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Phil Collins deluxe reissues: Insights into a pop music titan

In terms of flash, Phil Collins has always been the polar opposite of the 1980s mega-star triumvirate of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson.

But in terms of contributions to the decade's pop soundtrack, he's on par with them, especially if his hits with Genesis are considered.

About three decades after the peak of Collins' solo success, he's doing something that Jackson and Prince never got the chance to do, and that few are waiting for Madonna to do: He's been reissuing his solo albums in double-CD sets, the last two of which -- "... But Seriously" and "The Essential Going Back" -- come out Friday. Each re-release follows the same template: The first CD is a remaster of the original, while the second is comprised of live tracks, demo tracks and B-sides.

The reissues won't make a Phil Collins fan out of non-fans. But for those who've been taken in by his pop-centered musicianship and inventiveness, the reissues offer prized tracks, enhanced sound, and a peek into the development of some of his biggest hits ... lots of good stuff.

Here are 6 standout reasons the reissues work so well:

The sound: Collins' music has always boasted high production values -- the horn section pops, his distinctive, powerful voice resonates, and his innovative, versatile drumming often takes center stage without overwhelming. As a result, the reissues don't seem to alter the sound as much as they reinforce the strong parts. It's evident in Collins' solo breakthrough track, "In the Air Tonight," (from 1981's  "Face Value") with its thundering drumming and haunting vocals, to 1996's "Dance Into the Light," with catchy world-music inspired tracks such as "Lorenzo" and "Wear My Hat." On a car stereo or iPhone with headphones, the sound is consistently crisp.

The live tracks: The second CD of each album takes Collins outside the studio with live tracks that come mostly from the same album and corresponding tour. Most of the pop songs hew closely to the studio versions, with some appreciated twists to the arrangements -- but some venture further and run longer. "Take Me Home," a first-set closer on 1985's "No Jacket Required" tour, is expanded to nine minutes, seemingly in response to a crowd that doesn't want to go home. On Disc 2 of "Face Value," Collins sustains the intensity of "In the Air Tonight" before an intimate audience. 

The album cuts: After tearing through the favorite songs and rarities, there's a satisfaction in discovering tracks that didn't chart, but easily could have. For example, on his second solo album -- "Hello, I Must Be Going!" -- Collins shines with the brassy "I Cannot Believe It's True,"  and soars on "Do You Know, Do You Care?" which features the Genesis arena sound that's most familiar from the band's 1987 hit "Tonight, Tonight Tonight." On 1993's "Both Sides" CD, "Can't Turn Back the Years" exudes a sedate, mature sound, while the uptempo "Survivors" delivers a radio-friendly beat.

The demos/alternate takes: These are fun. From 1985's "No Jacket Required," the demo of "One More Night" gives insight into how the ballad became a No. 1 smash. It features Collins in the studio working on the pacing and chorus, at the expense of the verses, for which he mostly substitutes gibberish. He takes the same approach on "Take Me Home," which was a top 10 hit the following year. Most artists who've issued demo versions don't delve this deeply into the process. CD 2 of "Both Sides" includes Collins' take on "Hero," a hit-worthy track that didn't crack the Top 40 when David Crosby took the lead in a duet with Collins in 1993.

The remakes: Collins uses the last track of "Face Value" to appropriate the album's eerie sound in a cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." He pays tribute to Curtis Mayfield with live takes of "People Get Ready" and "It's Alright" on Disc 2 of "Hello I Must Be Going!" And he powers through a stripped-down, jazzy take on Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" on Disc 2 of 2002's "Testify."

The hits: Impossible to miss, and scattered through the collection, are Collins' mega-hits -- the ones that were in nonstop rotation on pop radio in the 1980s and early 1990s, with many getting frequent airplay today: Aside from those already mentioned, the remasters include "Sussudio," "Don't Lose My Number," "Take Me Home," "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven," "Another Day in Paradise," and "You Can't Hurry Love," to name a few. A live take on "Easy Lover" lacks the punch of the studio version, which features Earth, Wind and Fire's Philip Bailey. That version is not included.

As extensive as they are, the reissued albums do not cover every Phil Collins track you know -- his No. 1 hits "Two Hearts," and "A Groovy Kind of Love," aren't here, and "Against All Odds" only appears in an instrumental version that's otherwise very good. 

The reissued CD's, issued by Rhino, sell for about $16 in stores and online, with digital versions going for a few bucks less. Fans of Collins -- especially those who haven't dug into his album catalog -- will appreciate the polished production, and the insights into the development of songs that made him a mega-star whose hits have endured for decades.

© Silive, by Ken Paulsen


Phil Collins: Going Back Warner Music Germany

1 comment

  • Henok Reta
    Henok Reta Sunday, 12 June 2016 13:29 Comment Link Report

    For me Phil Collins is like one who remains unique with his so high peak in once heart. He redefined music in his own style but with a deepened play and dance to the heart and through which in fact, millions have got their eloquent and sensational love forever!

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