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Phil Collins Recording Compendium
Brand X Special: An Urorthodox History
Phil Collins Plays Well With Others

Phil Collins Plays Well With Others (4CD-Set)

From Orion across the Chinese Wall to the Garden of the Queen

Plays Well With Others is the title of another Phil Collins retrospective. The title indicates that it does not concern itself with the solo output by one of the world’s most prolific musicians, but his cooperations with others. This review endeavours to assess the quality of the selected songs, their (frequently interesting) background and whether the compilation lives up to its title.

It has been nearly three years now since Phil Collins lainched a campaign to promote the re-issues of his solo albums. The alternate title of one of his biggest hits was chosen as the motto for the remaster campaign (Take A Look At Me Now). In late 2016 his autobiography Not Dead Yet was released, accompanied by a kind of best of collection of his singles was also released and had the uninspired title of The Singles. A closer look revealed this to be a case of false labelling: Contrary to what fans would (and could, by the title) expect the release contained versions that had not appeared in a single.

Since the album re-issues were announced there have been speculations, intimations and rumours that there might, at some point, also appear a collection of duets or live performances and/or other cooperations. Judging by the amount of work Phil Collins did in the 1980s there may well be more songs of that kind than songs he has released on his own – which makes the fact that only a few songs on which he worked as a session drummer, producer or writer for other artists have appeared on his own releases all the more interesting.

The motto of this compilation (for it is more than a title) comes from the slogan on a T-shirt Chester Thompson once gave Phil Collins for his birthday. This is revealed in the lovingly detailed booklet. The creative title describes quite accurately the contents of the 4 CD set. The cover is graced by a drumming stick man drawn by Collins himself; these stick figures have become quite a trademark of his. Comprehensive liner notes contain background information and anecdotes about some titles of the collection. Unlike usually, the notes were not written by Collins himself but by Michael Hann, journalist and former music editor for The Guardian. Phil Collins is frequently quoted, though. Numerous photos that show the singing drummer with big names of the music business (Chaka Khan, Frida, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones – a veritable who is who) are spread on full pages. The liner notes even have a neat typical Collins joke: If you thumb through the liner notes fast, the stick figure drummer on the bottom right turns into a flicker book, as it were.

Chester Thompson is, as we mentioned, the origin and provider of the idea for the collection’s title. All the more remarkable is the fact that he who has worked with Phil Collins for decades is not in the least involved in any of the tracks on the compilation though Phil Collins has probably never “played better with” anybody else than with him. At least on drums.

coverThere is an interesting and very relevant question most people may ask themselves before or while the listen to the collection or afterwards: Which of the countless songs on which Phil Collins has worked as a drummer, singer, producer, writer and/or lyricist would I choose? The answer is certainly different for everybody else. Phil Collins has taken up the challenge of making the choice. Unavoidably, countless songs had to be left out though they are equally popular or equally good as the ones chosen. Collins has stated that he wrote a list and left the rest to the lawyers. Dealing with the huge numbers of holders of rights has certainly been another challenge, especially when the artists in question may not always have been very forthcoming or amenable to the request.

The 59 pieces that were chosen in the end show Phil Collins in his various capacities as a drummer, percussionist, singer, composer, text writer, producer. The songs and instrumentals are distributed across four CDs. The first three cover the periods of 1969-1982, 1982-1991, and 1991-2011, while the fourth CD offers live recordings from 1981 to 2002. The tracks are ordered chronologically, and add up to almost four and three quarters of an hour playtime. This is comprehensive by any standard, but quantity does not necessarily equal quality.
Though we may disagree with it here and there, Phil Collins’s choice of tracks must be respected. One may wonder in places why this track was chosen (and another wasn’t); this is something we shall also examine here.

The first opportunity is the 1968 song Lying, Crying, Dying by The Freehold. It is the first known (and released) song that was penned by Phil Collins, and yet it is not included in this collection. This may have legal reasons or be because Phil Collins does not like the song (anymore). Perhaps there was no recording of sufficient quality. The compilation kicks off with Guide Me, Orion by Flaming Youth with whom Phil Collins had his first record contract in 1969. The song and its obscure lyrics are typical for the late 60s.

Peter Banks (1947-2013) was a guitarist with Yes, Empire, and Flash. Phil Collins played the drums on several tracks of his first solo album. One of those was the Knights reprise, where he played with John Wetton and Steve Hackett. It is the only track on Plays Well With Others where Collins plays with Hackett, as Hackett’s album Voyage Of The Acolyte on which Collins played the drums is, regrettably, ignored. Collins did not drum, incidentally, on the track Knights that consists of The Falcon and The Bear. It is a rock instrumental with lots of guitar.

