Phil Collins Goes ‘Back’

In his newest album, English recording artist, composer and musician Phil Collins covers eighteen Motown songs released in the 1960s, during his childhood years.

“Going Back” is Collins’ first album in eight years but is surprisingly not his first attempt at covering and modernizing an old song.  His rendition of “Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes was his first big hit and one would therefore expect “Going Back” to be a great work of art. Yet this is simply not the case.

Phil Collins’ singing on this album lacks the modern flavor that has brought most of today’s artists to success. His phrasing is almost identical to the 40-to-50-year-old original versions of the songs and the arrangements are too similar.

Although many of the songs, such as “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me For a Little While)” and “In My Lonely Room” encompass beautiful harmonies between Collins and his background singers, they are not particularly catchy or exciting listens.

Collins barely takes any liberties with the original melodies of the tunes. This album is a lost opportunity to make an old song fresh and different, an opportunity of which many artists in the past have taken advantage of.

It would have been nice if Phil Collins had managed to modernize the sound of the classic tracks he was covering on “Going Back”, or at least had found some kind of happy medium between preserving the old melodies and still modernizing these Motown classics.

Perhaps the only significant difference between Collins’ versions and the old versions is that female recording artists first released several of the songs on Collins’ album, such as “Heatwave” and “Jimmy Mack”. This difference is not significant enough, however, to make “Going Back” a great album. Having written songs in the past, Collins is much more creative than this album suggests.

While Collins can certainly sing a ballad, his singing on “Going Back” lacks the edginess of modern pop stars. The sound of his voice is pacifying, relaxing and almost boring — it could easily put a person to sleep.  But the relaxing aspect is, in fact, the album’s best quality, although it is unlikely that this was Collin’s intention. His intention was probably to make oldies sound like newcomers, rather than make them even more dull, and at this he mostly failed.

“Going Back” will probably have little or no appeal to college students or any younger age group for that matter. It consists mainly of sappy love songs. Today’s youth tends to prefer sexually explicit rap songs. There are enough sappy love songs in a row to frustrate any person, however.

The album will most likely appeal to middle-aged adults who, like Collins, were growing up when Motown was popular. Many young people have most likely only heard of Collins because of his song “You’ll Be In My Heart” from “Tarzan.” This could have been his chance to gain popularity from a younger generation once more.

Finally, despite all its flaws, “Going Back” includes great background singing and playing from several talented musicians, including a trumpet player, baritone saxophone player and drummer. These factors are not enough to make Collin’s album a winner but they are a pleasant addition to his singing.

Overall, I would say that if you are interested in listening to oldies, you might as well purchase the original ‘60s tracks rather than Collins’ new album. The album doesn’t offer anything unique or exciting and contains far too many sappy love songs for one album. Phil Collins will hopefully have another comeback at some point. We can only hope his next album doesn’t take eight years to be released.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5