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But Seriously

Phil Collins – …But Seriously (Deluxe 2CD)

New edition: …But Seriously remastered and with bonus tracks


Please note that this review is about the new edition of the Testify album. Go here for a full review of the album itself.


Artwork

As usual with the remasters the cover shows a current version of the original artwork. The photo for …But Seriously is the weakest of the lot, though. Phil looks fittingly serious. But he does not only look older but haggard and ill. Another shot may have looked more advantageous without losing the serious look. The rest of the layout follows the original album.

 

Das Remaster

An improvement is audible, but there is no big wow effect as with the remaster of the first solo albums. The album sounds a bit clearer and polished overall. But you should take that information with a grain of salt. The main change took place in the volume: The songs sound stronger, but the dynamic range has been clipped to various degrees.

Dynamic Range But SeriouslyUnfortunately, the dynamic change has been more or less castrated on ...But Seriously. This is no release for audiophiles. The chart shows a large Dynamic Range Value (DRV) of the German WEA first pressing of 1989. 14 is a good value for a 1989 album, high enough to make it into the top third of the charts at LoudnessWar. Phil’s other albums from the 80s have similar values. The new version is down a whopping five points to just 9. A song like I Wish It Would Rain Down with an original DRV of 13 is reduced to a meagre 7. This means: No volume nuances, everything is just loud. If you compare this with Steve Hoffmann’s 2012 High Fidelity Gold Disc Remaster the difference becomes even more clear: Hoffmann created a remaster with only minimal changes to the dynamic range – and it is way better than the 2016 version. …But Seriously confirms the impression that these remasters were created without the necessary diligence. The music is just louder and adapted for the MP3 generation.


The bonus tracks – „Extra Seriously“


Hang In Long Enough (live)

One of the live classics since 1990 kicks off the bonus CD. The recording comes from the 1997 Paris concert that is documented on the Live And Loose In Paris DVD. The song has not changed as much as others, so the many live versions that are available all resemble each other. Every other version would have been as good. Since this song was cut from Serious Hits … Live! it is a good selection.


Something Happened On The Way To Heaven (live)

Though the music seems to continue uninterrupted we stay at the Palais Omnisport in Paris-Bercy but jump forward to 2004. At the First Final Farewell tour this song was the opener after the drum trio. A powerful beginning that really captures the audience. Unfortunately, the drum intro has been cut, but it would have been a bit long and does not have any direct link to …But Seriously. The bonus CD could have done without a live version of this song – after all, Serious Hits … Live! already has a great 1990 version. So there would have been room for other live songs – but we will get to that.


Colours (live)

Like the No Jacket Required bonus CD this bonus album also draws on the 1990 Waldbühne show recorded on the Seriously Live In Berlin DVD – and rightly so. A brilliant live version of Collins’ only real “long song” complete with the Collins / Thompson drum duet. A real highlight in excellent sound quality.


Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (live)

This is also from Berlin, 1990. Another gem. A pity that it is so short. It would have been a disgrace not to have this wonderful instrumental (and Colours) in the extras.


But SeriouslyAlways (live)

Why this cover song was used is slightly beyond us. Yes, it is a beautiful song and Phil sings it with much feeling. Yes, it used to be a favourite song of his late mother. Yes, it has first been played on the Serious tour 1990 and has at least a distant connection with the album.

But this very same version has appeared as the B-side of the Both Sides Of The Story single. We have been unable to discover where it was recorded. Serious Hits … Live! used various shows from the tour, with Paris, Chicago and Uniondale as probable candidates. It definitely is not from Berlin. Another live version from the Montreux Jazz Festival came out as the flip side of The Same Moon. A third live version appeared on the Love Songs compilation. This is why we are at a loss why this song was chosen while other live versions such as Heat On The Street and All Of My Life were not, wonderful though Always may be.

     

Find A Way To My Heart (live)

The finale of this short live concert is a great live song that was played on all tours between 1990 and 1997. The bonus CD has the newest version from 1997, which is evident from Luis Conte’s percussion elements that were not introduced until this tour. The location of the recording is uncertain. In 1997 the song was played “back to back”, as it were, straight after Take Me Down. This explains the sudden beginning that still works well. The sound quality is good, though the recording is a bit too clean, almost like a studio version.


