Phil Collins - Going Back
Review by Jack Foley
THERE’S something in the air this autumn that suggests the old guys are returning to their roots. In recent weeks Tom Jones has reinterpreted old classics with a gospel slant, Robert Plant has reinterpreted classic Americana and now Phil Collins has opted to rediscover and pay homage to Northern Soul classics.
Of the three, Collins’ offering is perhaps the most straightforward because Going Back is more an album of cover versions than a fresh look on an old favourite.
Or, as Collins puts it himself: “These songs – along with a couple of Dusty Springfield tracks, a Phil Spector/Ronettes tune, and one by The Impressions – make up the tapestry, the backdrop, of my teenage years.
“I remember it as if it was yesterday, going to The Marquee Club in London’s Soho and watching The Who, The Action, and many others, playing these songs. In turn, I’d go out the next day to buy the original versions.
“My idea, though, was not to bring another ‘new’ to these already great records, but to try to recreate the sounds and feelings that I had when I first heard them. My intention was to make an ‘old’ record, not a ‘new’ record.
“To be able to have three of the surviving Funk Brothers play on all the tracks was unbelievable.”
The resulting album is as heartfelt and faithfully recreated as you might expect from an artist of Collins’ calibre… even if it does beg the question – like a straight-forward movie remake – of why bother?
The originals are – and remain – classic and carry a sense of timelessness about them. Collins’ adds his own distinct voice, but otherwise is content to try and recreate.
Hence, Going Back is seldom more than an easy listen… a retro journey through the likes of The Temptations’ Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue), Stevie Wonder’s Uptight (Everything’s Alright), Martha & The Vandellas’ (Love Is Like A) Heatwave and The Supremes’ Love Is Here.
In fact, several of the songs selected by Collins represent the work of the same artists, with Stevie Wonder featuring three times, Dusty Springfield and The Temptations’ twice.
Collins, too, is no stranger to revisiting lost songs… he’s done it already successfully with the likes of A Groovy Kind of Love, True Colours and You Can’t Hurry Love – the latter much in the same style as that which he adopts here… so Going Back isn’t much of a stretch for him either.
So, the album gets marked down for operating in a certain kind of comfort zone. But it’s not without merit.
Highlights, therefore, range from the snappy (Love Is Like A) Heatwave, Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me For A Little While), Going To A Go-Go and Girl (Who You Wanna Make Me Blue.
He also delivers a rousing version of Papa Was A Rolling Stone and, in final track, Going Back, a moving and magnificent Collins-arranged version of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King tune made famous by Dusty Springfield.
All in all, then, a pleasant enough background listen that should bring Collins’ another bucket-load of sales, whilst possibly allowing you to rediscover some lost classics in their original form afterwards.
Download picks: (Love Is Like A) Heatwave, Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me For A Little While), Going To A Go-Go, Girl (Who You Wanna Make Me Blue, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Going Back.