Take A Look At Me Now – Phil Collins

In 2015 Phil Collins, along with his record company, announced a remaster campaign which involved releasing his solo albums with an extra disc of content. Unfortunately it was delayed from its original November 6th release date whilst Phil underwent an urgent vertebrae operation. A new date of January 29th 2016 was set giving Phil enough time to recover and do some promo for the release.

Phil Collins arrived in England on Tuesday 26th January to begin promoting the remaster campaign. This included an appearance on BBC One’s Breakfast on Thursday 28th January where he appeared for 10 minutes and briefly talked about several topics, including the inevitable putting the bed of rumours of a Gabriel led Genesis reunion due to Phil only seeing himself as the role of drummer which he could no longer envisage due to His own back/neck/arm/wrist problems.

These problems have meant that drumming has become increasingly hard if not nigh on impossible, which is a huge shame considering Phil’s legacy. Whilst on the show Phil also let slip that he was dining with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks for a birthday meal; Phil’s birthday was on the Saturday (30th) where he turned 65, rightfully earning a bus pass in the process.

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Phil on BBC 1 Breakfast TV show – 28th January 2016. Copyright BBC

Phil also appeared on several other UK broadcasts over the next couple of days including on Chris Evan’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show where he was upbeat and jovial, also being treated to a live Ronan Keating rendition of ‘Another Day In Paradise’. Phil also appeared on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch enjoying some cuisine and having a chat with Genesis super fan slash Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, show co presenter Simon Rimmer recalled seeing Phil with Genesis in Liverpool on the 3rd May 1980.

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The brand new box set with Face Value & Both Sides

The releases have been produced by Nick Davis, the same man who championed the surround sound releases of the complete Genesis back catalogue, with mastering taking place at Abbey Road studios. Phil Collins has supposedly scoured his archive for bonus material, although the artwork is cryptic and fails to mention details like date and venue of the live takes plus other omissions.

Starting with Face Value; the debut album to end all debut albums. The classic album retains the authenticity and brilliance of its heyday from its composition, promotion, and chart success especially with that song. Who doesn’t know ‘Dumm dumm, Drmm Dumm udmm, duh, dum dum dum… I can feel it coming in the air tonight…’ and shadow drum along? The album launched Phil Collins’ solo career and strengthened his song writing within Genesis.

Face Value would catapult him into a variety of experiences and successes throughout the 1980’s, becoming one an icon of the decade, even appearing in Miami Vice a show that used In the air tonight and then in the 2000’s he also appeared in avatar form in Grand Thef Auto Vice City which is set in Miami. According to the BPI the album originally released on the 13th February 1981 and went Platinum in terms of sales on the 7th May 1981. By April 1995 it had gone 5 x Platinum in terms of sales in the UK, In America Face Value had reached 5 x Platinum sales on the 27th April 1999 according to the RIAA with that in mind how can you argue against statistics like that?

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The new rear of Face Value – note: Bonus disc contents.

Face Value – disc 1

Disc one features a remaster of the stereo recording. As I have not read nor heard anything to the contrary I will assume that this is taken from the stereo copy master.

Elements of all of the songs seem clear and more spacious which is the desired effect of the remastering process. There is noticeable compression and limiting in places that tightens up some of the quieter passages and moments yet retains great dynamics.

To get technical if you compare the dynamic range results of the remaster to the original CD release it shows that whilst some dynamics have been lost, the results are not squashed and if anything are subtle, without colourisation and added distortion.

More Values – Disc 2

The Roof Is Leaking is a real gem from the new content.  Featuring non other than Eric Clapton, a long time friend of Phil’s. Phil asked Eric if he thought he could add anything; Eric brought along a Dobro one afternoon to try out on this demo song featuring a story about the American pioneers and their rather tough living conditions. Eric nailed not only the feel of the song but the atmosphere although as Phil explained in the Classic Album’s making of Face Value he declined this version in favour of the version that appears on the album. Ever since the creation of the Isis Productions/Eagle Rock documentary (1999), which included a clip of the demo, fans have lusted after this version. Bizarrely the version that appears on the documentary sounds more rounded in terms of audio quality, perhaps there is good reason behind that.

Misunderstanding (Live) is taken from the American leg of the 2004 Phil Collins Final Farewell Tour. Despite a lack of sleeve notes it was the only time Phil performed it live as a solo act and considering the sound and brass section I have deduced it is taken from that tour.

