Friday, April 5, 2019

Phil Collins 4: But Seriously

Considering the man’s ubiquity through the ‘80s—a time where he himself says “even I was sick of hearing me everywhere”—there would be no question that the next Phil Collins solo album would be a smash hit. First, though, there was a detour in the form of his first starring role in a major motion picture. Buster is best remembered today by two songs from the soundtrack album: the Motown hybrid “Two Hearts”, written with Lamont Dozier and celebrated with yet another video wherein he appears as every member of a band, and his gorgeous rearrangement of “A Groovy Kind Of Love”.
Like all international superstars, he was very concerned about the state of the world in 1989, and the lyrics on …But Seriously were designed to reflect that, if subtly. An upbeat yet odd start, “Hang In Long Enough” has a blast of horns, but sticks too uncomfortably close to “1999” to sound original. A familiar drum machine and keyboard meld brings in “That’s Just The Way It Is”, which features a harmony from new buddy David Crosby; presumably Phil was the only guy on the planet who hadn’t heard Bruce Hornsby’s song from a couple years before, though the bagpipes at the end are a nice touch. “Do You Remember” was made to be a hit single, and it was, but sounded better when it was called “Groovy Kind Of Love”. Normally we wouldn’t get too excited about “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven”, but that fantastic game-show fanfare that appears at the top and in the middle? POW! “Colours” sadly decries apartheid for the first three minutes, then transitions into a promising jazz instrumental before going back to a more Genesis sound (plus horns) for another six. As a respite, “I Wish It Would Rain Down” is best known for spotlighting Eric Clapton’s guitar work; he also appeared in the elaborate video alongside the rest of the band and Jeffrey Tambor. (That canned keyboard sound dominates the rest of the mix today.)
“Another Day In Paradise” was the first single, and now we hear the song’s structural similarity to “Man On The Corner”; at the time the big deal was made about David Crosby singing on it, and it won a Grammy for Record of the Year. With a faster version of the same chorus, “Heat On The Street” is a bouncy Motown-like tune in defense of “the kids”. “All Of My Life” reeks of Stephen Bishop’s influence, particularly on the “Tootsie”-like verse; if you listen closely you can hear Steve Winwood on organ, and that’s not Clapton, but Sting regular Dominic Miller on the leads guitar. The furious instrumental “Saturday Night And Sunday Morning” provides some late variety, but is over before it can really make an impact, and seems strange to stick before “Father To Son”, a pleasant paternal chat. While it begins very much like “Take Me Home”, “Find A Way To My Heart” recycles the horn hits we’ve heard for the previous hour to end up in a different place.
While it’s simply too damn long, and too many songs sound alike, the album sold a bazillion copies worldwide, thanks in part to all the hit singles and the subsequent world tour, which was commemorated by 1990’s Serious Hits… Live! album and concert video. Typical of the “Take A Look At Me Now” reissue campaign, …But Seriously’s bonus disc (labeled Extra Seriously, ho ho) mixes performances from that tour with others from later tours, along with a few B-sides and demos.

Phil Collins …But Seriously (1989)—
2016 “Take A Look At Me Now” edition: same as 1989, plus 13 extra tracks

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