Friday, March 15, 2024

Phil Collins 14: The Singles and Plays Well With Others

The “Take A Look At Me Now” series of Phil Collins album reissues was certainly ambitious, and considering how quickly it come to completion, mostly successful. (Your move, Paul McCartney.) However, many of the hit singles that appeared on movie soundtracks over the years were not included near their most obvious albums, and a high volume of B-sides and other oddities were also passed over on the various bonus discs in favor of demos and live versions of often anachronous origin.

But he didn’t make it this far in the biz being a dope. Just in time for his autobiography to hit bookshelves came a compilation—his third—called The Singles. This was available two ways: a three-disc version in chronological order, and an abridged version that shuffled 33 of the songs into one mostly upbeat mix and one mostly slow one. (It also contains everything on …Hits.) Anyone who truly cares will half to have the big set, but considering that half of the third disc is made up of songs from Tarzan and Brother Bear, that makes it easy to skip it.

Two years later, an even more ambitious project emerged. Plays Well With Others was a sprawling four-CD set highlighting his guest spots on albums going all the way back to 1969. The first disc goes up to 1982, touching on sessions he did for the likes of John Cale, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, John Martyn, and Peter Gabriel, his furious side trips with Brand X, and production jobs for Robert Plant and ABBA’s Frida (represented by the smash hit “I Know There’s Something Going On”). The second disc is a little less eclectic, with production work for Eric Clapton, Philip Bailey, and Stephen Bishop, as well as more obvious hits like Howard Jones’ “No One Is To Blame”, Tears For Fears’ “Woman In Chains”, and even “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. (His version of “Burn Down The Mission” from the Elton John tribute album Two Rooms appears as well.)

By the third disc we’re in the ‘90s, which here is dominated by more John Martyn productions, session work for David Crosby, and his own appearances on soundtracks and tribute albums. “No Son Of Mine” appears here too for some reason. But there is some jazz work, with Quincy Jones and Fourplay. This continues on the fourth disc, which pulls from three decades’ worth of live appearances, but the jazz is tempered by all-star turns from Prince’s Trust concerts and such. For all the trashing he’s gotten over the years, including by this very forum, it’s easy to forget that he was a very inventive drummer in his prime.

A year after that, further strays from the Collins catalog were finally collected, albeit digitally. Other Sides contained 90 minutes of B-sides—including “The Man With The Horn” and several revealing demos—that still should have been parceled out to the proper album reissues, while Remixed Sides ran to two hours’ worth of extended versions to appease anyone who loved 1988’s 12"ers compilation or needed all four versions of “Hang In Long Enough”.

Phil Collins The Singles (2016)—3
Phil Collins
Plays Well With Others (2018)—
Phil Collins
Other Sides (2019)—
Phil Collins
Remixed Sides (2019)—2

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