If Leaving Me Is Easy (live)  is another treat to hear especially because Phil has stated it was becoming difficult to perform live owing to the audience being too boisterous. Phil confirmed in an Amazon interview that this version is from the first solo tour dating it to either late Nov/Dec 1982 or Jan/Feb/March 1983.

In The Air Tonight (live)  is one of those songs that Phil has performed on every solo tour. This version originates from the 1997 Dance Into The Light tour and it includes the live intro of keys/synthesised strings percussion before that relentless Roland CR 78 drum machine begins and of course Daryl’s guitar soon follows.

Behind The Lines (live)  is quite likely taken from The No Jacket Required tour, especially when the band seem to play with it more when compared to the version performed on the debut solo tour.

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A press photo from Face Value – 1981

Another song that Phil performed extensively throughout his career is Hand In Hand.  Taken from the Dance Into The Light tour again it features a ship’s horn at the beginning owing to the nautical theme of the tour. It also acted as the opening song for the whole show hence the audience sounding so into it, particularly as Phil would walk through the crowd doing his call and response.

I Missed Again (live) is a surprise inclusion. A rather enjoyable track that I suspect is from the Final Farewell Tour.

And So To F is a live version of a Collins composition taken from the 1979 Brand X album Product. Phil employed keyboard and synthesiser player Peter Robinson, formerly of Brand X, on his first two solo tours hence why it was on the setlists. And So to F was a closing song on the first solo tour and early part of the second solo tour. Phil has confirmed in an Amazon interview that this version is from the first solo tour.

This Must Be Love (demo) is a different demo to the one that appeared in the Classic Albums documentary. This one is a rather fuller with different layers of synthesizers and Roland CR 78. It would be interesting to also hear the one featured in the documentary. Please Don’t Ask comes from the Nicky Horne show on Capital Radio from 1979, this information was supplied by someone else but it seems to match.

Misunderstanding (demo) sees Phil really digging that Sly and the Family Stone sound meets Hold The Line feel here whilst he blues his way through the words which have yet to be written. For passionate fans it’s intriguing and interesting, but for casual fans it probably is less worth their time.

Against All Odds is included in this package as it was originally demoed for Face Value under the title “How can you sit there?”. The song was later dug up when Taylor Hackford asked Phil if he could contribute anything to his new film ‘Against All Odds’. Thus is was pulled off the shelf and reworked for the film.

A live version of The Roof Is Leaking could have also been included, particularly as it was rarely performed beyond the first solo tour. A live version was released on the Do You Remember deluxe single (catalogue number – VSCDX 1305)  when it was performed on the 1990 But Seriously Tour. It would have been nice to see it included to make a complete collection especially considering how the arrangement is very different, however the alternate version in demo form was included so we cannot get too greedy on that front. 

Face Value – 2016 remaster

Disc: 1
1. In the Air Tonight
2. This Must Be Love
3. Behind the Lines
4. The Roof Is Leaking
5. Droned
6. Hand in Hand
7. I Missed Again
8. You Know What I Mean
9. Thunder and Lightning
10. I’m Not Moving
11. If Leaving Me Is Easy
12. Tomorrow Never Knows

Extra Values

Disc: 2
1. Misunderstanding
2. If Leaving Me Is Easy
3. In the Air Tonight
4. Behind the Lines
5. The Roof Is Leaking
6. Hand in Hand
7. I Missed Again
8. …And So to F…
9. This Must Be Love
10. Please Don’t Ask
11. Misunderstanding
12. Against All Odds

Now we move on from 1981 with Face Value to 1993. Both Sides, the fifth solo album by Phil Collins of original material, was a notable departure from Phil’s usual approach of recording:  Rough demos, to writing with musicians and recording with studio musicians. Phil released the batch of songs that became Both Sides were from such a raw point of view emotionally that he could not go through a writing and recording sessions with other musicians, this I feel affected the feel of the album originally but not the ethos.

For some people this is what affected the end result and it meant that Both Sides did not sell anywhere near as many albums as previous hit But Seriously. Both Sides, according to the BPI, was released on the 8th November 1993 and had gone double Platinum by the 1st December 1993, in contrast to the American market (RIAA) where Both Sides made Platinum on the 21st December 1993 and it has not reached multi platinum status yet.

