Phil Collins – Going Back (2010)

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I had thought Phil Collins had stopped making regular studio records altogether, and I’ll bet many of you did, too. After all, it had been eight years since Testify and he seemed to have settled into a successful little niche of making soundtrack music.

However, there would be at least one more new studio Phil Collins album — Going Back. But if you were looking for new P.C. material, there might have been some disappointment because this album fetes the Motown music he admired growing up and as a young man drumming in a little-known band called Genesis.

Looking back at Collins’ solo career through the 1980s and 1990s, it’s clear he was trying to incorporate those influences into his own music (beyond the obvious 1983 hit, his remake of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”), so his attachment to Motown is sincere, strong and long-running.

Recording a set of Motown covers was a sensible move for Collins, but the timing of it seems a bit curious; the interest in this kind of music as nostalgia was kicked off by The Big Chill soundtrack (1983) and continued on through a parade of tributes in the ’80’s and ’90’s. Michael McDonald’s similar tribute already appeared after the trend had run its course, but at least McDonald injected his own style into them. Collins, in contrast, strained to recreate the whole arrangements and sonic textures of the originals, even going as far as to bring in the Funk Brothers as session players for this project. Collins sings plenty competently for these songs and does succeed in bringing listeners “back,” but in doing so makes one pine for the original versions because he makes no attempt to add anything to them (as McDonald had done). Collins’ straight rendition of “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” only serves to highlight what an imaginative remake can do for a song, as the Doobie Brothers did for this song and made it into an even bigger hit.

So, in the end, as well done as Going Back is, Phil Collins made it strictly for his own satisfaction, and for anyone who wants to hear the same familiar songs played in the same familiar way, but by someone else.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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