Eugene Wallace is a rather unknown Irish singer and songwriter. He released two solo albums in 1974 and 1975. His voice sounded like Joe Cocker’s, as is evident on Don’t You Feel It from his debut album. The track, on which Collins played the drum, was even released as a single. Wallace died in late December 1999 aged 49.

Argent was a British rock band who are best known for their song God Gave Rock And Roll To You. They took their name from their singer, Rod Argent. In 1975, they released an album called Counterpoints. When Argent’s drummer Bob Henrit fell ill during the recording sessions Phil Collins helped them out. It cannot be determined without a doubt on which songs Collins played on the album, but one of them must be I Can’t Remember, But Yes, for this was chosen for Plays Well With Others. They say Phil Collins was so impressed by Bob Henrit’s drumming that he was considered as a possible new Genesis drummer when Peter Gabriel left.

Brian Eno takes a special place in Plays Well With Others that reflects his remarkable career. Phil Collins guested as a drummer on Eno’s second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) in 1974 on Mother Whale Eyeless. A pity that this song was not included. A year later he played drums and percussion on several songs on Another Green World. In Over Fire Island he plays alongside Percy Jones (Brand X). Is it because of Collins and/or Percy Jones that this instrumental sounds very much like Brand X? Perhaps it is the other way around, and Brand X were inspired by Eno. There are, however, stylistic parallels. For what it’s worth, John Cale (who we will come back to in two tracks) played viola on the album’s opening track Sky Saw.

Tommy Bolin was a guitarist from the US. He was only 25 when he died from an overdose in 1976. His latest band had been Deep Purple, and before he joined them he recorded his first solo album Teaser. Bolin took singing lessons from The Beach Boys to be able to sing on the album. Phil Collins was one of various guest musicians on the album. He played the percussion on Savannah Woman, a song that sounds a bit like Carlos Santana. It is actually the only song on the album on which Collins played.

The aforementioned John Cale released an album called Helen Of Troy in 1975 on which Phil Collins and Timi Donald played the drums. It is, however, very difficult to research and prove which of them worked on which songs. Pablo Picasso was chosen from the album. The song was recorded in 1972 by proto-punk band The Modern Lovers and covered by Cale. To be honest, the only indication that Phil Collins has drummed on this song (which features the expletive “asshole” as often as it mentions Pablo Picasso) is the inclusion of the song in this collection – the drumming itself does not sound like Phil Collins’ style at all.

The compilation now turns to a somewhat better-known cooperation: Nuclear Burn from Brand X’s debut Unorthodox Behaviour (1976) is typical for this jazz fusion band. Collins left his mark on the band’s music with his subtle drumming, while otherwise he was just one of several band members (despite his rising popularity). If you enjoy this kind of music you should definitely take a closer look and listen to Brand X.
No-One Receiving is one of only two songs on Brian Eno’s 1977 album Before And After Science on which Phil Collins plays the drums (the other is Energy Fools The Magician). He plays alongside Percy Jones again. [full details about how Brand X came together and where they contributed music to can be found in our Brand X special at this link]

Phil Collins continued to work with Brian Eno as well as with Rod Argent, on whose 1978 album Moving Home he drummed again. This is another Brand X connection. Morris Pert played percussion on this album, and Robin Lumley was the co-producer. The ballad Home is the opening track on which Phil Collins distinctive drumming stands out. The chronology has brought us up to 1978.

The next Eno track is from this year, too. M386 is film music, and you kind of recognize that even if nobody has told you. You can, of course, be certain when you find out the song was released on an album called Music For Films. Ironically, it is a concept album of music for imaginary films. Even more ironically, some songs on the album were, in fact, really used for various films. One of those is M386 that was adapted for Roger Corman’s 1979 Ramones film Rock’n’Roll High School. (Energy Fools The Magician also appears in the movie).

And So To F… is the next and the last Brand X track in this collection. It is the first track in this sampler that made its way into Collins’s solo career. He would play it live on his first two solo tours. It is probably the best-known Brand X track with Collins fans.

Robert Fripp recorded his album Exposure in 1977 and 1978. The title track was a coproduction with Peter Gabriel. The album came out in 1979, and Phil Collins hit the skins on several songs. One of those songs was Disengage, the other was North Star, which is the one included in the collection. With vocals by Daryl Hall, Tony Levin on bass, Brian Eno on synth and Fripp himself on the guitar – this is almost a super group.

