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Phil Collins: 40 Years, 10 Essentials

A career overview.
Selling England by the Pound

Collins' fist appearances on record were with his original band, the short-lived Flaming Youth (who released one album in 1969 named Ark 2 before breaking apart), as well as playing on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. In 1970, he auditioned for and became part of Genesis, joining for their third record Nursery Cryme. Collins became an integral part of the group?s sound, and, as such, became a major player in the progressive rock movement of the 70's. Genesis grew with each album, and Selling England was their best effort up to that point, some might even argue overall. Collins was beginning, very shyly, to sing, and both More Fool Me and the older For Absent Friends are interesting points of comparison to his later career, showing just how far he has come vocally. His skilful and precise drumming is a major appeal here, opener Dancing with the Moonlit Knight being a particularly excellent example of his skills.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

The ambitious concept The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was Genesis' final album with Peter Gabriel, whose expressive vocals gave the group its unique position in the world of prog. It was of course his very departure that fuelled the transition from Phil Collins the rock drummer to Phil Collins the hit-scoring pop singer; perhaps Phil would never have picked up the mic on his own if he hadn't been given the opportunity in Genesis, and even if he would have, the band's later sound changes were still largely defined by him. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to show his work behind the kit as impressively on The Lamb as on their previous works, Gabriel making his last Genesis record his most creatively dominant one.
A Trick of the Tail

A lot of Genesis fans claim A Trick of the Tail to be their last great album, and it is easy to understand why. This is where Collins, after a failed series of auditions for a new lead singer, reluctantly took up the vocal spot and aimed to keep the band?s style intact, which included emulating Gabriel's vocal presence as well as storytelling ability. He gets a lot of credit for trying, because although his inferior performances on both accounts are evident, the material did turn out to be pretty great, particularly Dance on a Volcano, carrying both excellent vocals and drumming, especially considering Phil was just starting to do the former full-time.
4Brand X
Unorthodox Behaviour

Brand X, an important group in the jazz fusion department, was Collins' go-to side project in which he performed some of his finest drumming. This first album arguably remains their finest, featuring a simply stunning rhythm section consisting of Collins and ex-Soft Machine bass genius Percy Jones. For proof, Nuclear Burn should suffice.
5Brand X
Morrocan Roll

The second, and last Brand X album Collins played full-time drums on, only contributing sporadically to their recordings until 1982. It matches up nicely to Unorthodox Behaviour, although a lot softer and incorporating Eastern atmospheres. Phil performs a nearly indistinguishable vocal on Sun in the Night, more a mood addition than anything else, and once again focuses on what he does best.
Seconds Out

If there was a moment during which Collins began to become really confident as a singer, this might have been it. Genesis' second live album is obviously lacking Gabriel's vocals, having been recorded after Wind and Wuthering, and also marks the final appearance of guitarist Steve Hackett (who grew frustrated with the denial of his creative input and made the band a trio consisting of Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist Mike Rutherford for the largest remainder of their career), but turned out to be an essential Genesis live release. Featuring tight performances and a new edge in the form of two drummers stepping in so Collins could focus on singing (ex-Yes/King Crimson virtuoso Bill Bruford and Frank Zappa's Chester Thompson, who would later become the band's long-time tour drummer), the sound turned out to be on at least equal grounds with their classic years.
7Phil Collins
No Jacket Required

Collins finally started out his solo career in 1981 with Face Value, which, apart from the brilliant In the Air Tonight, was rather uneven. After spending some time finding his sound, really hitting it off with the unexpected hit cover You Can't Hurry Love, he suddenly started to show a significant talent in writing and performing his own pop songs, which was of course influenced by, and would in turn influence, the changing approach Genesis was taking. As his solo albums go, 1985's No Jacked Required was the one where he really hit his stride, and started his path towards becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time, spawning the 80's classics Sussudio, One More Night, Don?t Lose My Number and Take Me Home.
Invisible Touch

The struggle within Genesis between prog and pop started as soon as they became a trio, and by 1986, pop had won the battle, an obvious result of Collins' solo success. Many have often condemned the direction the band took, and in particular this album. When you however listen to Invisible Touch as a pop album, not considering Genesis' history, it turns out to be quite excellent. The sheer catchiness and execution of it all is undeniable; the title track, Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Land of Confusion and Throwing It All Away are all pop-era Genesis classics, and you'd be a fool for not letting yourself enjoy them.
9Phil Collins
...But Seriously

The eighties were easily Collins' finest years as far as his solo career is concerned, and he closed them with what is his second best solo record. Containing some of his best songs, particularly Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, I Wish It Would Rain Down, and of course Another Day in Paradise, ...But Seriously made this drummer-turned-singer hit master of the decade.
10Phil Collins

Finally, Phil Collins' solo career, which is likely what most will ultimately remember him for, is nicely summarized in this pretty flawless collection. At the end of the day, his best songs always were the singles, and Hits doesn't skip any essentials. It even offers six songs unavailable on his albums, with the inclusion of Against All Odds and Easy Lover, the brilliant duet with Philip Bailey, being particularly pleasant. You can hate on this part of his musical profession as much as you like, but you've got to give the man credit for his abilities on both sides: there are few successful drummers-turned-songwriters, and none of them have ever matched Collins' success. Thanks for the music, Phil.
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