Book Review – NOT DEAD YET: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2016) by Phil Collins

Image result for phil collins not dead yetNOT DEAD YET: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2016) by PHIL COLLINS (2016, Century, 448pp) ∗∗∗∗∗

Phil Collins tells his life story as he would put it, “warts and all”. It is a fascintating, touching, funny and sad read showing how his dedication to his career resulted in domestic disharmony and ultimately psychological issues, alcoholism and failing health. A man who could do no wrong in the 1980s became pilloried in the 1990s, following what he terms as “Faxgate” – for which he puts the record straight here, and ultimately retreated into a form of semi-seclusion following his so-called “retirement”.

Collins has always been honest and forthright in his interviews and he is brutally honest here about his descent into depression and alcoholism over an 8-year period from 2005-2013. He is frank about how this affected those around him and he is big enough to lay the blame with no-one else but himself. He is riddled with guilt over how he put his career before his family and this is a constant theme throughout the book. It is sometimes hard to read as Collins lays bare his soul and his increased self-loathing, which obviously fuelled his near self-destruction. Fortunately he had people around him who cared enough, but it was a long hard and ugly road that has left many scars on himself and those close to him.

But the book is also balanced and is often very witty and funny.  Collins tells of his adolescent years as a child actor and his early musical influences visiting clubs like the Marquee to watch his favourite bands; a strange tale of how, as a 19-year old star-struck percussionist, he was left off George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass; his audition and early touring years with Genesis then his ascension to group singer following Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975. He describes 1987s four-night stint at Wembley Stadium (touring Invisible Touch) as the point where Genesis hit their peak and demonstrates great affection for all his former band mates.

His divorce from his first wife, Andy, set the tone for his song-writing inspiration and led to solo success and his elevation to the pop stratoshpere. He becomes in demand from the musical good and the great (John Martyn, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Bob Geldof, et al) and flattered he finds it hard to refuse his friends. The result is a constant workload throughout the eighties that bred contempt from non-fans and music journalists. When his second marriage broke down in the early nineties – this time through his own infidelity – the press had a field day and this was the catalyst for Collins’ gradual withdrawal from the limelight.

Fans of Collins will likely be shocked as to how self-destructive he became in the 8-year period from 2005-2013, when he was lout of the public limelight for long periods, excepting a brief Genesis reunion, work on a Broadway production of Tarzan and his Motown covers album Going Back. It’s incredible none of his issues became public at the time – although the press had probably moved on to other targets. Non-fans may find Collins’ humility refreshing and be prepared to re-assess their views of a likeable man who undoubtedly likes to be liked and is hurt by “unwarranted” criticism. But, he is ultimately harder on himself than any of his critics.

That Collins has retained his sense of humour is encouraging and this book will undoubtedly have acted as a release for him. It is a sobering parable of how a single-minded dedication to your career will ultimately lead to unhappiness and loneliness. But there is always the hope of redemption if you are willing to see past the psychological wall and admit your failings. Collins is loved by all his children and is on good terms with two of his three ex-wives. An unwritten postscript to the book is that Collins is now reunited with Orianne, his third wife, and living a family life again,. He has also come out of retirement to tour again – on his own terms – with his son, Nic, on drums.

When I finished the book there was a sense of a story incomplete. Maybe there will be a happy ending for Collins after all – his music is being re-appraised and many modern artists have come out to say he was an influence. His fans have not deserted him and the tour sold out instantly. So, there may be a few more twists to the tale. Collins says at the outset the book is his story as he remembers it and no-one can deny it is a compelling and cautionary tale.

Phil Collins announces mini-tour in 2017

Image result for Phil Collins the singlesPhil Collins has been slowly returning to the limelight over the last year. Firstly there was the staggered re-issuing of his back catalogue with recreations of the original covers and an additional CD with rarities, B-sides and live tracks for each album. Then there was the release this week on The Singles – a collection of all the songs Collins released as 45s or CD singles. Also this week we see the publication of his autobiography, Not Dead Yet – a frank chronicle of the singer/drummer’s life told from his perspective. Finally, today it was announced that Collins would perform a mini-tour in June 2017 covering nine dates in three European cities – London, Koln and Paris.

