil Collins & Mark Mancina - Brother Bear (Soundtrack)

WOG RATING: ***

Phil Collins' second outing with Walt Disney for the soundtrack of Brother Bear produced a number of memorable tracks including "No Way Out", which is by far the best track on the entire album; the campfire sing-along sounding "On My Way"; and "Look Through My Eyes," a great song complete with full orchestration which compliments Phil's vocals extremely well. Tina Turner's version of the Collins penned "Great Spirits" doesn't stand out as a particularly strong track, vocally speaking, and detracts from the album overall. Atmospherically, this soundtrack is a clear improvement over Tarzan, his last fully composed score/soundtrack, but it lacks some of the energy of that project. Ultimately, the music works well with the film, and that is the purpose of the soundtrack in the first place, so I suppose there is little criticism that can be made in that regard.  The soundtrack offers a uniquely well-crafted blend of world music with added guest vocals that give another dimension of the music, most notably by The Blind Boys of Alabama (who also worked with Peter Gabriel on his Up album).  Although this project is a bit of a departure for Phil Collins, fans will find that it harnesses a great mix of Phil's own flavor with some distinctly new influences.  

 

Phil Collins - Love Songs A Compilation... Old and New

WOG RATING: ****

As a long-time fan of Collins' work, had this been just another hits type package, Love Songs would have been a real disappointment. Thankfully, this release offers a very palatable assortment of classic Collins favorites among several non-album cuts, live tracks, and alternate mixes. Hits like "Against All Odds", "Can't Stop Loving You", "Two Hearts", "You'll Be In My Heart", "Do You Remember?", and "Groovy Kind of Love" are blended thoughtfully amongst off-the-beaten-path material, demonstrating that this celebration of Phil Collins' ballads clearly has both casual and devout fans in mind.

 
Among the non-album tracks are "Tearing and Breaking", which is a John Martyn collaboration Phil Collins recorded during the Testify sessions; a live sound check version of "True Colours" recorded on the 2004 First Final Farewell Tour in Toulouse, France; "I've Been Trying", which was previously released on A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield; "Somewhere", which was previously released on The Songs of West Side Story; a cover of Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" which was previously available on the now out-of-print Songs From The Board EP from 1994; and Irving Berlin's "Always" and Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" which were recorded on Phil Collins' 1990 ...But Seriously Tour and his 1998 Big Band Tour respectively.  Among the more subtle gems on this collection for the more serious collector are a new stereo mix of "One More Night" (which sounds true to the original), "I've Forgotten Everything" from Both Sides and "It's In Your Eyes" from Dance Into The Light have been sped up a few beats per minute (BPM), "This Must Be Love" from Face Value fades more quickly than the original album version, and the version of "Least You Can Do" from Testify is a clearly different mix.  All in all, both passive fans and Collins enthusiasts will find Love Songs to be a solid offering.

 

Phil Collins - Going Back

WOG RATING: ****

Phil Collins' music has always been heavily influenced by '60 and '70s Motown and Soul Music. Whether you are talking about his 1982 #1 hit single cover of "You Can't Hurry Love" from Hello, I Must Be Going! or Collins' ability to capture a bit of that sound in some of his own original solo material, like 1988's "Two Hearts" (co-written by Motown great Lamont Dozier). So, perhaps its not surprising that one day, Collins would pay tribute to some of those incredible songs in a grand scale; and that is exactly what he has done with his 2010 album, Going Back.

With Going Back, Collins and his band painstakingly recreate many of the great standards from the Motown and R&B heyday of the 1960s (with one track technically from 1970). Not only has Collins got the original arrangements down perfectly here (albeit in a slightly different key on occasion to better suit his voice), but he's also enlisted the help of the legendary Funk Brothers: Bob Babbit, Eddie Willis, and Ray Monette. The end result is breathtakingly accurate and almost a note for note reproduction of the originals. From Stevie Wonder to Martha and the Vandellas to The Temptations to the Four Tops, many of the eras finest are included here. The entire album works really well with Collins' vocals as you might imagine, with my favorites being Phil's versions of "Uptight", "(Love Is Like A) Heatwave" and "Going Back" (the last of which especially screams for release as a radio single). That being said, while I love these versions as a Phil Collins fan, and I have no doubt I will play this record again and again, you do start to ask yourself "Since these are so close to the originals, why don't I just listen to the original versions?!" Any Phil Collins fan will love this album, and any lover of Motown will also enjoy the music highlighted here, but some more passive fans will likely be left nostalgic for the original renditions, which are certainly untouchable in their own right.    

Fans should note that in addition to the standard 18-track album, there is a 25-track limited edition CD+DVD (with further bonus tracks and bonus video - NTSC/Region 0), an Amazon exclusive 25-track pressed CD-R, a 25-track Japanese CD version, a U.S. Best Buy exclusive CD+DVD version (which is different from the prior CD+DVD version above), a limited edition 12" LP version, and a limited edition 7" vinyl box set.


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