“He certainly does play well with others!” - Phil Collins’s plays well with others compilation set reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Phil has come an incredibly long way from his formative days in bands such as Flaming Youth (who are represented on this set), through his days as Genesis drummer and latterly front man, to the global superstar singer, writer, producer which he became. Indeed, it is his work in terms of being a guest on someone else’s projects either as musician, writer, singer and/or producer which is the idea behind this set.
Effectively what you have here is a musical time machine, which moves seamlessly from the rather twee and slightly camp beginnings of Phil’s career as evidenced by the inclusion of Guide Me Orion from Phil’s pre-Genesis band Flaming Youth, moving through Phil’s flirtations with Yes members (Peter Banks’ Knights) and his more left field work with Eno and Robert Fripp. Also present are cuts from Brand X (And So To F…) and Peter Gabriel (Intruder) which form pivotal moments in Phil’s career.
Disc Two takes us further into the 1980’s where Phil’s star as a producer was firmly in the ascendant. This is where the story gets much more interesting as if nothing else it clearly demonstrates not only Phil’s eclectic taste in projects but also the sheer number of artists who wanted his assistance on their albums. From the ubiquitous Band Aid record (sorry folks I can’t bring myself to name it…) to work from the re-emergent Eric Clapton and I personally find The Isley Btothers’ cover of If Leaving Me Is Easy a fascinating listen!
Disc Three takes us even further forward and represents almost twenty years of work on projects as diverse as albums by the late John Martyn and covers of classic George Martin material. Every bit as diverse as the discs that have preceded it.
The final disc is strangely out of synch with the one that goes before it chronologically speaking but who cares the music is every bit as diverse with the biggest slice of it representing Phil’s dalliances with Big Band Jazz which, at the time took many of his fans by surprise. Cuts by George Harrison and The Bee Gees (!) may surprise many but they were all part of that bigger picture of Phil’s musical endeavours which this set was designed to illuminate. We also have some choice cuts that remind us how good Phil literally was at playing with others in the shape of his performances as part of Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Bryan Adams and Joe Cocker’s bands at The Party At The Palace in 2002.
No one, not even Phil (who says so in the extensive essay that accompanies this set) will like everything that is on it. That isn’t the idea behind it. This is not a Greatest Hits package, far from it. Many of these cuts were never hits in the strictest sense of the word. What this package does and very successfully too I may add, is complete the rehabilitation of Phil’s legacy as one of the pre-eminent contributors to modern music of the last fifty years. A legacy which is deserving of respect not only for its diversity but also for its sheer quality and craftsmanship - trademarks which anyone who knows anything about Phil, will recognise instantly.
Phil Collins - Plays Well With Others. Rhino Entertainment 0081227942052.