No Little Boy - Mesa R2 79057

9 Jan 1994
Mike Curtin
Getting back to the basics

By Mike Curtin
Special to The Post-Star

Phil Collins... reflecting on 40

As if to dispel his image as a heavily produced artist, Phil Collins returns to the basics for his latest solo disc, Both Sides. Well, as back to the basics as you can get when your home tape deck has 12 tracks. The opening song, Both Sides Of The Story, is primo Collins, as he spins his parable of modern-day violence and dislocation against a churning background of drums and synthesizer.

Both Sides. Phil Collins (Atlantic).
No Little Boy. John Martyn (Mesa).

He reprises that effect on We Wait And Wonder, a composition that bears more than passing resemblance to his 1985 hit, Take Me Home.
That's not his only blast from the past. On We Fly So Close, he reprises the eerie textures of his first solo smash, In The Air Tonight.

There are no sidemen; no Earth, Wind and Fire horn section; no superstar duets. Collins plays on every one of the album's 11 tracks. Nearly 20 years after he replaced Peter Gabriel as lead singer of Genesis, he has, ironically, produced an album that recalls the introspection of Gabriel's own solo work. For fans of Collins' less poppy efforts, this is good news.

Obscured by his platinum success are Collins' other musical endeavors. In the 1970s he played with Brand X, a jazz fusion group, and his thunderous drum style graced recordings by Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and many others. In 1982 he also produced Glorious Fool for singer-songwriter John Martyn. On Martyn's latest album, No Little Boy, he duets with the brilliant Englishman on three tracks, including the luminous Sweet Little Mystery.

Martyn attracts other superstars for these new recordings of his signature songs, among them Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and The Band's Levon Helm. But no one steals the thunder from this neglected gem of the British folk scene. After too many years in obscurity for Martyn, perhaps Collins' presence can help jump-start his moribund career.

This American review was published in The Post-Star (Glens Falls, New York) of Sunday 9 January 1994.

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