Image result for phil collins not dead yetCollins has been doing the rounds from his formal announcement this morning, hosted by Jools Holland, to an appearance on BBC’s The One Show this evening. Further press, TV and radio interviews are also planned. Whilst he is obviously still struggling with the effects of the back surgery he had last year and its impact on his neural network, I am hoping he will have gained sufficient strength and fitness to deliver a performance at these shows. He will have a strong band and his army of fans to support him and he may even have built enough strength back in his fingers to deliver the famous drum fill to “In the Air Tonight.”

For now, it’s great to see him back and interested in performing and writing again.

Phil Collins Live

Music Review – PHIL COLLINS: …BUT SERIOUSLY (1989) and THE ESSENTIAL GOING BACK (2016)

The final pair of remastered re-releases of Phil Collins’ studio albums completes the Take a Look at Me Now campaign. A 2-CD and 3-CD collection of his singles (unimaginatively but accurately titled The Singles) will follow in October alongside an autobiography (Not Dead Yet).

...BUT SERIOUSLY (1989) ∗∗∗∗∗
THE ESSENTIAL GOING BACK (2010/2016) ∗∗∗½

…But Seriously was Collins’ monster hit album. It is a slickly produced affair with a very strong collection of songs. Thematically Collins veers between social conscience (“Another Day in Paradise” – the plight of the homeless and “Colours” – racial oppression); relationships (the slow ballad “Do You Remember” and the lighter, upbeat “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”), regret (the reflective “All of My Life” and bluesy “I Wish it Would Rain Down”). There are also the contrasting tempos from the stomping white soul of “Hang in Long Enough”, the mournful lament at the troubles in Northern Ireland in “That’s Just the Way it Is” and the jazzy instrumental short “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”. The album closer is a plea to “Find a Way to My Heart” and with this album many listeners did just that. Whilst …But Seriously may lack the adventure of Face Value, it is perhaps the strongest example of the quality of Collins’ songwriting abilities and as such is the most representative album of his solo career. The second CD contains a collection of b-sides, live material and demos.

Collins apparently felt there was too much material on Going Back, Collins’ 2010 release of meticulously authentic Motown covers. The Essential Going Back is therefore an edited version of that well-received album. The biggest debate will be around what songs were left on and what were taken off and as such this release may not find a home in the racks of those who own the original. But the second CD contains a live performance of the songs that makes this an essential purchase for fans.

Phil Collins new compilation due out in October

Phil Collins is following his album re-issues campaign with a new compilation of his singles due for release on 14 October. Here is what his press release says:

Coming out this October 14th, all of the highlights from Phil’s career together on one incredible album.

‘The Singles’ will be released as 2CD or 4LP versions, plus on all download and streaming services and a Deluxe 3CD edition which compiles all 45 of his hit singles on one album for the first time.

The artwork was designed by Phil himself using his personal ‘stick’ man – so we hope you like it!

Here is the track list for the 3-CD Deluxe edition:

Disc One
1. “In The Air Tonight”
2. “I Missed Again”
3. “If Leaving Me Is Easy”
4. “Thru These Walls”
5. “You Can’t Hurry Love”
6. “I Don’t Care Anymore”
7. “Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away”
8. “Why Can’t It Wait ‘Til Morning”
9. “I Cannot Believe It’s True”
10. “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)”
11. “Easy Lover”
12. “Sussudio”
13. “One More Night”
14. “Don’t Lose My Number”
15. “Take Me Home”

Disc Two
1. “Separate Lives”
2. “A Groovy Kind Of Love”
3. “Two Hearts”
4. “Another Day in Paradise”
5. “I Wish It Would Rain Down”
6. “Something Happened on the Way To Heaven”
7. “That’s Just the Way It Is”
8. “Hang in Long Enough”
9. “Do You Remember?”
10. “Who Said I Would”
11. “Both Sides of the Story”
12. “Everyday”
13. “We Wait and We Wonder”
14. “Dance Into The Light”
15. “It’s In Your Eyes”

