Time to explore Phil’s solo catalog for a groovy kind of love. Phil has a song with that title. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Phil Collin’s owned the 1980s, the guy was everywhere. When he retired, a lot of his fans were ready. The Phil Collins backlash was underway. For as successful as he was, Phil was the rock star you loved to hate, and even Phil seems to acknowledge he was insufferable. “But yeah, I think looking back on it, I can safely say, I was pretty irritating.” This was from an interview Phil did with New Zealand’s Stuff. If you read some of the many interviews he did several years ago, even he cringes at the 1980s Phil Collins, the guy who played on two continents for Live Aid, and mugged for the silly MTV videos.
Phil had a great career, but by the mid 1990s, when his solo record sales began to slip, he just shifted gears. Around that time he left Genesis, but stayed on the road, continued to write music for film and other projects, and then rejoined Genesis for a world tour. Phil was the Michael Caine of music, he took every job and never slowed down. And he became a very rich man.
Phil retired to get out of the roundabout as he called it. His body just broke down and he was refocused on his personal life. Musically, he had done everything possible, what was left to do? After some time away, he wrote a book, moved to Miami to be close to his sons, reconnected with his ex-wife, got sober, had some surgeries, and re-released his old albums. And then something else happened, he went back on the road.
The Phil mixtape. Like other fans, it’s time to give Phil another chance. A fan since early Genesis, Phil became a super successful solo artist.
You’ve heard these songs before, so if you are willing to travel back to the 1980s. Everybody has reviewed Phil’s music, so if I were to pick a group of his songs, not necessarily his hits, to put on a play list, here’s what I would select.
“In the Air Tonight” Probably Phil’s most iconic song. Everybody knows it, that slow, droning song with the deep echoing drums “the Phil Collins drum sound” as it was referred to. A top 20 hit in America and even bigger around the world. This was Phil’s coming out song.
“The Roof is Leaking ” Piano and dobro guitar accompany Phil on this folk-type song, from Face Value. Phil really emotes on his vocal performance. Not a radio single-type song, more of a personal statement. It’s so different, that’s part of the appeal.
“I Missed Again” An R&B inspired song with the Phenix Horns, giving it a a sassy vibe. Phil wrote several of these Motown-type songs, this was the first one, and he would get even better at it. He was reportedly singing about his failed marriage. From Face Value.
“Another Day in Paradise” A story song with a message about homelessness. A really nice melody, thankfully not overproduced, although it has that 80s production. Phil was fortunate that the Fairlight CMI keyboard came along, giving him the ability to compose, sample and develop a signature sound-style. Crosby & Nash help on the vocals. This song garnered the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and was a number one hit.
“Two Hearts” A number one hit written and produced by Phil and Lamont Dozier (of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame) for the soundtrack of Buster, a film Phil starred in. Phil could have had a reasonable acting career, if he had the time. This is another one of Phil’s upbeat, breezy, R&B flavored songs. It’s hard not to like this one, it has a beat that gets you moving and a strong arrangement that throws strings, horns and a pulsating beat at you.
“Easy Lover” Phil produced Philip Bailey’s solo album and together they wrote this song. It’s an upbeat song with a strong rock chassis. It sounds more like Phil Collins than Earth, Wind & Fire. Number two on the Billboard chart. Notice that Phil’s best songs have strong bass parts, almost a lead guitar, a 1960’s thing. Phil performed this song on his tours.
“Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” Written by Phil and his longtime guitarist, Daryl Stuermer. The song had those Phenix Horns, and huge, loud, energetic production. Notice that thumping bass again. A top five hit.
“If Leaving Me is Easy” This pain came from Phil’s personal life at the time. It’s raw and painful. If you’ve been dumped like that, you know what he’s singing about. Another song from Face Value. Excellent saxophone sets the mood. Eric Clapton on the guitar solo.
“Thunder and Lightening” Another R&B flavored song, with the great horns punctuating the choruses. Also from Face Value, this is more in the Genesis style. Notice the horns, but feel the bass line.
“Behind the Lines” Yet another R&B song, written by Genesis, but re-recorded by Phil for Face Value. This is a funkier version. I love this version.
“I’m Not Moving” A peppy, piano and bass driven song. A song Phil would probably given to Genesis. A minor classic. Okay, one more from Face Value.
“I Cannot Believe It’s True” From Hello, I Must Be Going. Another R&B flavored song, with horns, and a thumping groove. Another song that fits the Genesis style. Excellent song.
‘It Doesn’t Matter to Me” A driving song, with, guess what? More horns. Phil wrote many of these songs with minor variations, similar vibe, but each one is good. From Hello, I Must Be Going.
“Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” Well, doesn’t anyone? That’s the theme. From No Jacket Require. One of Phil’s heavier songs, deep, pounding drum intro, similar to Peter Gabriel’s early albums. Very good song.
“Do You Remember” One of Phil’s best ballads, smooth and easy, with a nice hook at the chorus. A number four song from …But Seriously. Great keyboard song, a soft beat and gentle bass track.
“Heat on the Street” From …But Seriously, it sounds similar to “Easy Lover,” some of the toughest guitar work on a Phil album. Nice track.
‘Just Another Story” From Dance Into the Light, an album I don’t like very much. This song has a slow, serious beat, not the bright poppy stuff or romantic songs he normally does. This has more of an instrumental focus.
Where are all he big hits? There are a few, but I find much of Phil’s ear candy to be, kind of annoying, cloying and worn-out. No “Sussudio” or “Groovy Kind of Love” or “Against All Odds” on this list. All fine songs, the first 5,000 time I heard them, but now I’m brain dead on these type songs. Phil’s a talented guy, a romantic at heart, and he composes in those infectious pop melodies.
If you really wanted rock and roll, and that Genesis instrumental stuff, you had to listen to, Genesis. He would rock it out in concert, you got a great show. But Phil was a hit machine. Once he plugged into that commercial formula, he didn’t quit.
Late in his recording career, he did cover versions and recorded an album of his own ballads, not the kind that would get airplay. At that point in life, Phil was doing what he wanted, he’s already climbed the mountains, many times.
As a side not, catch Phil in his jazz-fusion mode, check out Brand X.