That’s How I Feel (B-Seite)

This was the B-Side for Hang in Long Enough, and it is closely related to other songs from the … But Seriously sessions. A fine song with great drum and horn parts. It may be a bit weaker than the album tracks, but it definitely is one of the better B-sides. The song deserves a better finale than a simple fade-out.


You’ve Been In Love (That Little Bit Too Long) (B-Seite)

This B-side of I Wish It Would Rain Down seems to pay homage to Motown. Phil’s musical influences and roots are clearly audible. Unlike That’s How I Feel, this song is not very obviously from the …But Seriously sessions. The song would have added another aspect to the album, but the choice of album tracks was extremely successful and well-balanced. You simply have to draw the line somewhere.


Another Day In Paradise (Demo)

The first single, the most successful song of the album starts of the five demos at the end of the extras. This is an unknown demo version. A different demo version appeared as Homeless alongside You’ve Been In Love (That Little Bit Too Long) on the I Wish It Would Rain Down single.

This demo has evolved a lot from Homeless, to the point that it is almost finished. The lyrics are complete as in the final version, except for a short passage. Intro and outro are interesting with their  sounds of motor cars and squealing tyres. Those were neither in Homeless nor in the finished version. The keyboard part towards the end has not been used either. Lifting this demo from the archives is a good choice and a nice surprise, as many fans will have suspected another copy of Homeless from reading the tracklist in the remaster announcement.


That’s Just The Way It Is (Demo)

Another hitherto undiscovered demo version. It is musically almost identical with the album version. Only the lyrics are not yet completed so that Collins uses his “demo vocals” outside the chorus.


I Wish It Would Rain Down (Demo)

This  demo has already appeared on the singles for Do You Remember? and Something Happened On The Way To heaven. The lyrics are rather sketchy and the song itself still sounds raw. There is one change from the known demo version: It is slower, which explains the longer play time. We may suspect that such details were deemed unimportant in the copying of the tapes.


Hang In Long Enough (Demo)

Hang In Long Enough is the only song that appears twice in the extras. This demo is another unknown version and a very interesting one at that. It sounds rather like a left-over from the No Jacket Required sessions; the catchy beat is remotely similar to the demo of Only You Know And I Know from the No Jacket Required extras. Apart from the chorus the lyrics are incomprehensible and unfinished. This version makes the song sound like a relic from the 80s – which is something you could not say about …But Seriously.


Do You Remember? (Demo)

This demo is available as Lionel on the Something Happened On The Way To Heaven single. The song is almost finished, except for the completely unintelligible lyrics. In the chorus Phil seems to be singing something like “Didn’t you?” Speedwise, this demo has also been slowed down, and we have not been able to find a better explanation than the one we suggested for I Wish It Would Rain Down.


Our assessment of the bonus material

A good mixture. There are six live versions, five demo tracks and two known B-sides.
There are, however, light and shadow to this bonus CD. The list of songs that have been left out, of the ones that could have been used is striking: From the instrumental Around The World In 80 Presets (B-side of the Hang In Long Enough single), the wonderful Elton John cover Burn Down The Mission from the Two Rooms compilation to the live versions of Heat On The Street, All Of My Life, I Wish It Would Rain Down and That’s Just The Way It Is.
There would have been enough material on the bonus CD that could have been deleted because it has been released elsewhere (e.g. the demos or Always) to accommodate these songs.
It would be unjust to ignore the positive things, though: We are spared more live versions of Another Day In Paradise and Do You Remember? Plus, the known and previously released demos of Homeless (Another Day In Paradise) and Broadway Chorus (Something Happened On The Way To Heaven) have also been left off.
There could have been far more redundant material on this bonus CD. Unfortunately this is cold comfort for the great and obvious options that were simply missed.  Not to mention the completely unknown stuff that is quietly rotting in the archives until the cows come home.  The longer play times of the demos are another nuisance.


All in all

Improving on an album as successful as …But Seriously is very difficult. What could be done has been done here. The extras have been arranged well and tell a continuous story. Rare songs (or unplugged versions) have been left off to include material that most fans already have. Such rarities would have made the extras far more interesting and would have completed the B-sides. As it is, the joy in newly discovered musical gems is muted a bit. Peculiar play times of the demos indicate a certain lack of care. …But Seriously, like the other albums in the reissue series, leaves a faint disappointment.


by Ulrich Klemt with technical details by Christian Gerhardts
English by Martin Klinkhardt

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