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Phil Collins Recording Compendium
Brand X Special: An Urorthodox History


Phil Collins’s big trick: Making a mainstream manifesto a service to his fans

It is enough to drive one crazy. For years, the quality of Collins’ releases has sunk compared to his early work. Then there were half-hearted, irrelevant compilations or live recordings. Amidst all this we find two first-rate documentaries, namely the ‘Making Of’ of Phil Collins’ best album Face Value and a most refreshing look back across 35 years worth of Collins called A Life Less Ordinary.      
The Trip Into The Light DVD was an unusual mess. Rattling sound only in 5.0 and substandard visuals. And the concert wasn’t even complete. Great. When the Berlin Waldbühne concert was released on DVD we could take a breath of relief: Great sounds, top-notch visuals and acceptable bonus material. The Collins camp seemed to have finally realized the potential of the DVD media.

coverSo what does Phil do? He does soundtracks, spreads reunion rumours, appears on Stefan Raab’s show [translator’s note: Stefan Raab hosts a German tv show of the “funny bits that happened on tv” variety. It’s not the type of programme you’d immediately think of when you want to, say, promote an album on German tv], has lots of fun with everybody and then, despite all claims to the contrary, there it was, the final world tour. But Collins would not be Collins unless the whole thing had an equally embarrassing and fitting title: The First Final Farewell Tour. That leaves open all options for a Second Final Farewell Tour with Genesis and a Third Final Farewell Tour with the Big Band. Or Brand X. No, just kidding. Phil is joking. He really wanted to call it a day, but when the first setlist found its way to the fans the fun was seriously over. “Playing it safe with an irrelevant setlist” was one of the more friendly descriptions. Collins wants to retire a bit, which seems a bit half-assed to the fans who hear the flood of ballads on the setlist. The fact is that Collins plays one hit after the other, with no breather at all except for the real fans” who run out of air anyway or the concert-goers in the stadiums who have trouble breathing freely because they caught a cold due to the rain.

Whatever. Collins shouts out his “good-bye”, he goes out with a band, and as he sings so shall he reap. The multitude are ecstatic, there is hardly musician more successful than him, particularly in Germany and France. Phil, the ‘singing drummer’, delivers what everyone wants. As if we were in Bavaria where everyone votes conservative.

And so things went the way they had to. You simply have to film three nights in Paris. The DVD is going to sell well in the Christmas business. All the fans like to have a concert on DVD sitting on their shelves. But Phil wants more. It cannot be simply a concert film, no, he has to really go all the way. He chooses Hamish Hamilton as a director without a clue as to who he might be. He draws the animated menus himself, et voilà, in comes matchstick man Phil and hits the skins for In The Air Tonight. That’s really funny. When you switch chapters on the second DVD, he is busy pulling on the canvas. Cute!


Two DVDs? Yes. One DVD would have been enough for 2 hours and 15 minutes of the concert, but Collins goes big. Consequently, the concert was split and lots and lots of extras were crammed onto both DVDs – and we really get more than we bargained for. The whole concert is there, nothing missing. You can watch the music video for every song (if one was filmed for it) and access them straight from the concert. Though it seems strange at first, it is really well-planned. Collins joins the obligatory with the paradox. That way we can watch Against All Odds recorded at "Live Aid" in Philadelphia. That’s a recording not included on the "Live Aid" box. We can enjoy In The Air Tonight at its legendary live premiere at the "Secret Policeman’s Ball" complete with the can of paint on the piano. We get multi-angle camera options with some songs. A 30 minute tour documentary from which we learn that Phil’s t-shirts cost some 200 pounds. Hey, but they don’t wear out. All the band members were interviewed and stress how special the band is. Hamish Hamilton calls the set the ‘soundtrack of your life’. Apparently he overlooked the fact that the very first song is called Something Happened On The Way To Heaven. Or it’s due to the fact that he first met Phil in a restroom. There’s also a clever and funny introduction of the crew, in which the maestro takes the mickey at himself playing the warder. He’s looking for one Bill Collins (haven’t we been there before?) and asks his way round the crew. If that’s not enough for you, well, there’s more. The American tv special from 1990, long supposed to have been buried in the archives, is included in full length. And that’s just too good to be true.

If you want to watch the whole material you are going to be busy for some seven hours. With the proper equipment you’ll be floored by the rich dts sound. If you want to press the ‘pause’ button, however, you’re in for a surprise: There is no ‘pause’ function, you got to watch it non-stop. It is going to take some time to find the sense behind the ever-changing distribution of cameras when you try out the multi-angle options. The music videos were not remastered in 5.1 but it’s a fine thing that they’re there at all, even if they’re incomplete. The “Wild Card” option on DVD 1 offers what we would consider the highlight: Pick Up The Pieces, played be the Phil Collins Big Band, directed by legendary Arif Mardin and recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

insideThe concert film itself is a solid production, no fancy stuff or frills. It’s all there except for the odd announcement before a song that goes unmissed. The lack of cameras on-stage is noticeable, and we’d loved to have had close-ups of, say, Daryl for one of his guitar solos. The sound, however, is clear and really brings on the ‘live’ feeling..

Complain about the set list as much as you’d like to – this DVD is top-notch and worth every single cent. In the end you’re almost convinced that you’ve seen your dream set. Okay, so Misunderstanding isn’t there because the filming was done in Europe. But that’s just a small minus. The DVD comes in a lavish digipack with multi-color booklet. Collins really accomplished what nobody thought possible anymore. Finally … The First Farewell Tour is one of the best things put out on DVD by the Genesis camp in recent years. Considering the high-quality releases from Peter Gabriel, we find that that really means something.

by Christian Gerhardts
translated by Martin Klinkhardt

DVD content:

01. Drums, Drums & More Drums (+ multi-angle)
02. Something Happened On The Way To Heaven (+ video)
03. Against All Odds Live Aid (+ video)
04. Don’t Lose My Number (+ video)
05. You’ll Be In My Heart (+video)
06. One More Night (+ video)
07. Can’t Stop Loving You (+ video)
08. Hang In Long Enough (+ )video
09. True Colors (+ video)
10. Come With Me (+ multi angle, video)
11. A Groovy Kind Of Love (+ video)
12. I Missed Again (+ video)
13. Another Day In Paradise (+ video)
14. No Way Out (+ video)
15. Separate Lives (+ video)

01. Wild Card: Pick Up The Pieces live at Montreux Jazz Festival

01. In The Air Tonight (+ live Premiere 1981 + video)
02. Dance Into The Light (+ video)
03. You Can’t Hurry Love (+ video)
04. Two Hearts (+ video)
05. Wear My Hat (+ multi-angle, video)
06. Easy Lover (+ multi-angle, video)
07. Sussudio (+ video)
08. It’s Not Too Late
09. Drum Thing
10. Take Me Home (+ video)


Phil’s World
01. A Bit Of A Parking Problem (Crew introduction)
02. Finally...The First Documentary (Tour documentary)
03. Phil’s Flash Gallery (photo gallery)

Phil’s Special
01. US-TV-Special, first shown 1990

sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 / dts 5.1 / Stereo 2.0
image: 16:9 (concert), 4:3 (extras)
Region codes 2-6