Eight years. That’s how long it took Philip David Charles Collins to figure out he needed to “go back”.. And he really needed it. Testify, his last full-length release, came out in 2002. That’s a long time ago. Critics reacted harshly to the music – nothing new for Collins, a singer ….
Like any baby boomer Phil Collins is no stranger to Motown. Arguably, he has a deeper connection than most, having scored a hit with a cover of the Supremes' “You Can’t Hurry Love” back in 1982 and then proving he was adept at writing his own Tamla bounce with 1988’s “Two Hearts,” so devoting a full album to Motown songs is not a huge stretch, but 2010’s Going Back -- his first studio album since 2002’s Testify and only his fourth record since 1990 -- is nevertheless mildly surprising in its fidelity to its source material. Collins hired three of the surviving Funk Brothers as instrumental support and set about replicating a bunch of Motown classics -- 18 in its standard edition, a whopping 25 in its deluxe edition -- in a studio in Switzerland.
Phil Collins says he didn't want to bring anything new to this collection of Motown covers and retro R&B, and he's definitely succeeded. The production and arrangements sound like a very good impression of 60s-era American soul music, which isn't surprising, seeing as he drafted three of the surviving Funk Brothers to lend some authentic Motor City flavour. You can tell he's having the time of his life drumming with his childhood heroes and tackling his favourite old tunes, but it's not long before the charm wears thin.
Collins’ trawl through the Hitsville USA songbook is surprising and disarming. David Sheppard 2010 Long installed in popular music’s multi-million-selling pariah pantheon, there are fewer easy targets for arrows of critical opprobrium than 59-year-old Philip David Charles Collins. Granted, Collins has sometimes been guilty of painting the bull’s-eye on his own forehead (that self-aggrandising Live Aid Concorde business, the cringe-worthy lyrics to Another Day in Paradise, Buster, etc), but nonetheless, the sometime Genesis frontman’s canon is so substantial and his hits so profuse that it feels myopic to dismiss him merely as a haughty purveyor of tortured, romantic ballads for the middle income world.