“For perverts only and other stories” - the second batch of Phil Collins re-issues examined by Alan Hewitt.
It’s hard to credit that the first of these albums appeared almost thirty four years ago - tine flies and all that. Yes folks, Hello, I Must be Going, had its work cut out trying to emulate the astonishing success of its predecessor, Face Value but it certainly gave of its best as this re-issue demonstrates.
The album opens with what is probably one of Phil’s most dramatic and angry songs: I Don’t Care Anymore, no doubt an echo of the angst and anger which had given so much of the impetus to Face Value. Whatever the reason, this remains one of the finest tracks that Phil has ever written in my book. Dramatic, feisty and featuring some superb guitar work from Daryl Stuermer. As usual, with Phil we have contrasts of musical style throughout the album as demonstrated by the upbeat Motown-tinged I Cannot Believe It’s True in which the Phoenix Horns get their first opportunity to shine on the album and evidently grab it with collective glee. This one too, was destined to be come an on stage favourite when Phil finally took his own brand of show out on the road in the autumn of 1982 but more of that later, folks!
One track that to my mind didn’t fit the album then and hearing it again all these years later merely confirms my opinion is Like China. A mediocre track and one which is not aided by Phil’s “Mockney” accent. However, Phil immediately redeems himself with another dark epic; Do You Know, Do You Care? Anyone who says that Phil didn’t know how to rock out should listen to this one as the percussion threatens to shake the speakers off the wall!
Phil’s love of Motown is well know and it is ironic that it was a cover of a classic slice of Motown which was to give him his first number one single; the superbly catchy You Can’t Hurry Love. Time has been extremely kind to this version and it is every bit as enjoyable now as it was back in 1982... I bet you’ll all be reaching for your shades as you listen to it eh?.
It Don’t Matter To Me and Thru These Walls nicely bookend different facets of Phil’s musical persona. The former is another up tempo performance which is equally at home in the studio as it was to prove to be on the concert stage. Thru These Walls however, is an entirely different proposition. The tale of a pervert who gets his fun by listening to the sexual shenanigans of his neighbours, a million miles away from anything you would expect from Phil and one of the most disturbing performances he has ever created - it was even a moderately successful single too!
Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away is typical Phil Collins romantic fare, a bitter-sweet song but another which was to prove popular in the live context. Following this with the album’s only instrumental: The West Side was an inspired decision as this is a classic slice of Phil Collins at his musical best and one which remained in the set for many years.
The album is concluded by the slightly sentimental Why Can’t It Wait Til Morning, not one of Phil’s top notch tracks but one which brings the album to a suitably restrained close.
And now to the extras. Well deciding to give us what almost amounts to a live version of the album is an inspired choice and as Phil says in the sleeve notes, it does serve to demonstrate how much character of their own these songs took on within the live context. That said, the versions of the tracks we have here although enjoyable are noticeably inferior to their counterparts on the studio album. In fact ironically enough, they come across as flat and lifeless when compared to the studio versions which is both irritating and disappointing. Once again, we are not provided with any recording information for these tracks either which is frustrating for the anoraks among us such as I who like to know such things. The inclusion of two of the “Drawing Board” demos rounds off the second disc and these may prove of interest to fans who didn’t hear them when they were released as the b side to one of Phil’s singles. But it does beg the question, where is the rest of such material from what must be a considerable archive which Phil has to draw from?
And then we move another fourteen years forward in time to 1996’s Dance Into The Light by which time Phil’s star had passed its peak. The album received a mixed reception upon its release and is well overdue for the reappraisal which this release provides.
The album gets off to a great start with the title track which is probably the last great Phil Collins track, up tempo and infectiously catchy this one remains in my top ten favourite tracks from Phil’s catalogue and deservedly so. I was never a fan of That’s What You Said, nor of Phil’s attempt at rap in Just Another Story or Wear My Hat then, and sadly time has not changed my opinion of either of them I have to say although even I have to admit that the on stage antics during the latter were a highlight of the 1997 live show, as indeed did Lorenzo which once again demonstrated that Phil had much more to him than the critics were prepared to give him credit for - then and now!
River So Wide however, is another classic slice of social commentary by Phil who has taken so many undeserved brickbats from the press etc for daring to raise his head above the parapet and speak about issues such as homelessness. Here he manages to do it without preaching to his audience and in a highly satisfying manner. Take Me Down lightens the mood a bit with another one of Phil’s classic up tempo toe-tappers which you can imagine the band having a great time laying down in the studio and equally as much fun on the concert stage too!
It’s In Your Eyes and The Same Moon are Phil at his romantic best, simple unaffected love songs for the new love of his life - nuff said.
The album closes with an unlikely pairing of tracks: No Matter Who, is an underrated Collins performance but I have to say that the inclusion here of the Bob Dylan classic The Times They Are A-Changin does nothing for me I’m afraid although with hindsight, it perhaps was Phil’s own acknowledgement that his star was no longer in the ascendant, who knows?
That brings us to the second disc in this edition, and once again the powers that be have brought us a mix of live readings from the album which once again do emphasise exactly how much they grew in stature in performance. However, once again, the live versions selected here do not really do justice to the power of the performances and are once again, flat and lacklustre which, I as someone who attended several shows on this tour can attest was not the case on the night! This is a pity because there are some truly cracking versions of these performances in most Collins fans’ collections - there certainly are in mine!
We are also fortunate here to have a few more demos and B sides but these hardly scratch the surface of material that must be sitting in the archive somewhere! In fact, am I the only one perhaps wondering if it might not have been better to have made the second disc to both of these editions a live DVD as Live From Perkins Palace and A Hot Night In Paris have been unavailable for ages. In fact, the former has never been available on DVD/Blu ray and these would have been a better result at least that’s my opinion.
That said, it is nevertheless great to see the albums available again, and if this helps continue the rehabilitation of Phil’s solo career as one of the most important contributors to UK music then that cannot be any bad thing now, can it?