Phil Collins: Plays Well With Others

review phil colllins x1 cong

Who knew he’d played with so many people? And himself — by the definition of the title he counts playing with himself as worthy of inclusion, with half a dozen or so Collins songs, including In The Air, live. He did once say drumming was all in the wrist action.

The CD is like Collins’ music: there are some brilliant bits, and some bits where you go and put the kettle on, hoping things pick up.

The first three discs are Collins’ contributions to albums by various musicians, while the fourth disc features live performances. The title comes from a T-shirt given to Collins by drummer Chester Thompson.

Opener is Flaming Youth’s Guide Me Orion — this was Collins’ first band that had a recording deal. We’re guessing it’s all chronological so CD1 has a proggy/jazz feel, in his pre-global fame, underground days.

Track two is Knights by Peter Banks, whom Danny Baker described as “the architect of progressive music.” Banks was associated with the likes of Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, John Wetton, Steve Hackett and, of course, Collins.

CD1 is mostly enjoyable — the genres vary from jazzy prog to Latin, the songs are all good yet mostly lack familiarity, so it’s an interesting set. Savannah Woman from Tommy Bolin is good, as is the Brand X track Nuclear Burn: the man can drum.

Robert Plant’s Pledge Pin is one of our favourites, with a great sax solo, balanced by a couple of songs such as Home by Rod Argent, which are a little dated.

CD2 kicks off with an excellent In The Mood from Robert Plant (not a Glen Miller cover) but then takes a dive with Island Dreamer from Al Di Meola before we see proof of the fact that Collins would play with anyone: Adam Ant, Philip Bailey, Do They Know It’s Christmas and Eric Clapton are all here. The big Philip Bailey hit is missing but there is No One Is To Blame, Collins’ version of the Howard Jones song, and of course Loco In Acapulco, the Collins-penned Four Tops hit from Buster.

It all goes a bit 80s — over-bright, brassy production — in places but it’s mostly good. And it’s not even half way.

CD3 opens with No Son Of Mine from his day job, Genesis. After the slick pop songs of CD2 this is Collins’s cool side: John Martyn, David Crosby, Quincy Jones, Lil’ Kim — Collins is beloved by those hippity hoppers: they care only about the beats. There are some dull songs, too; we made a brew while they were on.

CD4 is live. It opens with the In The Air and the most baffling musical moment of 2018: Collins plays the intro of one of the most recognisable songs ever written and sings the first line before the audience claps as they recognise the song, 36 seconds in: it was either the most musically illiterate audience on the planet, or it’s a terrible piece of editing that added the clapping after he’s actually sang the words “in the air tonight, oh Lord”. After that, it’s, as with the rest of the box set, up and down.

The Bee Gees (You Win Again) is ok but Phil Collins and Tony Bennet, and Birdland with The Buddy Rich Big Band, are very different. Eric Clapton turns up to play Layla.

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