The amount of songs Phil picked from Iain David McGeachy’s a.k.a. John Martyn’s suggests that he is the one Phil Collins played best with in his career. The British singer/songwriter recorded Grace And Danger in summer 1979. That year was special in that it was the first year in which Genesis neither toured nor recorded an album. Mike Rutherford recorded Smallcreep’s Day, and Tony Banks used the free time for his debut, A Curious Feeling. Phil Collins preferred to play with others. The relaxed and sentimental Sweet Little Mystery for which Collins also provided backing vocals is the first of no less than five songs by John Martyn in this collection. Wet Wet Wet used the chorus for a song of the same title that went to #5 in the UK charts and may well be better-known than the original.

On a website made by Genesis fans for Genesis fans we need not say much about Peter Gabriel’s Intruder. Phil Collins has left his trademark on that song with the “gated drum” sound, even before he went on to write music history using the same technique on In The Air Tonight. The drum pattern he plays here is very simple and does not make use of the cymbals. On a compilation like this this song is a milestone that must not be left out.

This is also true of his cooperation with another star. Anni-Frid Lyngstad – Frida – was known in 1980 was one of the A’s in ABBA. In 1982 ABBA was history, and so was her marriage with Benny Andersson. Frida asked Phil Collins, who began to try his hand at producing at that time, to create a new sound for his first album after ABBA. Collins brought in a number of people: Daryl Stuermer, Mo Foster, Peter Robinson, The Phenix Horns and sound engineer Hugh Padgham. People frequently and mistakenly believe that the record they created was her first solo release, but she had brought out her album Frida pre-Abba in 1970. Frida ensam made the top spot in the Swedish charts and went Platinum in 1975. Something’s Going On was her first international success. It was to remain the only one. Frida’s album contains no lyrics or music by herself. I Know There’s Something Going On, written by Russ Ballard, is definitely her best-known song. Phil Collins evidently plays the drums on this track. It would have been nice to have the duet Here We’ll Stay instead or additionally. It is less known than the title song, but by no means worse – and it would have had the bonus of a rarity.

Pledge Pin from Robert Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven begins with a striking guitar riff. The album came out in 1982, two years after the end of Led Zeppelin. Phil Collins drummed on six out of eight songs, and it became the beginning of more.

Gary Brooker’s Lead Me To The Water from the eponymous 1982 album features Eric Clapton and George Harrison. This reggae-like song by the founder of Procol Harum brings CD1 of Plays Well With Others to a close. It already has a long list of superstars in music – and all this before Phil Collins’s career really took off in 1982. It makes you wonder what else is in store…

… and it keeps getting better! CD2 covers 1982 to 1991. It begins with a live favourite of Robert Plant’s. In The Mood has very simple lyrics, but very catchy and strong melodies. The content fits the label. The song is from The Principle Of Moments, the successor of Pictures At Eleven. Phil Collins even joined Plant’s North American Principle Of Moments tour from late August to early October 1983 before he seamlessly continued with Genesis’s Mama tour. In May 1983 he had played a gig at Civic Hall Guildford with Plant’s former Zep band mate Jimmy Page.

Island Dreamer, released on Al Di Meola’s 1983 album Scenario, is pop fusion jazz. The most influential musician on the album is Jan Hammer, who is best known for writing the title music for Miami Vice. Phil Collins played only on the instrumental Island dreamer. Tony Levin and Bill Bruford can be heard here, too.

The next song takes into a fairy-tale world. After the end of his band Adam And The Ants in 1983 Adam Ant released a new wave album called Strip. Phil Collins plays drums and percussion on the title song and on Puss ‘N Boots (which is included in this compilation). He also co-produced the songs with Hugh Padgham. The song is, obviously, a loose adaptation of the fairy-tale of Puss’n boots.

Radical change of topics, from the Brothers Grimm to the Chinese wall. Philip Bailey, former singer with Earth, Wind & Fire went to London in 1984 to have his second solo album produced by Phil Collins. He was asked not to come back with a “white” album. Collins brought in several of his own band members to the sessions and made contact with Nathan East who would become play bass on Collins tours ten years later. Roxann Seeman, who wrote this song with Billie Hughes, had just come back from a trip to China and used here impressions in the lyrics. Choosing Walking On The Chinese Wall for the compilation is surprising when you consider that Easy Lover (written by Collins, East and Bailey) was so much more successful and popular. The fact that Easy Lover has appeared on various Collins releases makes the decision all the more pleasant, though. Chinese Wall became Philip Bailey’s biggest success, earning him Grammy nominations and Gold status in the US.

If you do not know Do They Know It’s Christmas? you must be living under a stone. This parade of superstars is one of the Unavoidable Songs In The Christmas Season (Last Christmas is, of course, another). Bob Geldof and Midge Use brought together stars like Bono (U2), David Bowie, Boy George, Duran Duran, Kool & The Gang, Nik Kershaw, Sting, Status Quo, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, and Bananarama at the Sarm West Studios in London to record this charity song as Band Aid. It was aimed to raise money to alleviate the severe hunger that killed so many people in parts of Africa. Phil Collins had the honour to play the drums on this song. Half a year later he would enter music history as the only musician to perform at both Live Aid concerts at Wembley Stadium and in Philadelphia. The Concorde made that possible back then.

