Phil Collins – Plays Well With Others

The announcement of this boxset took me quite by surprise, whilst as an avid Phil Collins fan I was aware that during the 1970’s and 80’s he had been a prolific session musician. Not only had Phil started his professional career in music with a group that would later evolve into Flaming Youth, he seemingly wouldn’t turn down sessions with a wide range of bands and people.

Comprising 59 songs that equates to 4 hours and 45 minutes of music, spread almost chronologically across 4 Discs and coming in with a current price tag of £24:99 this is a mammoth collection of sometimes rather eclectic music.

Whilst not all of those sessions and tracks are included in this staggering 4 CD boxset, I suppose either taste or licensing might have played a larger part in the final track listing. Although I could be mistaken, who knows there might be a second boxset lined up with tracks from people like Eddie Howell, David Hentschel and Manhattan Transfer to name a few.

Surprising to see that a song from the debut album (Two Sides of Peter Banks) by the former Yes guitarist Peter Banks, has made this collection. Knights (reprise) certainly has a Jazz rock fusion feel about it but also a crunchy guitar sound, considering Peter’s history with Yes it certainly wouldn’t have been out of place on a Yes album.

It was widely known that introduction of Phil to the world of Brian Eno began during the Lamb Lies Down sessions at Island Studios in Basing Street. The often reprised story is that Brian was working on his album Taking Tiger Mountain (By strategy) whilst Genesis were in another studio finishing up elements of The Lamb. At some stage Peter Gabriel got Brian in to add vocal and odd effects mostly to the song The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging. In return Phil was sent upstairs to the other studio to work with Brian on a number of tracks.

Over Fire Island sounds alarmingly close to a particular Brand X track of the same period until the Synths come in, later on there is some tape effect which wouldn’t of sounded amiss from the 2002 Peter Gabriel album UP. The Bass work is very Brand X in style, but Phil’s drumming is metronomic at times which gives a reassurance to his drumming style back then.

Intruder comes from the 1979/80 Sessions for the album PG 3 also known as (Melt), this was the birth of the gated reverb drum sound that Phil would go on to use to great effect from his epic In the air tonight, then onwards on a lot of his solo work and sessions throughout the 1980’s. In the end it became Phil’s sound despite the fact the credit should be Peter Gabriel, Hugh Padgham, Steve Lilywhite and Phil Collins.

Intruder, contains no high hats or cymbals which is exactly what Peter Gabriel wanted at the time. Its hard to look back at the birth of that drum sound, especially after it became so saturated late in the 1980’s. Peter’s lyrics are telling the tale of a stalker / burglar, it’s rather haunted and creepy. So whilst it might be overlooked from the album that gave us Games Without Frontiers and Biko. There’s a sparse feel on some areas of the track and it feels claustrophobic. Phil’s drumming is pretty simply on this track but its the song for the birth of that drum sound, so a worthy inclusion on this boxset.

