"I Wanna Testify!" - Phil Collins' new album "Testify". Review by Alan Hewitt.Some six years have elapsed since Phil's last proper album and things have changed significantly in both Phil's personal life and also his position in the popularity stakes. Phil's best work has always appeared when he is driven by personal angst so with his new found personal happiness where does that leave the new album?
"Wake Up Call" opens the album which to me at least sounds like a left over from Phil's "Both Sides" album... it has that same home made sound quality to it, not a great opener but pleasant enough. "Come With Me" begins with what sounds like a children's lullaby keyboard pattern, and this is obviously a song written for and no doubt inspired by the new addition in the Collins family - Phil's son Nicholas. A typically sugar-sweet Collins ballad. The album's title track "Testify" follows and is still in keeping with the pattern already set by the opening tracks. There is no doubt that Phil's new found happiness has begun to smooth out the rough edges of previous efforts.
"Don't Get Me Started" lyrically at least, harks back to the "Mr Angry" Collins of old... and Phil has his go at the usual subjects - politicians and religion. A little bit of fire has finally arrived to the proceedings but the angst and fury which were trademarks of previous albums are marred here by a somewhat disjointed musical and lyrical combination which to be blunt, sounds too happy to be a protest song... if that makes sense?
"Swing Low", almost sounds like a Rap song with its introduction although it soon reverts to a more typical Collins ballad with some pointed references to some of his previous work - "In The Air Tonight" and "Everyday" for example. "It's Not Too Late" is another evocative whistful look back at times past, and evokes Phil's own regrets that perhaps he didn't get to know his own father as well as he might have done, and his determination not to do the same with his new child. A much more enjoyable and less contrived effort.
"This Love, This Heart" is the album's big love ballad, although once again it is a love ballad in miniature. This is very much the feel of the album as a whole. It is an album in normal instead of wide screen, Phil is no longer wearing his heart quite so publicly on his heart and after so much living in the public gaze who can blame him for that? "Driving Me Crazy" harks back to some of the older up tempo tracks from Phil's catalogue but please... the quotation from Shakesepeare is completely unnecessary and spoils an otherwise fine song with an infectious rhythm track and some fine harmonies.
"The Least You Can Do" is definitely a fine example of the well constructed and thoughtful ballads with a bit more bite to them than your obvious pop song, and the album's defining moment as far as I am concerned. "Can't Stop Loving You" is another cover; something which Phil does occasionally and usually he selects worthy tracks, such as "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "You Can't Hurry Love", but this cover of Leo Sayer's 1978 hit sadly does nothing for me at all. It isn't a bad song, just nondescript - something I would never have imagined saying about a Phil Collins track!
"Thru My Eyes" redeems the mediocrity of the preceding track with another fine rhythmic and catchy song which leaves us with the album closer "You Touch My Heart" written for his son and this is an unashamed sentimental ballad slightly overdone to my ears, but hey - if I had a baby maybe I would be able to relate to the mawkish sentiments which such events provoke in people.
As I said at the outset, Phil's best work has always come out when he has been provoked. Personal happiness is something which Phil has striven for, for a long time now and I for one do not begrudge it to him but it has meant that maybe Phil's muse has been dulled a little bit by sentimentality, which makes this a pleasant album rather than a great one.