It is well-known that Phil Collins and Eric Clapton are friends. They have also worked on each other’s albums. The first collaboration was If Leaving Me Is Easy on Collins’s debut, Face Value. Clapton also played on I Wish It Would Rain Down. Collins first drummed on Clapton’s album Behind The Sun, which was recorded in 1984 and released early in 1985. It was almost a matter of course that Collins also produced (or co-produced) the song. The album was a pure Collins/Clapton coproduction initially, but Warner Bros., who felt the need for a success, pressured them to makes changes. They felt that there were not enough songs with Clapton’s guitar solos, as it says in the liner notes of Plays Well With Others. Accordingly, such songs were added which made the album much less homogenous than it could or should have been. Neither She’s Waiting nor Never Make You Cry, the only track Collins and Clapton wrote together for the album, were picked for this compilation, but Just Like A Prisoner. It was written by Slowhand alone and is a typical Clapton song. According to the liner notes, Collins played the “right” drumkit while Jamie Oldaker played the “left” kit.

When a collaboration works and bears successful fruit you are well-advised to continue it. Thus it came to pass in 1986 that Phil Collins worked on another Philip Bailey album. His involvement was limited to Because Of You (included here) and Back It Up, where he played drums and percussion and was involved in the songwriting. Bailey and Collins worked here with notables such as George Duke, Ray Parker jr., Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers.

It was not just through Philip Bailey that Phil Collins discovered his love for rhythm & blues. Accordingly, he appears on a 1986 track by R&B icon Chaka Khan. On Watching The World (from the album Destiny) he plays the drums and provides backing vocals. Collins was not the only member of Genesis involved in the making of this album: Mike Rutherford and B.A.Robertson co-wrote The Other Side Of The World which follows Watching The World. Mike does not play on the album, though.
No One Is To Blame is a Howard Jones song that originally appeared on Jones’s second studio album Dream Into Action (1985). Collins had nothing at all to do with that. When it was decided to help up the song commercially by recording a more radio-friendly version the first choice for producers was the successful team of Collins and Padgham. Collins also provided drums and backing vocals. The new version made it to #1 in the US Adult Contemporary charts.

The next song in the collection begs the question whether it fits the concept of this compilation at all. The Isley Brother’s cover of Phil Collins’s solo song If Leaving Me Is Easy rather matches the motto “Played Well By Others”. Phil Collins wrote the song, but that’s it. He was not involved in any way in this new interpretation that came out in 1985, only four years after the original. We would love to know why such a song was used here. It obviously supplanted countless other collaborations with other artists that would have fit the compilation motto. The soulful version by the band, who go back to the mid-50s, is even more languishing than the original. Well done, though not necessarily better. A track no-one would have missed.

Phil Collins and The Beatles – that’s a long and winding story that begins quite early in his career. We know the disappointing and almost traumatic story of Collins’s conga work for George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass (1970). It is a pity that none of the recordings exist anymore, but we may safely assume that if they existed they would be more or less useless. The first collaboration with an ex-Beatle on Plays Well With Others is Angry by Paul McCartney. It is the only song from his album Press To Play (1986) on which Collins played drums and percussion.

The chronology omits the year 1987 in which Phil mainly played live on the Invisible Touch tour with Genesis. In 1988, Buster came to the cinemas. It is a film about the big train robbery of August 8, 1963. Phil Collins played the main character, Buster Edwards. With the film set in the 1960s the makers wanted a matching soundtrack. Collins provided a cover of the 1965 song by the Mindbenders, A Groovy Kind Of Love, as well as three new songs he wrote with Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier who had worked with the Holland brothers on songs like You Can’t Hurry Love. These songs were Two Hearts and Big Noise (with vocals by Collins) and Loco In Acapulco. The latter song was performed by The Four Tops, a quartet founded in 1953 in Detroit (where else?). The drums on this song that also appeared on The Four Tops’ album Indestructible, were, of course, played by Phil Collins.

From Loco in Acapulco to Bowling in Paris. That’s the title of Stephen Bishop’s 1989 solo album. Bishop is the writer of Separate Lives, the duet Phil Collins recorded with Marilyn Martin for the movie White Nights. Bowling In Paris had no less than four songs on which Phil Collins played, Sleeping With Girls, Walking On Air, Love At A Distance, and Hall Light. Two of these songs were included: Walking On Air, the only single from the album, and Hall Light which resembles a Mike + The Mechanics song. Walking On Air also features Collins’ mates Ronnie Caryl and Mo Foster, while Sting and Eric Clapton play on Hall Light.