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The new rear of Both Sides note: the new bonus content

Both Sides – disc 1

Disc one features a remaster of the stereo recording, likewise I will assume it has been taken from the original stereo master tape.

Elements of all of the songs seem clear and more spacious, which is the desired effect of the remastering process. Thankfully Nick Davis nor anyone else removed the squeaking drum stool at the beginning of Both Sides Of The Story because there are stories of certain artists having such human elements removed from their work during the remastering process. Let’s not airbrush history.

Extra Sides – disc 2

Take Me With You is an interesting song that I had no idea existed until its inclusion on the bonus disc. I would confidently say it’s from the Both Sides sessions, fitting the general mood of some of the other tracks, nevertheless it needed a little more time to hone it into a finished piece. It’s exclusion from the original album is apparent, however it would be interesting to see if revisited how it would fare.

Both Sides Of The Story (live) is appropriately from the Both Sides tour; I would even hazard a guess at a UK date as it sounds similar to the version that appears on the BBC Radio One bootleg from Wembley. A notable touch is you can hear the audience singing “Both Sides, Both Sides!” at the end of the song.

Can’t Turn Back The Years (live) is also from the Both Sides tour – complete with long intro that adds a new spin on the album version. The band paint a myriad of emotional textures here and bring life to the album version, I am inclined to guess it might be from the BBC Radio One bootleg again owing to similarities.

Survivors (live) is also from the Both Sides tour. Another great song, this one is a personal favourite. It finds a new life live, especially with the calibre of musicians on the tour, in particularly the vocals by Amy Keys that send it in a new dimension.

Everyday (live), again from the Both Sides tour, sees Phil’s Yamaha CP70 sound at the beginning before the ballad begins to grow and with assistance from the band becomes a wide-reaching piece. I would guess that this is not from the same show as Both Sides/Can’t Turn Back The Years/Survivors though due to sound quality differences.

We Wait And We Wonder (live) I would have to agree with the guys from the German Genesis Fanclub (IT) that this version is from the 2005 leg of the Final Farewell Tour. It’s still a fantastic song about the futility of conflict whilst asking why do generations of people keep repeating the same mistakes.

Can’t Find My Way (demo)  as a demo is particularly layered. Perhaps by this stage of his career Phil was able to fill out his demo’s with more instruments.  It’s structurally and sonically close the to the finished song in many ways with some percussion sounds in the form of brushes that did not continue past this stage.

I’ve Been Trying A nice simple song, almost in the vein of Simply Red and it could have been included on the album except the song seems to tie too closely with the potential subject matter of the breakdown of his relationship with Jill Tavelman.

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A ticket for the MTV Unplugged filming and recording of Phil Collins’s performance.

Both Sides Of The Story – Paris – Unplugged Now I am surprised because it is not like Phil Collins to have mislabeled something. This clearly sounds like the performance from Phil’s MTV Unplugged appearance, which in my opinion should have been released on DVD by now – I remain hopeful. It’s a wonderful alternate rendition and very tight as well, a worthwhile way for the band to spend their time during the break of the American leg of the Both Sides tour.

Hero (demo) is a song that ended up appearing on a David Crosby album, who Phil had worked with from 1989 during the But Seriously album. Clearly Phil was also working with David at the time of the demo’s for Both Sides. This song would appear on the 1993 David Crosby album Thousand Roads and was released as a single on the 15th April 1993 (although a UK promo single of this has a release date of the 4th May 1993). Phil’s demo is not as complete as the finished single but it did also previously appear in 1994 as one of the B sides to the single We Wait and We Wonder.

The extra content on Both Sides could have included more material than included. One such jewel would have been the song “Deep Water Town” from the same sessions as the rest of the album. It’s a surprising omission when consider it was previously released on a pay for access section of Phil Collins’s official website as part of an exclusive fan club. Since that has shut down it would have again been nice to have it as part of a ‘complete set’.

A demo cassette of Both Sides dated 19th July 1993…..

