By Patrick Prince
Forty-five years ago to the day, Phil Collins joined Genesis in what would become a legendary artistic ride. However, to the world at large, Phil Collins’ name is possibly better known for his adult contemporary musical success than his career in the prog rock space.
Collins’ solo work made him an adult contemporary (AC) darling during the 1980s but by the time Collins released “Both Sides” in 1993, he himself conceded that his omnipresent status was a bit overplayed. He was awfully proud of “Both Sides” upon release. It wouldn’t shake off the AC tag but perhaps it felt like a new beginning to him.
The reissue of “Both Sides” is part of the ‘Take A Look At Me Now’ retrospective reissue campaign in which all eight Phil Collins solo albums will be issued as extended and remastered editions. The campaign commences with the November 6th release of 1993’s “Both Sides” (along with his 1981 debut album “Face Value”).
This extended and remastered version of “Both Sides” would be the one to own. The sound quality appears sharper than the original release and the added live tracks and demos on the companion disc (sometimes superior to the chosen studio cuts) are very worthwhile.
The melancholic style of “Both Sides” became a welcome return to material similar to “Face Value” — most lyrics are tinged with pain and frustration (perhaps due to Collins personal problems) but resolute in finding a peaceful purpose.
Collins alone produced this album and also plays all the instruments. His ability to play bagpipes on “We Wait and We Wonder” might not impress everyone but it stands behind another poignant message, when the daily fear of terrorism in the United Kingdom had an unwaning presence. Collins personal message is to walk away from the shackles of fear. The live performance of “We Wait and We Wonder” in Helsinki (on the second disc of this edition) is a welcome addition to the studio version.
“Can’t Turn Back the Years” is soft rock heaven, perfected with syncopated beat and the coo of Collins’ hypnotic voice, a standard bound to lower your blood pressure. Furthermore, the “Paris unplugged” version of “Both Sides to the Story,” with added piano, is exemplary. And the demo song “I’ve Been Trying” is what you might call Collins’ Barry White touch.
“We Fly So Close” is the one to cue up out of all of these. A wonderful classical guitar introduction leads to a haunting Collins’ vocal delivery dishing out a plea to cure his loneliness. Ironically, “We Fly So Close” (among others like “Survivors” and “Can’t Find My Way”) has a Peter Gabriel template to its structure.
The end game is not all so welcome though. The heavy-handed ballads “Everyday” and “There’s a Place For Us” are as bad as any sappy movie soundtrack cut ready to be forgotten. Truthfully, “There’s a Place For Us” would probably end up on the cutting room floor if that were the case.
Regardless of the success (for the most part) of “Both Sides” as a long-play in Collins solo canon, clearly it comes down to the extras in this expanded reissue making all the difference.
Note: CD and vinyl box sets will also be available which compile both “Both Sides” and “Face Value” together with space to complete the collection as the rest of the series is released.
About Patrick Prince:
A longtime music writer and editor, Patrick Prince is the Editor of Goldmine magazine.