Tears For Fears also brought out their very successful album The Seeds Of Love. Recordings for the album had drawn out from 1986 to 1989. As it frequently happened in his early recordings with other artists, Collins plays the drums only on one song of the album. Woman In Chains is sung by TFF singer Roland Arzabal (also writer of the track) as a duet with Oleta Adams. It may have been because of this collaboration that Oleta Adams got to sing several songs on Phil Collins’ second Big Band tour in 1998. Interestingly, Collins shares drumming duties with Many Katché. Katché plays the quieter first part (until, roughly, 3:30) before Collins takes over for the final three minutes. And he plays at full blast, as Tears For Fears expressly asked him to. The liner notes explain that they wanted him as Mr In The Air Tonight and felt some disappointment when it did not turn out quite the way they had hoped for.

The end of the second CD is a widely known cover version of Elton John’s Burn Down The Mission. It was first released on the 1991 tribute album: Two Rooms: Celebrating the songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Elton John’s original appeared on his 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection. Collins recorded his version with parts of his Serious band (Leland Sklar, Daryl Stuermer and the Phenix Horns) as well as Steve Winwood on the organ. If you missed this song on the extras of the …But Seriously remaster, you will be happy to finally find it on an official Collins release, though it has, of course, been released on many bootlegs collections of B-sides and rarities… And that’s the end of CD2.

Disc three continues with the same year. The first two discs full of stars of the music business and a colourful selection of songs have raised the expectations considerably. There have been very few “skip” candidates. It is a bit peculiar that CD3 begins with one of the most commercial Genesis songs. Genesis and Phil Collins are linked inextricably. There is no other constellation in which Phil Collins has “played better” in the long run than with his friends Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. Whether a Genesis song belongs in this collection is a very valid question. Assuming it does, one song is quite enough. Positioning the song as it is in the collection may be a friendly reminder that, whatever else this jack-of-all-trades Phil Collins has done in his career there has been this one steady band. The next question is, of course: Why No Son Of Mine? Is this Genesis song the best representative of Phil Collins in Genesis? Was it picked because it is one of the most successful songs? Because the lyrics were written (mainly) by Collins (which is true for several other Genesis songs)? The answer may be quite simple. Phil Collins has said (e.g. in 2008, as quoted in our review of We Can’t Dance) that he considers No Son Of Mine and Los Endos the best Genesis pieces. So why was Los Endos not chosen for Plays Well With Others? Why not a song like Please Don’t Ask, which is all Collins? Why not For Absent Friends, where he first sang lead vocals? There is a huge stack of songs that have good arguments going for them. If you asked a hundred Genesis fans which Genesis song they would choose for a career-spanning Phil Collins compilation with the motto “plays well with others” you would very probably get a hundred different answers. We will have to leave it at this: Phil Collins has thought carefully about it and chosen a song he is proud of.

Four of the thirteen songs on CD3 are by John Martyn; each from a different album. A fifth song (Sweet Little Mystery, see above) can be found on CD1. The first after that is Could’ve Been Me from Couldn’t Love You More (1992). That version is a re-recording of the song first released in 1982 on Well Kept Secret. Phil Collins had nothing to do with the original, but he played drums on the new recording and sang backing vocals while David Gilmoure played the guitar. John Martyn’s record company asked for his permission to bring out the album while he was busy recording 1993’s No little Boy. Couldn’t Love You More is, in fact, recordings from the No Little Boy album sessions. John Martyn denied the permission, but his label, Permanent Records, released the album nevertheless. John Martin was not at all happy about the album that did not match his style and which was released against his will.

In 1993, Phil Collins wrote the song Hero with David Crosby of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby released the version that is included in this collection on his album Thousand Roads. Phil Collins plays drums, keyboards, percussion and sings backing vocals – just the kind of multi-tasking he practiced on Both Sides which he recorded at the time, too. Collins released a demo version of the song performed only by himself as the B-side of We Wait And We Wonder. The song is quite dated, stylistically. It is commendable that the collection does not use Collins’s demo version.

Ways To Cry, the next John Martyn track, is another new recording. The song is originally from 1973’s Inside Out album (without involvement by Collins). Both Could’ve Been Me and Ways To Cry can be found on both Couldn’t Love You More and No Little Boy. According to the Plays Well With Others notes, these are the No Little Boy versions. They are, in fact, the 1992 versions from Couldn’t Love You More. John Martyn would have been quite annoyed with this obvious blunder – less because of the wrong data but because they did not use the No Little Boy versions.

