Graham Reid | | 2 min read
When looking for a short-cut into buying Phil Collins many might say, “Just don't”.
And maybe it's true, because there's not a lot to recommend his MOR soul covers or the annoying Sussudio. But there are depths in his catalogue, especially when he was going through fairly regular separations.
So – accepting the Eighties production values – let's reconsider the man who wrote Against All Odds.
And frankly if I'd done that I'd be lying on a private beach with my personal cocktail steward at hand and be thinking, "Yeah, you might think it's not such a great song, but there you go. But you didn't write it . . . I did."
Both Sides (1993): His fifth solo album found him breaking up from his second wife and living in uneasy political times, all of which fed into downbeat songs (Everyday, the emotionally naked I've Forgotten Everything) and even on his rare flashes of optimism he sound unconvinced.
Not a happy chappy, he takes a poke at young people (We're the Sons of Our Fathers, but they were poking at him).
On the bagpipe-driven We Wait And We Wonder he addressed living under the cloud of terrorism, as relevant now as it was then.
Face Value (1981): At the time of this exceptional solo debut -- kicked off by the still astonishing In the Air Tonight – he'd seamlessly replaced Peter Gabriel as singer in Genesis and appeared on Gabriel's innovative solo albums.
In its own way this album bears comparison with the more critically acclaimed Gabriel, and is emotionally bleak (Collins separating from his first wife).
The version of the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows isn't special, but the expanded reissue includes his demo for Against All Odds.
He were a dark bugger.
. . . But Seriously (1989): Prince and Philly soul-funk had impressed him (he's a drummer after all) and although few believed a rich man writing about the homeless (Another Day in Paradise) and other social issues.
But the songs here are diverse (Something Happened on the Way to Heaven is a post breakup dancefloor shaker), emotional (utterly resigned on That's Just the Way It Is) and Eric Clapton turns up on the powerful I Wish It Would Rain Down.
More unhappiness and unease than you might think from a guy whose hits have mostly been cheery monsters.
Love Songs: A Compilation . . . Old and New (2004): A happy double disc? Well, it opens with his previously unreleased version of John Martyn's slow ballad Tearing and Breaking (see below).
And love for Phil rarely sounds like long walks on the beach holding hands.
More like he's waiting for her to say, “We need to talk . . .”
And: If downer times suited him best, he was a boozing brother-in-arms for the late John Martyn's harrowing separation album Grace and Danger (1980) which was shelved by Island Records' boss Chris Blackwell for a year because he though it too dark and depressing.
Essential listening, of course.