Disc Three
1. “No Matter Who”
2. “Wear My Hat”
3. “The Same Moon”
4. “True Colors”
5. “You’ll Be In My Heart”
6. “Strangers Like Me”
7. “Son of Man”
8. “Two Worlds”
9. “Can’t Stop Loving You”
10. “The Least You Can Do”
11. “Wake Up Call”
12. “Look Through My Eyes”
13. “No Way Out”
14. “(Love is Like A) “Heatwave”
15. “Going Back”

Title and jacket covers released for Phil Collins’ upcoming biography

The jacket covers for both the UK (below left) and US (below right) versions of Phil Collins’ upcoming biography, due to be published on 20 October, have been posted on Phil’s official site. The title has been revealed to be “Not Yet Dead” another example of Collins’ love of all thing Monty Python (presumably a reference to the “Bring out your Dead” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

Phil Collins - Not Dead Yet - AutobiographyPhil Collins - Not Dead Yet - Autobiography

The blurb reads: Phil Collins gained fame as both the drummer and lead singer for Genesis and continues to enjoy worldwide success today.

He’s one of only three recording artists who have sold over 100 million albums both as solo artists and separately as principal members of a band – the other two being Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. Revered as a drummer, he’s the only performer of distinction to have appeared at both the UK and US original Live Aid concerts, the creator of numerous worldwide hits, and is an Oscar winner for the song ‘You’ll Be in My Heart’, from the Disney film Tarzan.

Phil Collins’ life has also been rich with experience outside of music, starting with his career as a child actor, appearing aged 13 as the Artful Dodger in the stage production of Oliver! through Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Miami Vice and The Band Played On.

In his memoir Phil talks honestly about his three failed marriages, his alcoholism and his ill health but also describes the highs and lows of his career, and what it is like to work with other rock legends from Eric Clapton to Robert Plant.

Published to coincide with the release of a singles collection, Not Dead Yet will thrill fans and change minds.

Phil Collins April re-issues reviewed

NO JACKET REQUIRED (1985) ∗∗∗∗½
TESTIFY (2002) ∗∗∗½

NO JACKET REQUIRED, released in 1985, was the album that launched Collins into the stratosphere. A monster hit and Grammy winner, Collins says it is the least representative of him personally. You can see what he means as he veers away from personal issues and produces a more crafted and upbeat album. From the punchy dance inspired “Sussudio” and pounding “Only You Know and I Know” to the political comment on the then situation in Northern Ireland with the evocative “Long Long Way to Go”, Collins is distancing himself from the introspection of his first two albums There is also the story of a patient escaping a mental asylum on the wonderfully anthemic “Take Me Home” – possibly Collins’ best song. It adds up to one of his strongest collections. “Inside Out” powers along to a contagious rhythm and other upbeat songs such as “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Who Said I Would” are obviously inspired by the dance/soul numbers of the day. Even a couple of his songs dwelling on personal relationships (“I Don’t Wanna Know” and “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore”) are played at a fast tempo – the latter propelled by Collins’ heavy drums. But he still finds a place for the slow late night plea of “One More Night” and the gorgeous Beatles-like “We Said Hello Goodbye” making this album his most balanced to date. From here on Collins would dominate the airwaves both as a solo artist and with Genesis for a further seven years.

2002’s TESTIFY is (to date) Collins’ last album containing original material. It’s a much more mellow affair reflecting on an artist about to enter a state of retirement from writing to spend more time with his family. There is a warmth to a number of the songs including the reassuring “Come with Me”, the romantic lament of “This Love This Heart”, the undulating rhythms of “Swing Low” and the lullaby closer “You Touch My Heart”. There is also a cynicism apparent on the otherwise bouncy “Don’t Get Me Started”, which seems at odds with the general feel of the album. His cover of Leo Sayer’s “Can’t Stop Loving You” was the single release and maybe hinted that whilst he could still write nice songs, like the upbeat opener “Wake Up Call”, the angst-ridden title track and the throwback “The Least You Can Do”, this batch were less hook-laden than those produced in his heyday.