Track listing

Disc 1

Guide Me Orion
by Flaming Youth

Knights (Reprise)
by Peter Banks

Don’t You Feel It
by Eugene Wallace

I Can’t Remember, But Yes
by Argent

Over Fire Island
by Brian Eno

Savannah Woman
by Tommy Bolin

Pablo Picasso
by John Cale

Nuclear Burn
by Brand X

No One Receiving
by Brian Eno

by Rod Argent

by Brian Eno

…And So To F…
by Brand X

North Star
by Robert Fripp

Sweet Little Mystery
by John Martyn

Intruder (2002 Remastered Version)
by Peter Gabriel

I Know There’s Something Going On
by Frida

Pledge Pin
by Robert Plant

Lead Me To The Water
by Gary Brooker

Disc 2

In The Mood (2006 Remastered Version)
by Robert Plant

Island Dreamer
by Al Dimeola

Puss ‘N’ Boots
by Adam Ant

Walking On The Chinese Wall
by Philip Bailey

Do They Know It’s Christmas?
by Band Aid 30

Just Like A Prisoner
by Eric Clapton

Because Of You
by Philip Bailey

Watching The World
by Chaka Khan

No One Is To Blame
by Howard Jones

If Leaving Me Is Easy
by The Isley Brothers

Angry (1993 Remaster)
by Paul McCartney

Loco In Acapulco
by The Four Tops

Walking On Air
by Stephen Bishop

Hall Light
by Stephen Bishop

Woman In Chains
by Tears For Fears

Burn Down The Mission
by Phil Collins

Disc 3

No Son Of Mine
by Genesis

Could’ve Been Me
by John Martyn

by David Crosby

Ways To Cry
by John Martyn

I’ve Been Trying
by Phil Collins

Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (feat. Phil Collins)
by Quincy Jones

Why Can’t It Wait Till Morning
by Fourplay

by John Martyn

Looking For An Angel
by Laura Pausini

Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
by George Martin

In the Air Tonite (feat. Phil Collins) [Boogieman’s Album Version]
by Lil’ Kim

by Phil Collins

Can’t Turn Back The Years
by John Martyn

Disc 4

In The Air Tonight (Live at the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball)
by Phil Collins

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live at the Prince’s Trust Concert 1987)
by George Harrison

You Win Again (Live at the Prince’s Trust Concert 1988)
by Bee Gees

There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Live in Montreux 2004)
by Phil Collins & Tony Bennett

Stormy Weather (Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival 1996)
by Phil Collins & Quincy Jones

Chips & Salsa
by The Phil Collins Big Band

Birdland (with The Buddy Rich Big Band)
by Phil Collins

Pick Up The Pieces (Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival 1998)
by Phil Collins

Layla (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)
by Eric Clapton

Why (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)
by Annie Lennox

Everything I Do (I Do It For You) [Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002]
by Bryan Adams

With A Little Help From My Friends (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)
by Joe Cocker.

Rear of the boxset

The inclusion of the John Martyn material is of no surprise considering the friendship between John and Phil, for someone who knows little of John’s material its a nice introduction. Whilst John’s passing is still sad, it’s also sad to hear his voice getting worse as time goes on with the boxset. Can’t Turn Back The Years is a very different version from the version Phil wrote and recorded, with Phil providing backing vocals and assisting John in giving it a totally different feel. Sadly by that stage of John’s life his sweet voice which could be heard earlier in the box set on track 14 – Disc 1 on Sweet Little Mystery had dropped a number of tones and sounds more like Leonard Cohen from the 1992 period in which Leonard released the album The Future.

Further gems here are the Beatles Abbey Road medley from the George Martin album In my life, the whole medley was recorded in France, in a chateau during some downtime from the Dance Into The Light sessions in the Spring / Summer of 1996.

The variety of Big Band material is of no surprise to those of us who have followed Phil’s career with a keen interest, Phil has since he recorded The West Side in 1982 gave the fans a nod to his love of Jazz, in particular the Big Band style. The songs mainly come from the 1996 and 1998 shows at Montreaux and whilst the fans may have heard some of it, its nice that there is song choices that we have not heard until now.

The live material has been heard previously, obviously if you were at those shows. But its nice to see them here on CD especially some of the Party In The Palace (One of two concerts to celebrate the Queen’s golden jubilee) material which as concerts go was surprising given Phil’s then recent hearing issues (he caught a viral infection sometime in 2000 that affects his hearing comprehension). Although we are surprised at the omission of the Black Sabbath song Paranoid from the same concert, as we thought that was a demonstration of Phil’s prowess on the drums in that era.

In closing this is a brilliant boxset, a real eye opener to a small amount of the plethora of sessions and songs that Phil has either played drums, percussion or even produced. To be fair there is the likelihood of there being enough material for a second boxset. Although as a fan I would really appreciate a boxset that focused on demo’s or other sides of songs such as The Man With The Horn or Rat Race (from Miami Vice), or other live material. Whilst the remasters series of Phil’s studio albums did include some of these B sides,  Demo’s and live material in my honest opinion it didn’t go far enough.

To obtain your copy from Amazon UK click here – Plays Well With Others