“Merry Christmas to you , too!” - Ted Sayers reviews the latest offerings by Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.

Well, with the festive season is upon us (doubtless over by the time you read this), so also begins the BIG money season for record companies so in their infinite wisdom these people bombard us with new product. This is fine so long as the artist actually HAS new product but this is no longer a drawback for record companies and so at this time of year we are faced with … the COMPILATION ALBUM!!!

Surprisingly for such a band based collection of ex and present members, Genesis have yet to succumb to the dreaded “Greatest Hits” (yes Alan, I know about Ant’s Harvest Of The Heart album, but there were good reasons for that, weren’t there??). Within two weeks of each other in November 1990 two very different compilations of solo material by the ex and current Genesis vocalists. Thankfully both are worth the financial outlay (huge sigh of relief) although both have their faults.

The first chronologically, was a Greatest Hits but with a difference. This was Serious Hits Live by Phil Collins, recorded during his recent world tour. The title leaves nothing to the imagination as it is really basically the hit singles recorded live. The live element does make it more desirable than any mere greatest hits, but it also removes something from the original versions of the songs. The album is beautifully packaged, though the title leaves it to be believed that all the tracks were singles which is not true - well, they were but not all UK singles. The album is fifteen tracks long and includes most of Phil’s big hit singles - yes there were some flops. Some tracks are good and some indifferent, but none really match their respective originals except maybe Separate Lives. The original was superb but this new live duet with Bridgette Bryant is at least on a par and what is more, it gives the song a whole new angle. Take Me Home and In The Air Tonight are also highlights but the biggest disappointment is the appalling, yes, appalling vocal on A Groovy Kind Of Love. All in all, it is a nice collection/memento of the tour even if the production/presentation is a little sterile.

Peter Gabriel’s collection is entitled Shaking The Tree - Twelve Golden Greats (or Sixteen if you can afford the CD). The album is not strictly a greatest hits though there are many, but more of a best of… though that would be a little difficult to truly compile in Peter’s case. After all, everyone has different tastes and I bet you couldn’t find two people who would pick an identical selection.

The album does not cover Peter’s entire album output, choosing to ignore his second LP, Plays Live and Birdy. The exclusions would be understandable except that Passion is represented (if only in the shape of Zaar on the CD only). There is some superb music therein; Floating Dogs, Slow Marimbas etc. But as I have already said; you can’t please… (yes, yes, get on with it! ED).

On the positive side there are some worthwhile additions to the collection in the shape of Shaking The Tree and Here Comes The Flood, both of which have new vocal recordings and the latter is an entirely new recording. Flood is (strangely) a song Peter has never been entirely happy with and he has shown this by re-recording it on numerous occasions. Personally I find every version he has ever done brilliant, and each one extracts a different atmosphere. This version is a piano and vocals only version, and it carries a tremendous sense of loneliness. Personally I hope he’s still not happy with it, because I wouldn’t mind a whole album of versions! He has also tagged slightly different endings on to two songs but I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you which ones.

All the major singles are here: Solsbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers, and the funky Sledgehammer are there and there are a couple of classic cuts too, including the indescribably beautiful Mercy Street. For those of you who have not had enough of it, I Have The Touch (‘85 remix) rears its head again on the CD which also includes San Jacinto, Red Rain, Zaar and four other “Golden Greats”. And there you have it, Christmas in a nutshell. If anyone from Virgin Records is reading this - and we know that you are - then how about a compilation of Genesis rarities next Christmas (or sooner!). Now that WOULD be a worthwhile Christmas present!