Both albums have again been released with recreations of the original covers and extra CDs featuring live material, B-sides and demos.

Phil Collins and Tony Banks February reissues/remasters

This week has been a bumper one for Genesis fans with four re-releases – two each for Phil Collins and Tony Banks. Collins has continued his Take a Look at Me Now reissue/remaster campaign with HELLO, I MUST BE GOING! (1982) and DANCE INTO THE LIGHT (1996) whilst Banks has commenced his with A CURIOUS FEELING (1979) and THE FUGITIVE (1982) both of which have been remixed and remastered. Engineer Nick Davis has worked on both projects.

PHIL COLLINS:
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING! (1982) ∗∗∗∗
DANCE INTO THE LIGHT (1996) ∗∗∗

Collins released HELLO, I MUST BE GOING! nearly two years after his debut FACE VALUE and between the Genesis albums ABACAB (1981) and GENESIS (1983). Like his debut this album contains a wide variety of musical styles and whilst as a whole it does not quite match its predecessor, this is still an impressive follow-up. Standouts include the bitterness and anger of the drum propelled “I Don’t Care Anymore”, the heart-wrenching “Don’t Let Him Steel Your Heart Away”, the dark and brooding “Do You Know, Do You Care” and the big band inspired “The West Side”. There is also the melancholy of the closing “Why Can’t it Wait ‘Til Morning” and the brass driven duo “I Cannot Believe it’s True” and “It Don’t Matter to Me”. The album is perhaps best known for Collins’ first UK solo number 1 with his cover of Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Motown hit “You Can’t Hurry Love”. There is the occasional misstep – “Thru These Walls” comes across as a little too creepy and recycles Collins’ signature drum fill from “In the Air Tonight” and “Like China” feels a little forced in trying to create its cockney geezer charm – but this is a very solid album that would lift Collins a step closer to super-stardom. The second CD features demos and live tracks, which will be of interest to fans.

1996’s DANCE INTO THE LIGHT was Collins’ first album following his announced departure from Genesis, although he would return to the fold in 2007. The album mixes Collins’ standard soulful approach (“Dance into the Light” and “Oughta Know By Now”) with Beatlesque pop (“That’s What You Said”, “Love Police”, “It’s in Your Eyes” and “No Matter Who”) and African rhythms (“Lorenzo”, “River So Wide”, “Take Me Down”). “Wear My Hat” is Collins’ riff on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and there is the warm romanticism of “The Same Moon”. He even finds a place for some social commentary in “Just Another Story”. With his star on the descent following some bad press in the media surrounding his split from his second wife, the album feels as if Collins is throwing out a number of hooks in an attempt to gain a commercial bite. He even finished the album with a bombastic cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times are A-Changing”. The result is an album that fails to fully satisfy despite some strong songs. In attempting to follow other artist’s styles, Collins seemed to have lost his own voice. Two of his best songs from the sessions sit on the second CD amongst live tracks and demos. The reflective “Another Time” and melancholic “It’s Over” show Collins could still write very strong personal songs.

TONY BANKS:
A CURIOUS FEELING (1979) ∗∗∗∗
THE FUGITIVE (1983) ∗∗∗

Tony Banks found time between Genesis’ …AND THEN THERE WERE THREE… (1978) and DUKE (1980) to record his debut solo album A CURIOUS FEELING. Banks’ story concept for the album of a man rediscovering his life having suffered memory loss was inspired by the short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. String Driven Thing’s Kim Beacon provides warm vocals and the album also features Genesis touring drummer Chester Thompson. Banks plays the rest of the instruments including guitar and bass in addition to his keyboards. The synth-dominant music is pure Banks mixing beautiful soaring instrumentals such as “The Waters of Lethe” and “Forever Morning” with tuneful songs “Lucky Me” and “For a While”. He also stretches out on the romantic “You”, which has one of his best instrument segments to close out the song, and rocks hard on the pounding “Somebody Else’s Dream”. The re-mix has enhanced the sonic spectrum considerably and the songs breathe better as a result. Banks’ solo work would never better this excellent debut.

