"But Seriously and other stories..." - The final Phil Collins re-issues appraised by Alan Hewitt.

Well, the reissues campaign caught us slightly on the hop and so I didn’t have the chance to share my thoughts about the remaining albums in the series last time. Even more time to listen to them eh, folks? Anyway, I shall put that omission right this time and so here are my thoughts on the rest of this series….

Back in 1985 Phil had yet to become the global megastar which he eventually became. His star however, was firmly in the ascendant, not only with Genesis but as a solo performer too. No Jacket Required was to be a further step in consolidating that success and here we have that album again.

It is difficult to explain now the impact this album made on listeners back in 1985 - thirty one years ago… I feel old! But listened to now, it still has the power to surprise you. Tracks such as Long, Long Way To Go and Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore still have the ability to make you look beyond your own simple daily problems and think a little deeper, not that Phil has ever espoused any philosophy (pun intended).

There is also the fun side of course. Sussudio (did Phil owe a debt to Prince here…?), Who said I Would and of course, Take Me Home, destined to remain as a permanent fixture in Phil’s live set from 1985 onwards. Here we have Phil at his very best and this newly remastered edition not only brings those songs to us in greater detail but the bonus disc also gives us the chance once again to see how much extra character the songs developed in the live context, while the three demos also give another fascinating peek behind the scenes into how the songs evolved from initial idea to finished product.

Click to enlarge

Four years were to elapse before Phil’s fans had the chance to hear another album from him but when it finally came, it was, without doubt, the one which catapulted his star into the stratosphere. 1989’s But Seriously had (and still has) it all. Songs with a serious message - Colours and its anti Apartheid stance, and of course, the ubiquitous Another Day In Paradise and its message about how we treat the homeless and those less fortunate in this world, sadly every bit as relevant today as when it was written. Even the instrumentals, Heat On The Street and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, are among the most potent that Phil ever wrote. I would go as far as to say that this is the perfect album, there simply isn’t a track here which I would have left off. And here they all are again, in pristine form with a truly glorious sound .

As with all the other albums in this series, this one is accompanied by a second disc which effectively comprises a mini EP of live cuts but this time we also get to hear one of Phil’s cover versions, the wonderful Always. We also get a couple of the B sides from the plethora of singles that the album spawned but sadly, no Around The World In Eighty Pre-Sets, one of the best non album tracks Phil ever released. Never mind we can’t have everything but we also have a healthy selection of demos once again to make up for it.

Click to enlarge

Thirteen years separate that album from Testify, Phil’s last bona fide album. Not well received on its release in November 2002, the problem with it then was that, as with so many people, Phil’s best work emerges when he is upset or angry, and this was a happy time in Phil’s life and it shows in the songs. Unashamedly happy and romantically tinged, this one will appeal to all those romantics out there. Musically it is still far from being the best album Phil has produced but nonetheless, time has been kinder to it than many of its counterparts and listening to it again is an enjoyable exercise.

This album is also the only one in the series to contain genuinely unheard material with no less than four unreleased tracks on the second disc although these are mis-labelled as B sides? I am pretty sure that they were not released on any single I am aware of apart from Hey Now Sunshine. We also have a marvellous rehearsal version of True Colours and a handful of live cuts once again demonstrating how far the songs evolved from studio to concert stage.

Click to enlarge

And that brings us to Phil’s last release, 2010’s Going Back. Phil’s love of Motown and Big Band Jazz is well known and he had got the latter out of his system with his two Big Band tours in the late 1990’s. Now it was time to let the Motown out and the album was a glorious celebration of the golden age of Motown with a whopping twenty nine tracks on the original version. Phil wisely opted not to merely include the classic tracks but also gave us some of the lesser known gems from the catalogue and they too were a delight.

Sadly, this new release, re-titled The Essential Going Back, loses over half of those cuts. Now under normal circumstances I would defer to Phil’s wisdom in making such choices but to me, this one really makes no sense. Each and every one of them was worthy of its inclusion in my opinion. However, before I ladder my tights too much in outrage, bear in mind that virtually every track omitted from the first disc appears in live form on the second and so in effect we are missing nothing and have the bonus of hearing many of them in their proper context - live as these songs are all designed to be PERFORMED!

Click to enlarge

So there you have it,. Thirty five years of consistently excellent music making from one of the UK’s most important singer song writers all brought to you in polished remastered sound. There are quibbles about the lack of this B side or that B side but the aim of this exercise was never to release a rarities package now, was it? If nothing else, this series will make the detractors of Phil’s career reconsider their opinions and that can’t be any bad thing now, can it