With retrospective album, Phil Collins doesn't do it like he used to

LONDON, Philip Dethlefs (dpa)- With retrospective album, Phil Collins doesn't do it like he used to
With the four-disc retrospective box set "Plays Well With Others," Phil Collins steps back from his singer role, focusing instead on collaborations with a "wide spectrum" of artists. With drumming no longer an option, the star hasn't felt the motivation for new music.
Back in 1969, it was not at all apparent that he had the stuff of world stardom. A long-haired 18-year-old lad named Phil Collins was on the drums, inconspicuous. But he did sing along in the song "Guide Me, Orion" as a member of the group Flaming Youth.

Phil Collins
Phil Collins
Now, almost half a century later, this melodic pop-rock song is the opening number of Collins' new work "Plays Well With Others," a musical compilation of recording sessions and collaborations.
"The album is not for everybody, I don't think - it's [for] fans and musicians and people like that," he says in an interview with dpa.
The four-disc box set is not the type of "best of" collections that often come out ahead of Christmas. This is about Collins the drummer and Collins the producer; as a singer, he is heard less often, one number being "Stormy Weather" with Quincy Jones, another being a piano version of his megahit "In The Air Tonight" - unusual in that it's performed without drums.
The list of artists with whom the 67-year-old has worked with over the decades and whose work he has collected in the box set is impressive, with Collins saying that it shows the "wide spectrum of people that I work with."
Music stars such as Paul McCartney, David Crosby, Chaka Khan and Tears For Fears are among them, as are jazz guitarist Al Di Meola, sound pioneer Brian Eno and former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.
Above all, it's the songs from the 1980s in which his signature sound is recognizable, particularly when Collins had both produced a number and played drums on it. Such was the case with the hit single "I Know There's Something Going On" by ABBA singer Frida and the lesser-known album track "Just Like A Prisoner" by blues icon Eric Clapton.
"I've heard [from] a couple of places that he said that's one of the best guitar tracks that he's ever done," Collins said about Clapton. "For someone that's got a history like him, I'm very proud of that."
The native Londoner was particularly pleased by the live recordings on the fourth CD. At the 2002 Party at the Palace concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's inthronation, Collins was on the drums at Buckingham Palace behind Clapton, Joe Cocker and Annie Lennox, among others. "There were some great performances that day, and I was privileged to play the drums."
With the publication of "Plays Well With Others," however, there is some bitterness, because for a few years now, Collins can no longer play the drums. "I tried to play at rehearsals, but it just doesn't happen. I can't grip the stick enough to do anything with it."
The resignation is evident in his voice. "I'd be stupid if I was to say I don't miss it, because I've done it all my life," he said.
It especially gets to him at concerts when the legendary drum solo in the song "In The Air Tonight" is played. "Obviously some people have read that I don't play. But you know, I think they're secretly hoping that tonight will be the night that I do," he says.
"It would be nice to be able to do it," he adds.
The father of five gets consolation from the fact that in his place at the drums is his 17-year-old son, Nicholas. "His playing has accelerated in the last, I'd say three, years, to the point where it surprised me that he was able to play all the things that we're doing," Collins said. He added that the band respects him as a player "and not just because he's my son and he sounds like me."
Without his son, Collins says, "I wouldn't be here doing this show."
He rules out a comeback at the drums for himself. "I've always said that if I can't do it the way I used to do it, I'd rather not do it."
Collins' right foot is paralyzed in the aftermath of a back operation. He walks using a cane and can no longer drive. The singer, who will soon be touring the United States, Australia and New Zealand, performs sitting down as a result. "There are things medically that I wish I could fix," he said, "but life is good."
After the divorce from his third wife, Orianne, in 2008, he meanwhile is again living with her and their children in Miami.
There are no plans for any new music, even though his last album, with new songs such as "Testify," goes back 16 years. "Sixteen years? Oh my God," he says, laughing. "Well I should probably put my finger on something. I didn't realize it was that long," he adds.
But now he lacks the motivation. He feels no pressure to write new songs, he admits. Now and then he might jot down a few notes for song texts and melodies. "But in fact I haven't done anything much."
Nor should one wait for anything to happen with the band Genesis, which is represented on the box set with just one single, "No Son Of Mine." Asked about possible plans, Collins said: "I don't want to say the word 'reunion' because it always lights a fire."
With "Plays Well With Others," Collins has put together a top-class collection. It is clear that some of what he terms the progressive, psychedelic and experimental tracks won't please everybody.
But on the four CDs, there are enough wide-ranging and magnificent songs to be discovered, that not just aficionados will be thrilled.

Thursday, September 27th 2018
Philip Dethlefs (dpa)

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