Like Collins’ HELLO, I MUST BE GOING!, THE FUGITIVE was released in the Genesis hiatus between ABACAB and GENESIS. Here Banks decided to take on the vocal duties himself in an attempt to stamp his own identity on his music. As a result the songs were kept simple following the trends set in the streamlining of the Genesis sound over their previous two albums. Banks’ vocals have a certain charm if not range and the songs here suit his vocal style. The opening reggae infused “This is Love” sets the tone and the songs across the album are all tuneful and sometimes catchy, if less adventurous than those on A CURIOUS FEELING. “And the Wheels Keep Turning” has an infectious hook and “By You” is fluffy synth pop. Bank’s increased use of programmed drum sounds means instrumentals “Thirty-Threes” and “Charm” have a robotic feel to them that plays against Banks’ natural deftness for flowing musical melodies and arrangements. There are flashes of brilliance on the rocking “At the Edge of Night” but other tracks, such as the ballad “Say You’ll Never Leave Me” and the mid-tempo “K2” have a plodding rhythm, which fails to bring life to Banks’ melodies. Again Nick Davis’ remixes have brought out some previously hidden delights on an album that, whilst mixed in quality and execution, has its moments of charm and elegance.

Music Review – PHIL COLLINS: FACE VALUE (1981) and BOTH SIDES (1993) – Remastered reissues

FACE VALUE (1981) ∗∗∗∗½
BOTH SIDES (1993) ∗∗∗Phil Collins’ back catalogue is being reissued at a rate of two releases per month. The first batch under the umbrella release title of Take a Look at Me Now… consists of the Genesis singer/drummer’s 1981 debut solo album FACE VALUE and his introspective 1993 release BOTH SIDES. Both albums have been remastered by Nick Davis and include a second CD containing live versions of some of the songs from that album alongside demos. They also feature recreations of the original album covers.

The writing process for FACE VALUE began in 1979 whilst Genesis had taken a hiatus so Collins could try and patch up his broken marriage. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford took the opportunity to record their debut solo albums (A CURIOUS FEELING and SMALLCREEP’S DAY). When Collins found his marriage was beyond repair he found himself with time on his hands and started writing. The resultant songs were reflective of his state of mind at the time but also drew on his wide range of musical influences. Two of the songs, “Misunderstanding” and “Please Don’t Ask” (demos of which are available on CD2), made it onto Genesis’ next album DUKE (1980). Once that album and the following tour were complete, Collins took the opportunity to take the rest of his songs and record his first solo album. He used his demos as the basis for the tracks and added instruments in studio with musicians such as Eric Clapton, Alphonso Johnson, John Giblin, Stephen Bishop, Joe Partridge and Daryl Stuermer. The resultant album is the most varied of his career with lead-off single, the stark and dramatic “In the Air Tonight”, a huge hit buoying sales of the album. The song has Collins’ powerful signature drum fill, which has been become part of music history. Although the bitterness evident in the lyrics fuelled the view that this album was a series of open letters to his ex-wife. That view ignores the broader range of songs and sentiments on the album. There is the romanticism of new love found in “This Must Be Love”, the middle-eastern inspired instrumental “Droned”, the aching desperation of “The Roof is Leaking” and the psychedelic rock of his more melodic cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Collins also adds a horn section to the Motown-style soul of “I MIssed Again”, the anthemic, big band influenced instrumental “Hand in Hand” and the warm soul of “Thunder and Lightning”. He reworks “Behind the Lines” from DUKE into a fast and punchy lament. Other songs include the bright “I’m Not Moving”, the piano led ballad “You Know What I Mean” and the late-night saloon-styled reflection of “If Leaving Me Is Easy.” Collins had demonstrated his versatility as a writer and musician and had set the wheels in motion for a decade of hit albums both on his own and with Genesis.