Both Sides – 2016 Remaster

Disc: 1
1. Both Sides of the Story
2. Can’t Turn Back the Years
3. Everyday
4. I’ve Forgotten Everything
5. We’re Sons of Our Fathers
6. Can’t Find My Way
7. Survivors
8. We Fly So Close
9. There’s a Place for Us
10. We Wait and We Wonder
11. Please Come Out Tonight

Extra Sides

Disc: 2
1. Take Me With You
2. Both Sides of the Story
3. Can’t Turn Back the Years
4. Survivors
5. Everyday
6. We Wait and We Wonder
7. Can’t Find My Way
8. I’ve Been Trying
9. Both Sides of the Story (Paris Unplugged)
10. Hero

The Box set has additional space reserved for the fourth coming remasters of Hello I Must Be Going and Dance Into The Light. These shall be released on the 27th February 2016 followed later by No Jacket Required, But Seriously, Testify and Going Back.

The newly commissioned photographs of the album covers mimic the original style of their respective album, albeit with a 2015/2016 era Phil Collins looking at you. As a concept I feel it bares an honesty and forges a brave move on Phil’s part, especially in an industry that is image conscious.  It must have been a challenge for the photographer and graphic designers to accomplish this retro look and feel, with the lighting carefully matched. Of course Phil (or whoever was in charge) could have chosen a more detailed path with a book containing photos from the writing and recording sessions but this was not the route he and his project coordinator took.

It is a minor annoyance that none of the live material is dated or credited musician wise. Am I the only one that thinks it might have been possible to date some of the demo’s particularly when you consider the often reported archivist style Phil is notorious for. It seems strange this information was omitted.

Why No Surround Sound?

The real elephant in the room with regard to these remasters is why there no attempt to follow the template Genesis and their management employed with their 2006 to 2009 remaster/remix/reissue campaign, noticeably regarding a surround sound treatment of the whole of Phil’s catalogue. A DVD version with the surround mixes plus music videos, behind the scenes and interviews would have made the project a lot more interesting and I would have been more than happy to pay for this option. 

To release the slightly beefier and cleaner stereo masters feels like a missed opportunity when compared to the vast wealth of material potentially within Phil’s archive. I cannot understand why there was not an option for those who wished to pay for it for a surround sound deluxe release of all the albums. Even some of the sparser songs could have had some new touches added in surround format.

When you consider that Allen Sides was supposedly commissioned to remix the first four albums in surround sound (reported on the 26th December 2003). It’s not like the management were unaware of the potential of this format and the technology to bring to life the music within the albums. Nick Davis did a splendid job throughout the entire Genesis catalogue. How this could be ignored for a quick and efficient Stereo remaster is beyond my comprehension.

Aside from that the actual price I paid for the first two albums in the series and their box set was £19.99 from Amazon UK and at that price the bonus content is worth it, with space in the box for the further remastered albums in the series.

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The B Side to If Leaving Me Is Easy, note: the Demo’s.

I am holding out hope for a double CD or Box set with the missing demos that have not appeared on this project so far; things like the Drawing Board demo’s which have only seen the light of day as a vinyl release back in 1981 should appear for those who want them.

Whilst I do not believe this release schedule has any connection to Phil touring again, I do hope it brings out more material from the archive. How about a reworking of some of the concert films that have not even seen a DVD release, Live at Perkins Palace or No Ticket Required!


2 Comments on "Take A Look At Me Now – Phil Collins"

  1. Stefan Livesey | March 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm |

    I got the box set of Face Value and Both Sides and find the remastering to be top-notch. Hearing the albums again was very much like being re-introduced to old friends and finding that they look healthier and leaner than how I left them!

    Not so the disc of extras, though. They don’t sound so good at all. And whilst the selection of rare tracks is laudable, the source used is questionable and it’s a widely held belief that a lot of them are MP3s downloaded from YouTube. If so, then I’m shocked and stunned that this has slipped past Phil’s usually stringent quality control.

  2. Stefan, I would have to agree fully with the suggestion of a less than usual quality of the Bonus disc. But unlike some artists, at least there was a bonus disc of some substance.

    We also have Hello I Must Be Going and Dance Into The Light, as well as the fact we have pre ordered the Deluxe remasters of No Jacket Required and Testify albums which are due out on the 15th April.

    It is our hope that Nick Davis has been able to sort out Testify because the original release was awful, it sounded dreadful one such reason that was suggested was that the copy protection software on it caused a play back issue.

    There has been mention of a 3 CD set of the B sides to be released before Christmas after the release of Phil’s own biography.

    Thank you for reading again,

    Mark and the editorial team

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