Brand X with Phil Collins – Missing Period; Live at the Roxy; Is There Anything About? (2013)

Phil Collins has taken his knocks (ahem!) for yanking Genesis up by its prog-rock roots and replanting it on the Billboard pop charts. Still, anyone who questions Collins as a drummer need only explore his tandem, tantalizingly brief late-1970s career in Brand X.

A trio of rare and previously unheard recordings, seeing welcome reissue via Gonzo Multimedia, serves as a powerful reminder of the retired/maybe unretired Collins’ prodigious chops, even as it underscores the contributions made by the other guys in Brand X who didn’t later unleash the unholy earworm “Sussudio” upon the MTV generation.

Start with Missing Period, which collects this often-forgotten fusion group’s earliest recordings, dating to 1975 — just before the release of the initial Brand X album, 1976’s Unorthodox Behaviour. Family members of guitarist John Goodsall — who with bassist Percy Jones, owns the rights to the Brand X name — gave him a box of old band memorabilia that, unbeknownst to anyone, included these never-before-released reel-to-reel recordings. Together with keyboardist Robin Lumley and Collins, the group swings impressively from lyrical flights of fancy into layered, Collins-powered rhythmic turbulence — setting a course they’d more fully explore in their terrific studio debut.

After skipping 1978’s Masques, Collins reunited with Brand X for a 1979 album and tour, the latter of which is excerpted on Live at the Roxy LA by Gonzo. Peter Robinson joins as a second keyboardist for this stage performance, but otherwise the evening found the classic quartet offering a scorching prog-inflected set highlighted by Jones’ teeth-splinting grooves.

This reel arrived, actually, by a similar moment of happenstance as did Missing Period. Brand X recorded its rehearsals and its live shows for review purposes, but would typically use the same tape over and over — once any needed tweaks to the setlist or musical approach had been made. Somehow, the 1979 Roxy date survived. As such, there is a flatness to the recording, which hasn’t been remixed. But, as documents of a moment in time go, it’s startling: Lumley’s “Disco Suicide” and Jones’ “Malaga Virgen” (both from 1977’s Moroccan Roll) absolutely crackle with life.

Brand X also dashes through a trio of tracks from their then-new release Product (highlighted by a boiling version on Collins’ “And So to F”), before closing with an absolutely titanic update of the band-written “Nuclear Burn” from the Brand X debut. Collins, throughout, is a blur of intrigue.

Finally, there’s Is There Anything About?, a reissued collection of odds and ends that Brand X issued after its initial breakup in 1980 to finish a label obligation. That really undersells what the album represents, however, as Collins wouldn’t rejoin Brand X again — replaced by Mike Clark initially and then others when Goodsall and Jones returned in 1992.

Is There Anything About?, then, works as a sort of final testament to Collins’ typically overlooked capacity toward more complex fusion. (Put another way: This collection arrived in 1982, while Genesis was in the studio working on a self-titled release that would include the godawful “Illegal Alien.”) All but one of the cuts features Collins, including the now sadly prophetic “Swan Song” — a funky little outer-space exploration that would have fit perfectly on any Return to Forever album from that era.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Blueoo2

    Brand X With Phil Collins: The inspirations and creativity of sound, bombard the listener, with every note and sound spectacular. Great energy throughout. Really impressed with the artists creative ability and how they stay in it, in every note. Instrumentals are a stand out moment. Any music or song, Phil Collins has had his hand in, is G+ worthy…