By contrast BOTH SIDES is Collins’ most introspective album. It is his personal favourite amongst his catalogue and this is largely driven by the fact he played everything himself in realising his vision for the songs, which were written with a spontaneity that recalled some of his writing on FACE VALUE. The album is made up of mainly slow to mid-tempo songs which are highly personal and reflective, such as the warm yearning of “Can’t Turn Back the Years” and the hopeful “There’s a Place for Us.” The more up-tempo songs such as the driving “Both Sides of the Story” and the call to arms of “We Wait and We Wonder” take on more generic social and political themes mirroring his approach on …BUT SERIOUSLY. Whilst it is easy to see why this album meant so much to Collins, his uncompromising approach gives the songs a sameness of feel that leaves the listener searching for a sudden change of tempo or a blast of horns (absent from this album). The songs individually are strong, but as a whole the album just needs the variety that is so much in evidence on its sister reissue, FACE VALUE. Whilst the lovely melodic “We’re Sons of Our Fathers” delves into new ground for Collins with a bluegrass feel to it, it calls out for authentic instrumentation rather than synthesized simulation. Many of the songs would come to life more on stage, as can be witnessed on the second CD, which carries some rare live material from the tour that followed. There is a particularly bouncy unplugged version of “Both Sides of the Story” and “Can’t Turn Back the Years” benefits from a lovely worked intro between on-stage musicians Brad Cole (keyboards), Daryl Stuermer (guitar) and Nathan East (bass). BOTH SIDES can be viewed as an album that is less than the sum of its parts, but demonstrating a side to Collins that showed he wasn’t afraid to experiment and work against his public image.

Second tranche of Phil Collins re-masters announced

Phil Collins has announced the next two releases in his re-master series with 1982’s Hello, I Must Be Going! joined by 1996’s Dance into the Light. Both again come with re-created covers. The release date is 26 February.

     

Track lists:

Hello I Must Be Going!

“I Don’t Care Anymore”
“I Cannot Believe It’s True”
“Like China”
“Do You Know, Do You Care?”
“You Can’t Hurry Love”
“It Don’t Matter to Me”
“Thru These Walls”
“Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away”
“The West Side”
“Why Can’t It Wait ‘Til Morning?”

“I Don’t Care Anymore” – Live
“I Cannot Believe It’s True – Live
“Like China” – Live
“You Can’t Hurry Love” – Live
“It Don’t Matter to Me” – Live
“The West Side” – Live Rehearsal
“People Get Ready” – Live
“Thru These Walls” – Live
“It’s Alright” – Live
“Oddball” – Demo of “Do You Know, Do You Care?”
“Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away” – Demo

Dance into the Light

“Dance Into the Light”
“That’s What You Said”
“Lorenzo”
“Just Another Story”
“Love Police”
“Wear My Hat”
“It’s In Your Eyes”
“Oughta Know By Now”
“Take Me Down”
“The Same Moon”
“River So Wide”
“No Matter Who”
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”

“Dance Into the Light” – Live
“Just Another Story” – Live
“Wear My Hat” – Live
“River So Wide” – Live
“Take Me Down” – Live
“Lorenzo” – Demo
“That’s What You Said” – Demo
“Another Time” – B-side
“It’s Over” – B-side
“I Don’t Wanna Go” – B-side

Tony Banks remix and remaster series release news

The Fugitive: 180g Vinyl LP EditionHaving released A 4-CD retrospective with A Chord Too Far through Esoteric, Tony Banks follows up with the planned phased release of his back catalogue. A Curious Feeling (1979) had already been released in 2009 and will be re-released on 26 February 2016 alongside 1983’s The Fugitive. Both albums will be released as a CD (stereo remixes) + DVD (including 5.1 remixes) deluxe edition, complete with hardback book and notes from Banks, alongside standard CD edition and 180 gram vinyl LP.

The remix/remasters have been prepared by long-time collaborating producer/engineer Nick Davis, who worked on the Genesis back catalogue. The cuts for the vinyl LPs were prepared at Abbey Road studios.