Phil Collins, one of the most accomplished musicians of his time, has just released his eighth studio album after eight years entitled Going Back. This album is an 18-track “stroll down memory lane” as Collins goes back, if you will, to the music that inspired him when he was a kid. Full of 1960s motown and soul standards, this CD does not try to reinvent these classic songs, but instead pays homage to the original recordings by maintaining nearly the identical sound that they had when they were recorded some 40 to 50 years ago.
For those who do not know, Phil Collins is one of the biggest Adult Contemporary/Soft Rock/ Pop artists of all time, standing as one of only three recording artists (along with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson) who have sold over 100 million albums worldwide both as solo artists and as principal members of their respective bands. Collins is also considered one of the greatest modern-day drummers around, a part of that legend being solidified when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis earlier this year for both his work on the drums and his work as lead singer. During this time, he released his first cover of an old Motown song, The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” which charted #1 in the UK in 1982. Due to hearing complications, Collins said that his 2003 tour would be his last. Yet, he came back from his semi-retirement to reunite with Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford one more time for the 2006-2007 “Turn It On Again” Genesis Reunion Tour. Sadly, though, Collins revealed in 2009 that he could no longer play drums due to a recent operation to repair a dislocated vertebra in his neck. But even with this disability slowing him down, he still mustered up the energy to start recording one more time (to overcome his problem, he taped the drum sticks onto his hands to keep hold of them so he could play once again).
After listening to the full album, I found it quite enjoyable — yet not as mind blowing as I had hoped it would be. Collins does a great job of making these classics sound just the way they did in the past, and no one can argue that he does amazing justice to these songs while not trying to reinvent them. But I feel that for some songs, his strictness in staying with the original sound just highlights the fact that some tracks are too good just the way they are to be successfully covered, even if they are done with precise accuracy and sung by such an accomplished artist. This is not to say that the album is outright horrible in any way. To be frank, I actually enjoyed many of the covers he recorded more than I did the original versions of the songs. Two of said tracks he is planning on releasing as singles, “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave” and “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue),” are wonderfully done, and are understandably solid choices. But some may ask, “why not release tracks with much more name value as singles, like ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’ or ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)?’” In my opinion, it is because the covers just will not stack up to the originals. Collins tries his best to sound like the originals, but the bigger the classic, the harder it is to do it justice. And though his goal is not to make these songs his own, you can still hear him attempt to give these songs the same energy as the original artists back in the day. Even if it is not intentional, you will find yourself listening to some of these bigger hits and just wishing that they felt the same way the originals did. In the end, Stevie Wonder just plays Stevie Wonder the best, and not even Collins can compare to him. But hope is not lost throughout the whole album because there are many songs (such as both Four Tops hits, “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” and “Standing In The Shadows of Love,” as well as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Going To A Go-Go”) that are just fantastically done. With the last track being the title track as well, “Going Back” is a perfect way to end the album, expressing the tying theme that brings the point of the record back to center stage.
This album has everything one would expect from a Phil Collins album: upbeat hits, somber slowdowns and a few golden nuggets that will help define the central theme of the album. I would definitely recommend this to all fans of motown, soul and Phil Collins. But also, in a popular music scene full of Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, with vocals being pumped through computers and synthesizers, I would recommend this album to people who just want to hear real music, nothing manufactured in a lab, but pure vocals and a big band voice that only revisiting a golden era could successfully create. As a life-long fan of Phil Collins, I admit it is not the perfect album; there were parts of the record that disappointed me. Yet, no matter what, this is still a great CD that everyone should check out when it hits stores nationwide on Sept. 28.