Perhaps “dreck” is too harsh a word. Dance Into The Light isn’t pointedly bad, or even misguided. It’s simply ordinary, and the few times it tries to be anywhere near adventurous, it’s not original. The title track, despite its assertion, is in such a weird meter that anyone attempting to dance to it would appear to be suffering a conniption. “Just Another Story” beats the same groove into the ground for 6½ minutes; frankly, it’s most interesting during the jazz piano solo, and the chorus hook is pretty good. “Oughta Know By Now” has something in there, but this arrangement doesn’t cut it. The lyrics for “Lorenzo” come of the mother of the kid with the disease dramatized in the film Lorenzo’s Oil from a few years before, but the music is sub-Afropop done better by Peter Gabriel. Speaking of which, if you hoped he’d distill the quirky narratives of Paul Simon’s Graceland into one track, “Wear My Hat” is just for you, while “Take Me Down” and “River So Wide” merely cop the guitar styles and milder rhythms from that album. The liner notes insist that “there are no drum machines on this album!”, but the real deal doesn’t always help. (It’s also the first album he’s put out that didn’t sport his mug life-size on the cover.)
Most frustrating about this album is that there are a few guitar-based tracks hidden amidst all the others. “That’s What You Said” (subtitled “Spirit Of ‘65” in the booklet) sports a part halfway between a 12-string and a Coral sitar, and it’s good pop. “Love Police” keeps the jangle going, even if “It’s In Your Eyes” pours it on too thick. “The Same Moon” could have fit on the last two Genesis albums, except for the guitar solos. “No Matter Who” isn’t great, but he was probably listening to George Harrison while writing it. Had he concentrated on tracks like these, he would have endured the usual brickbats about jumping on the Britpop bandwagon, and hindsight might have treated it better, but there’s still no excuse for the anemic version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that closes this opus.
If you’ve been keeping up with the story so far, it should be no surprise that Dance Into The Light is just way too long at a full hour. For those who simply have to have more, the Extra Moves disc (clever, that) of the Deluxe Edition 20 years later adds the usual smattering of live versions and demos, plus three contemporary B-sides, each very different.
Phil Collins Dance Into The Light (1996)—2
2016 “Take A Look At Me Now” edition: same as 1996, plus 10 extra tracks