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Simon Collins - U-Catastrophe

Simon makes his own way – Phil and Steve support him

Simon Collins' career took a promising start. Though he, too, had to live with the cliché of being the son of a famous father, he created a sound of his own on his debut album All Of Who You Are. It may not have been perfect yet, and the vocals may have left a bit to be desired, but it showed potential. It is anyone's guess whether it was a good idea to have his father sing guest vocals on the album. The single, Pride, was a minor hit not only in Germany, where Simon lived at the time (in Frankfurt). His second album, Time For Truth, was a step backwards rather than forwards. You could feel the creative pressure he was under. The songs were average and the production abysmal in places. There were only few moments where his talent, his improved singing and his drumming really came through.

CoverBy that time Simon had moved away from Germany and treated himself to a reboot. He accepted his heritage more openly, covered the Genesis hit Keep It Dark with Dave Kerzner and rediscovered his creativity. In Canada he recorded the album U-Catastrophe and it his best album by far. It is also, funnily enough, his North American debut. It is still difficult to describe what kind of music Simon makes, but there are great songs on the album, and they have been arranged much better than on the previous records. Simon also has a talent for ballads – he may have got that from his dad. Speaking of heritage, this time he approaches the topic directly. The Big Bang is a first-rate drum battle between him and his father. Steve Hackett's guitars can be heard, too, as Steve adds lustre to a rather cold song called Fast Forward The Future.

Cold? Yes, U-Catastrophe (released in 2008) has these moments. Simon keeps experimenting a lot with echos, cold and industrial sounds. He weaves them cleverly into soundscapes of real instruments, and he has good ideas for neat melodies and drama. The album was produced by Kevin Churko, who has a good name in the business and also produced, amongst other, Ozzy Osbourne. Both met for the re-recording of Keep It Dark.
The title song, which is also the opener of the album, is not really indicative of the whole album. Simon's vocals in this song are nothing like his father's. It fits the concept of the album in that it begins in a very restless way, slightly chaotic, aggressive even. So is the next song, All I've Left To Lose, though everything seems more organic here. Powerless is an interesting song, as a kind of ballad has flown out of Simon's pen. A fine melody, and there is even a music video for it. The song reminds one of the good moments on the debut album.

It is probably quite easy to look forward to a song that is not a song because it is, basically, two drummers doing what they are best at: drumming. As both of their names are Collins, The Big Bang is one of the big moments on the album. Phil on the left, Simon to the right – The Big Bang is truly a big feast!
The first single off the album was not Powerless, but Unconditional. This pure-bred AOR pop rock song made it to number 12 in the US Adult Contemporary Charts. A remarkable success, and a well-merited one. This upbeat song really has hit potential. Simon dispenses with peculiar sounds and sings the song as it needs to be sung – straight.
There are a couple of songs that do not really fulfill their potential or that are not quite up there with the others. Eco is one of these. Lyrically it is a typical Simon Collins as it is about the environment, but he hardly manages to place it in an interesting musical structure. It rather sounds as if he had forced his worthwhile message into a corset called a song. The Good Son is better, rather unspectacular, but a good listen.
Simon's father is said to have written good ballads, perhaps a couple too many of them. Now Simon tries his hand at a balled. US is not only accomplished, but perhaps the best tune on the whole album, with tasteful vocals and stylish arrangements. It is anyone's guess whether this song would have worked as a balled, but it is, as Simon says, the most personal song on the album. With a few highlights strewn here and there across the album he finishes it in style. None other than Steve Hackett puts the finishing touches on Fast Forward The Future, a finale with more than a trace of progressive elements. And so the album slowly wafts away into the soundscape..


All in all...

The album is not always consistent, but it has fine moments. Simon seems to have found his way, though he is obviously still developing his style. Besides the drum fireworks of The Big Bang and the finale Fast Forward The Future it is mainly the ballad US, Unconditional and Powerless that stand out, because they work perfectly as pop songs. Alongside these are a number of other well-rounded songs such as The Good Son in a well-arranged tracklist that takes the listener on a journey. This is an album Simon Collins can build on – the thumbs go definitely up.

by Christian Gerhardts, English by Martin Klinkhardt

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