The song after this best sent to Coventry. Phil Collins’ version of Curtis Mayfield’s song I’ve Been Trying is annoying, though we hasten to clarify it is a good version of a great song. We are annoyed by the fact that this song has already appeared on the Love Songs sampler and in the bonus material of the Both Sides reissue, so we are going over familiar ground. Plus, Collins plays all the instruments himself. He does not “play well with others” on this track, so the song should have been left off this collection. Phil Collins seems to love this song which is probably why the song was included after all. On this collection it is the candidate for the “skip” button, which, unfortunately does the song itself injustice.

Duke Ellington wrote Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me in the early 1940s. Phil Collins record a new version of it in 1995 with Michael Jackson’s producer Quincy Jones for his collection of cover songs, Q’s Jook Joint, restricting himself to singing. A year later Jones toured with Collins as the conductor of his Big Band, and Collins sang the song as an encore. This is worth mentioning because the big band tour focused on instrumental versions, and Collins only left his drumkit to sing one or two encores. It is definitely a song that suits him well.

Fourplay is an American jazz quartet around Nathan East who toured almost non-stop with Phil Collins between 1994 and 1997. They both also worked with Philip Bailey and others, which led to hits like Easy Lover (see above). In 1995, Fourplay covered Phil Collins’s Why Can’t It Wait Til Morning from Hello I Must Be Going with vocals by the man himself, which kind of disqualifies it as a cover. Thirteen years after the original this song is still fresh, and it really is a pity that the song never made it back into Phil Collins’ live repertoire..

The next to last song by John Martyn was originally released on his 1996 album And. Collins drums on the whole album, and his former tour bass player John Giblin is also involved. Collins’s backing vocals on Suzanne, the song included here, are quite prominent.

In 1998 Phil Collins provided the song Looking For An Angel for the album La Mia Risposta. It was already the fifth solo album by then 24-year-old Italian singer/songwriter Laura Pausini. Nathan East played bass on almost all songs of the album. Phil Collins wrote the lyrics, the music and arranged the song. A few years later he would write the B-side High Flying Angel. It is unknown whether there was a reason for the sudden and very slight cumulation of the angel theme. Though Phil Collins does not sing or play on this song, it is very obviously a Collins song and therefore fits the concept of Plays Well With Others.

Sir George Martin produced album with cover versions of songs the “fifth Beatle” had originally produced for the most successful band in the history of music. It involved various guests that you would not necessarily link with music, e.g. actors Sean Connery, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Goldie Hawn. One of the musicians who worked on the album was Phil Collins. He tackled the medley of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End that originally appeared on Abbey Road (1969). Collins sings and plays the drums as well as percussion. His version does not come close to the Beatles’, but it is obvious that Phil Collins the Beatles fan enjoys the music. A real highlight though many fans probably already have it in the odd bootleg collection of B-sides and rarities.

Urban Renewal
is a tribute album to Phil Collins that contains R&B, soul and hip-hop cover versions of his songs. It was an unexpected, daring project. Lil’ Kim, previously best know for the song Lady Marmalade she recorded with Christina Aguilera, Pink and Mya, grabbed the most popular song. The song title was written, hip-hop style, In The Air Tonite. Phil Collins was not involved though he can be heard in a sample that was used. Whether such a track fits the bill of Plays Well With Others is anyone’s guess. It does not live up to the motto, though it adds another facet to the collection. Still, as Ice-T put it: “Don’t mess with my Phil!”

In 2003 Phil Collins released his second Disney soundtrack, Brother Bear, after the highly successful Tarzan score. The recordings involved session musicians who are less known to Collins fans, so they are a case of Plays Well With Others. The decision to use the Collins-only version of Welcome for this sampler is peculiar. Why not the version with Oren Waters and the Blind Boys Of Alabama? Why not Great Spirits sung by Tina Turner, with whom Collins had worked back in 1986 on her album Break Every Rule (e.g. on the hit Typical Male)? Why not Transformation with the Bulgarian women’s choir? Or Trashin’ The Camp with N’Sync from the Tarzan soundtrack? There would have been a number of more obvious choices from the collaboration between Collins and Disney. This implausible choice is a pity.

The last track on CD3 is the fifth and last John Martyn song. This time it is a cover of the Both Sides track Can’t Turn Back The Years in a version that is even more quiet and slow so that it makes the original version sound almost merry. Martyn’s version appeared on Heaven And Earth in 2011, almost two and a half years after John Martyn’s death. The material for the album was recorded over eight years and describes the last years of his life. A song like Can’t Turn Back The Years fits that context well, and it adds another dimension to the song. Phil Collins sings only backing vocals. His friendship with John Martyn seems to have been very important to him, judging by the large proportion of his songs in this collection. For the average fan John Martyn’s presence in this collection is a bit too large. There are any number of collaborations that could have been included in this collection, so that two or three songs by John Martyn would have done, too, and the variety of songs could have been enlarged. Speaking of which, there would have been enough time anyway: CD1 has a playtime of 72 minutes, CD2 has 76 minutes, CD3 only 60 minutes. There would have been a quarter of an hour for three or four other tracks. Why this space was not used is quite beyond understanding. There have been enough collaborations in Phil’s career to fill a putative volume II with another 60 tracks.

