“Going Back” - Phil Collins’ new album reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

As I think I may have said on more than one occasion, I am not a great lover of cover versions. Peter Gabriel took this idea off on a different slant with his recent Scratch My Back project and now Phil has returned to his roots with an album dedicated to the Motown classics of his youth. Well, his Big Band project back in the mid 1990’s took a while to get used to but was well worth it in the end. Does this effort have any intrinsic merit? Well, we shall see.

The record company have spared no expense in putting this project before us, the public. A standard and “special” edition CD, a vinyl album and several other versions of it give you plenty of choice. I opted for the “special” CD version digi pak, complete with DVD and other bits and pieces. There is certainly no shortage of material here with twenty five tracks on the first disc, and a further four on the second in wav and mp3 formats. That coupled with the “Going Back” home movie anmd the promotional videos for the Heatwave and Going Back “single” releases there is plenty to get your teeth stuck into.

I have to admit that the golden age of Motown passed me by by dint of not being quite old enough to remember it which makes this particular trip down memory lane a fascinating one. Of course, growing up in the 1970’s still ensures that these songs resonate with me at times. Phil has taken the brave step of mixing some lesser known tracks along with what you might say are the more predictable choices. The end result makes for some marvellous listening and no doubt some jogged memories for our older readers. Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue) opens the album and gets us off to a fine start with Phil putting on his best soul man vocal. (Love Is Like A) Heatwave is a bona fide classic no matter which way you cut it and it is a joy to hear - even if I am ever so slightly reminded of the film Sister Act whenever I hear it.

Uptight (Everything’s Alright) is another song from my not so misspent youth that brought back some wonderful memories. The playing on this one is simply superb and if you’re not up on your feet by the end then you must be deaf or dead or both! Some Of Your Lovin’ was a pleasant surprise, a lesser known ballad, this one features Phil taking on all the duties but you wouldn’t know it - that’s how good the production is on this record. Phil is joined by several musicians who actually were part of the original bands/groups which created this music in the first place and they are on display on another track which was new to me; Ain’t Too Proud To Beg which is simply a whole heap of soulful joy to hear.

There simply isn’t enough space here to give each track the justice it deserves but when you are served up such stylish renditions of classics such as Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Jimmy Mack, Going To A Go-Go and Dancing In The Street you can’t help but swallow this collection with a heap of joy. The real delight for me though is the opening up of some of the lesser known gems from the Motown catalogue to ears such as mine which have never heard them before. It is also fascinating to compare previous attempts at covering some of these songs such as Ain’t That Peculiar (Peter Gabriel/Mike & The Mechanics) and You Really Got A Hold On Me (Mike & The Mechanics) with Phil’s faithful recreations. The spirit of the originals shines through so much more here.

As Phil says in the accompanying documentary, he always intended to creat an “old” album rather than a new one. That would instantly beg the question, if you are not going to interpret the music then why do it? The simple answer to that one is in the music itself - if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it! There’s no need to re-interpret this music, simply celebrate its very existence and that Phil and his merry band of musicians have done to perfection. This collection is a delight in so many ways and it has taken a while for yours truly to finish this review because it’s difficult to write while dancing round the room - not a pretty sight I can tell you but a sure indication of how good this stuff is - well done to all concerned!

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Phil Collins - Going Back. Atlantic Records 075678905995 (Limited edition CD/DVD)