The Essential Phil Collins albums examined by Alan Hewitt.

With Phil’s announcement of his “retirement” from the music business back in 2011, it seems that his solo career is effectively over. However, with the recent start of the re-issues campaign for Phil’s back catalogue I thought it might prove useful to remind ourselves of some of the key moments in Phil’s evolution from the guy reluctant to “wiggle his bum” as the front man in Genesis to the global superstar he subsequently became. My full review of the first albums in the re-issues campaign will appear in our next edition.

Phil had already flexed his musical muscles outside of Genesis through the auspices of Zox & the Radar Boys and Brand X, neither of which were vehicles for Phil’s individual efforts as Phil had not considered a solo career option until his marital problems in the late 1970’s. Even then, by his own admission his first solo album proper happened by accident but what a happy accident it was to prove to be! Here was a vivid demonstration of Phil’s talents as a song writer of merit. From the dark drama of In The Air Tonight, and the storytelling of The Roof Is Leaking, here we have the first real indications of Phil’s incredible skills both in terms of writing and production. Even the cover of John Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows sounds uniquely like Phil which is no mean feat and this album is one which any serious fan should have in their collection.

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Phil Collins: Face Value. Virgin Records CDV2185

Four years on and Phil’s third solo album continued the upward momentum of its predecessors. Once again, the album was a healthy mix of Phil’s pop sensibilities coupling such up beat tracks as Sussudio (I still can’t see the resemblance to Prince’s 1999 hit after all these years!), with more thoughtful and introverted tracks such as Long, Long Way To Go. With the new compact disc format now well established, this was also the first album by Phil to feature material not available on its vinyl counterpart in the shape of the haunting, We Said Hello, Goodbye.

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Phil Collins: No Jacket Required. Virgin Records CDV2345

This was the album that catapulted Phil’s career into the stratosphere. I doubt if there was a household in the UK which had not heard the lead single from the album: Another Day In Paradise, a superb social commentary song which was eventually to be picked up by the UN and used as part of their anti homelesssness campaign. This album simply had it all, great songs and some superb instrumentals too: Heat On The Street and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning being two of the finest instrumental workouts that Phil ever committed to record. The album spawned no less than four singles here in the UK and all achieved chart success of some form or another making this the most successful (deservedly so) album in Phil’s career and an essential addition to any music collection.

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Phil Collins: …. But Seriously. Virgin Records CVD2620

Not everyone’s favourite album from Phil’s catalogue and indeed, it isn’t one of my favourites but it still rates as an essential album in Phil’s oeuvre for many reasons not least being the fact that he went solo literally on this one, writing and performing all the music himself. This produced mixed results. When it works such as in the title track and first single from the album, the result is as darkly dramatic as anything Phil had penned previously. The haunting ballad, We Wait & We Wonder is another fine example of Phil’s superlative song writing abilities but elsewhere there is a sameyness about the finished result which isn’t to be wondered at given the circumstances but as Phil’s only genuine SOLO album, this one merits its place here.

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Phil Collins: Both Sides WEA Records 4509 93757-2

Phil had dabbled with film soundtracks and Big Band Jazz but his love of the Motown music that he grew up listening to had remained confined to the occasional cover on his previous albums. This was all to change with this album which is a truly remarkable piece of work. I admit I am not as familiar with the Motown catalogue as perhaps I should be but even I remembered many of the tracks here as songs from my childhood and Phil’s performance of them is truly remarkable. Phil also wisely opted to mix the tracks up placing lesser known examples from the catalogue among the classics. The end result is a thoroughly satisfying album which anyone will enjoy.

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Phil Collins: Going Back. Atlantic Records 075678905995

And there you have it. The Phil Collins albums every household should have - in the opinion of TWR’s editor at least! Phil’s catalogue of work is immense and a true testament to an artist who never gives anything other than 100% to their work.