When Phil Collins released his final 1980s album, But Seriously…, it was billed as his most socially conscious work.
While the project contains songs addressing social issues such as “Another Day in Paradise,” “That’s Just the Way It Is,” “Colours,” and “Heat on the Street,” it still reflects Collins’ gift for writing memorable uptempo tracks and ballads. In other words, But Seriously… hardly depresses listeners.
Audio Fidelity’s 2012 gold-disc remastering of this classic allows re-consideration of Collin’s last huge-selling album, and shows that the work has aged surprisingly well.
Wisely, Collins avoided the era’s patented synthesizers, instead opting for a live feel — accented with the terrific Phoenix Horns. Heavy guest-hitters add to the full-band experience, most notably Steve Winwood, David Crosby, Stephen Bishop, and Eric Clapton. In fact, Clapton’s appearance on the standout “I Wish It Would Rain Down” remains a favorite 23 years later. The lyrics may describe a crumbling love affair — a familiar theme — but hearing Collins cry “let it rain down” over Clapton’s searing guitar solo still thrills.
No Collins album would be complete without romantic ballads, and But Seriously … contains a strong one, the lilting hit “Do You Remember?” While not necessarily romantic, “All of My Life” maintains a very personal tone. The narrator reminisces on his life, assessing his shortcomings. “All of my life, I’ve been saying sorry for the things I know I should have done. All the things I could have said come back to me,” he croons. Reflective songs are nothing new for the singer, but this one peels back the layers to reveal a brooding side Collins rarely displays.
As previously mentioned, the album does contain some serious material, very much in keeping with the socially aware 1980s. “Another Day in Paradise,” the first single, manages to combine Collins’ pop sensibilities with a grave message about the homeless. But a lesser-known tune, “That’s the Way It Is,” conveys the same sentiment with Crosby’s lovely harmonizing. When Crosby sings the line “And I don’t know why” with Collins, Collins then adds feeling of futility by asking “Why do we keep holding on?”
One charming aspect of But Seriously … is that its soulful sound harkens back to his first two efforts, Face Value and Hello, I Must Be Going!
“Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” is an uptempo jam that highlights the tight harmonies of the Phoenix Horns, also revealing Collins’ obvious affection for Motown and Stax. “Heat on the Street” may contain a plea for activism (“The word is on the street, get up on your feet and shout out”), but the tune echoes the sunny optimism of “Two Hearts.” It represents the best of Collins’ pop-song craftsmanship, and is the should-have-been hit of his vast catalog.
As with other Audio Fidelity remasters, But Seriously … has undergone extensive remastering courtesy of Steve Hoffman and Stephen Marsh, and the disc boasts a 24KT-gold coating. This coating reduces surface imperfections, which, the company claims, improves the sound. The bass certainly resounds with more clarity and depth, particularly concerning the drums. The drum pattern at the beginning of “Do You Remember” and the driving beat during “Hang in Long Enough” jump out from the recordings. Perhaps this also indicates how technology has developed over time, improving vastly on the sterile-sounding quality of earlier CDs.
But Seriously … stands as one of Collins’ last major chart successes, marking the end of an era where he ruled radio and MTV airwaves. This crystal-clear reissue allows listeners to revisit that time, all while appreciating how good pop holds up, decade after decade.
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