CD3 does not live up to the standards the first two discs have set. The claim that it covers the period up to 2011 is rather flattering, too. The cover version of Can’t Turn Back The Years was recorded some time before 2009. The flood of Phil’s collaborations with others has dwindled after the 1990s. Health reasons first made it difficult for Phil Collins to play the drums after the last Genesis tour in 2007 and later prohibited it. It is worth noting that the Going Back album (2010) has not been regarded here though there are some high-profile cooperations. Avid Collins fans can live with that because they probably already have the album.
CD3 brings the cross section of Collins’ studio sessions with other musicians to an end, because …

… the 76 minutes of playtime on CD4 are dedicated to live recordings from 1981 to 2002. And the beginning will have you shaking your head. Why was In The Air Tonight selected again? It has been included in Lil’Kim’s very different hip-hop version. And why in a live version with Phil Collins playing the piano and singing? The only one who plays with him in this recording is his friend Daryl Stuermer. Stuermer has enough presence in the first three CDs so his value needs not be re-emphasized here. With CD4 also sorted chronologically a live recording of Brand X might have been a better starting point. But don’t worry, things get better in a second.

Phil Collins has been a fixture at the Prince’s Trust concerts in the 1980s, so it is a pleasure to see two recordings from them. The first is Collins’s appearance alongside – finally! – George Harrison. Collins plays the drums on Harrison’s version of the 1968 Beatles song While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Eric Clapton also plays on this track.

The collection continues with a 1988 Bee Gees gig on which Collins plays the drums. Midge Ure also plays on this version of their 1987 hit You Win Again, which was produced by Collins’s close buddy Arif Mardin.

A number of Big Band live recordings follows the double serving of the Prince’s Trust. There’ll Be Some Changes Made from the Montreux Jazz Festival performance of July 17, 1996 is the first. On the first tour of the Phil Collins Big Band Tony Bennett would sing a number of songs like Old Devil Moon, Over The Rainbow and Changes. Phil Collins “only” plays the drums on this recording of Changes that may seem familiar to fans – a video of this track was included in the bonus material of the Phil Collins DVD Live At Montreux 2004.

The recording of Stormy Weather is rarer. In 1996 the Montreux Jazz Festival hosted a concert to honour Quincy Jones with the motto 50 Years In Music. Two days after his own concert (from which the previous track was taken) Phil Collins sang After You’ve Gone, Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me, Let The Good Times Roll and Stormy Weather. While the first three songs were published on the concert DVD, Stormy Weather was not, which underlines the rarity of the recording.

The next three tracks are instrumentals. Chips And Salsa was recorded on the second tour of the Phil Collins Big Band 1998 and published on the live CD A Hot Night In Paris.

A couple of months after the end of that big band tour Phil Collins took played in a concert to honour the jazz drummer Buddy Rich who died in 1987. Collins played the drums, of course, on Birdland, a song Joe Zawinul wrote for Weather Report in 1977.

We stay in 1998 but go back to the Phil Collins Big Band Tour and their performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 14, 1998. This is their only performance of Pick Up The Pieces, which was originally released by Average White Band 1974. Though the album version was less than four minutes long, the Montreux version was extended by several solos and almost rivals Supper’s Ready at 21 minutes playtime. It is by no means a rarity because it was published as a semi-hidden Wild Card on the first DVD of Finally… The First Farewell Tour.

The last four recordings are all from the Party At The Palace that took place on June 03, 2002, a concert that celebrated the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. If you have missed a superstar in the long list of musicians involved in Plays Well With Others you are likely to find them here. Phil Collins plays the drums on all four tracks at this show which is remarkable because it was one of his first performances after he suffered his acute hearing loss. Collins stated he found this gig difficult. The first track from this concert is an old favourite, Eric Clapton with a classic Derek And The Dominos song, Layla. It is followed by Why, the first solo single (and possibly the best-known solo song) by Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, from 1992. Next up is Bryan Adams who congratulates Her Majesty with a song from Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood adaptation, Everything I Do (I Do It For You). The final song from the concert and the final song on Plays Well With Others is by Joe Cocker. With Bryan May and Steve Winwood he performs the Beatles hit With A Little Help From My Friends. That could have been another good title for this collection of cooperations. Perhaps this is why it was put in the end. It would have been nice to also have Queen’s Radio Ga-Ga, where Phil Collins played the drums instead of Roger Taylor because Taylor sang the song.

