Review Summary: At the absolute peak of his powers, if there is one album Phil Collins deserves to be remembered for, it's this one, the 1985 Grammy winner for Album of the Year.
Phil Collins delivered his magnum opus with the red-hot No Jacket Required. After two startlingly moving albums, Collins delivers a set of similarly emotional songs again but with new flair for breathtaking sonic soundscapes this time. As a result it's a lot more even and cohesive than his self-titled debut and the album that followed it, Hello...I Must Be Going. The songs are all tight, frenetic, powerful and contagiously memorable. Collins himself is a talented songwriter, drummer, and producer, and all of these talents blend together miraculously on No Jacket Required. It's probably one of the best produced albums of all time. No Jacket Required is a brilliant burst of sound from a great entertainer.
The album starts with cultural in-joke "Sussudio", a delicious slice of horn-and-synth-driven dance pop. Vapid, lustful lyrics aside the song is undeniably catchy, pleasurable, and, frankly, just plain great. "Only You Know And I Know" can be described as new wave motown, which is actually an amazing idea. "Long Long Way To Go" is the third in a trio of moody, contemplative, atmospheric signature songs that started with "In The Air Tonight" from his 1981 solo debut. It's brilliant the way Collins feigns worldly concern in a detached, but refreshingly simple and honest way to deal with larger concerns beyond loneliness and getting laid. "I Don't Wanna Know" is an effective, jolting power rocker. "One More Night" is a silky slow-tempo ballad that balances self-pity with melancholy to stunning effect. The production is phenomenal, down to the delicate synth-line and powder-soft percussion. "Don't Lose My Number" is somewhat goofy and the weakest of the songs but you will be humming it later. The bombastic "Who Said I Would" mines Prince to wondrous effect. "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore" oozes and aches with dismay. "Inside Out" is a searer. Perhaps the most intriguing song is the closer "Take Me Home", which can best be described as an endearing and groundbreaking blend of new wave, trip hop, and worldbeat.
No Jacket Required marked a moment in 80s music when white R&B met synths and then morphed to become its own amazing creature as only Phil Collins could create. Collins would never sound like this again and of course no one has ever sounded like him to begin with, so that makes this album quite special. It's music that is vague and ambiguous but deceptively simplistic and extremely expressive and resonant. No Jacket Required achieves a type of spirituality in the swirls of sounds that embellish Collins's remarkable voice and elliptical lyrics. It's a mini opera for the post-modern world, a unique statement that is both very 80s and yet still very fresh and engaging today.