There is, of course, an immensely long list of live tracks that could have been included in this collection but weren’t. We will spare you any list as it would be a) very subjective and b) certainly incomplete. The focus on royal shows and his Big Band illustrates the fact that Phil Collins is a Brit at heart and where his musical roots lie.

Plays Well With Others is probably the last instalment in the series of re-issues and retrospectives, though a second volume of comparable quality could very easily be compiled. It is a colourfully variegated collection that showcases most of the areas in which Phil Collins worked with others. It covers almost all of his career from 1969 to the new millennium and spans a musical area from jazz and prog to punk, pop and hip-hop. Not all of the songs are big hits, and some songs might have been replaced more profitably with others. Obviously. But it all is in the eye of the beholder. Phil Collins himself has had a hand in the selection process. That is not a matter of course. We ought to respect this selection despite all the criticism. The compilation shows who and what is relevant to Phil Collins (which is not to say that artists not included were irrelevant to him). Fans can discover cooperations they have not been aware of before. It gives them an opportunity to discover more of this matter. With the huge range of styles and musicians there should be something in it for everybody.

Plays Well With Others is a very worthy finale to the series of Phil Collins re-issues. The compilation completes the image of Phil Collins’ career, even though there are, of necessity, gaps and individual moments of disappointment for the single fan. The ground is prepared for new material now, for it is unlikely and almost superfluous to go over the old material again. With Phil Collins “not dead yet”, there is hope that he may play well again. With or without others.
By Ulrich Klemt, English by Martin Klinkhardt

The set contains 3 CDs of studio material in more or less chronological order and another CD with live material. This is the complete tracklist:

Disc 1
01 Flaming Youth: Guide Me Orion
02 Peter Banks: Knights (Reprise)
03 Eugene Wallace: Don't You Feel It
04 Rod Argent: I Can't Remember, But Yes
05 Brian Eno: Over Fire Island
06 Tommy Bolin: Savannah Woman
07 John Cale: Pablo Picasso
08 Brand X: Nuclear Burn
09 Brian Eno: No One Receiving
10 Rod Argent: Home
11 Brian Eno: M386
12 Brand X: ...And So To F...
13 Robert Fripp: North Star
14 John Martyn: Sweet Little Mystery
15 Peter Gabriel: Intruder
16 Frida: I Know There's Something Going On
17 Robert Plant: Pledge Pin
18 Gary Brooker: Lead Me To The Water

Disc 2
01 Robert Plant: In The Mood
02 Al di Meola: Island Dreamer
03 Adam Ant: Puss 'N' Boots
04 Philip Bailey: Walking On The Chinese Wall
05 Band Aid: Do They Know It's Christmas?
06 Eric Clapton: Just Like A Prisoner
07 Philip Bailey: Because Of You
08 Chaka Khan: Watching The World
09 Howard Jones: No One Is To Blame
10 The Isley Brothers: If Leaving Me Is Easy
11 Paul McCartney: Angry
12 The Four Tops: Loco In Acapulco
13 Stephen Bishop: Walking On Air
14 Stephen Bishop: Hall Light
15 Tears For Fears: Woman In Chains
16 Burn Down The Mission

Disc 3
01 Genesis: No Son Of Mine
02 John Martyn: Could've Been Me
03 David Crosby: Hero
04 John Martyn: Ways To Cry
05 I've Been Trying
06 Quincy Jones: Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me
07 Fourplay: Why Can't It Wait Till Moing
08 John Martyn: Suzanne
09 Laura Pausini: Looking For An Angel
10 George Martin: Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
11 Lil'Kim: In the Air Tonite (feat. Phil Collins)
12 Welcome
13 John Martyn: Can't Turn Back The Years

Disc 4
01 In The Air Tonight (Live at the Secret Policeman's Other Ball)
02 George Harrison: While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live at the Prince's Trust Concert 1987)
03 Bee Gees: You Win Again (Live at the Prince's Trust Concert 1988)
04 Phil Collins & Tony Bennett: There'll Be Some Changes Made (Live in Montreux 2004)
05 Phil Collins & Quincy Jones: Stormy Weather (Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival 1996)
06 The Phil Collins Big Band: Chips & Salsa
07 Birdland (with The Buddy Rich Big Band)
08 The Phil Collins Big Band: Pick Up The Pieces (Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival 1998)
09 Eric Clapton: Layla (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)
10 Annie Lennox: Why (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)
11 Bryan Adams: (Everything I Do) I Do It For You [Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002]
12 Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends (Live at Party At The Palace, June 3, 2002)

Plays Well With Others can be ordered online:
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