Review: “Both Sides” by Phil Collins (CD, 1993)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 1993 5th solo album Both Sides by British drummer, singer, songwriter, producer and actor, and former member of rock group Genesis, Phil Collins. Will this album feel like a full story, or will it reveal a terrible side? Read on…

Phil Collins - Both Sides (1993) album cover
Phil Collins – Both Sides (1993) album

This 11 track album opens with a flurry of drums that announce the titular track and lead single Both Sides Of The Story. Phil’s distinct vocal sound arrives for a downbeat set of moralistic lyrics, aptly delivering this song’s narrative. Guitar chords roar behind him, as he occasionally harmonises with his own backing vocals. The drumming is of course, impeccable. This track gave Phil a #7 hit in the UK.

Next up is Can’t Turn Back The Years, which stood as a promo track for the album. It is quite a mellow track, and reminds me a bit of his earlier hit Another Day In Paradise. The drums here are perhaps a drum machine, and the warmth swell of the synth against his vocals, leaves you with quite a cosy little track.

Second single Everyday follows this, leading in with a piano instrumental before a beat and a synth join in. This is a sleepy heartfelt ballad, and it gives Phil the chance to show off his vocals, and backing harmonies too. The track reached #15 in the UK singles chart.

I’ve Forgotten Everything is up next, and there’s plenty of space for Phil to show off those vocals again, as he sings this slow number over lighter drum machine and a meandering synthscape. It’s quite nice, but relatively unremarkable.

Up next is We’re Sons Of Our Fathers which continues the mellow sound along with synths. This is a bit brighter than the previous track, and gives Phil a bit more of an interesting melody. Again, we’ve got a moralistic parental narrative in the lyrics that befits a father of growing children.

Tumbling drums lead us into the track Can’t Find My Way, which has some downbeat lyrics that fit the tone of the track. Briefly, the song lifts as Phil sings about sitting a while and ‘watch you smile’, before the song returns to it’s downbeat tone again. This is a very mellow song.

Rising from the somewhat downbeat sound of the last two tracks, Survivors breaks away and picks up the tempo and mood. The track has a great pace, and is accompanied with a more optimistic tone in the melody and lyrics.

We Fly So Close follows this. I’m not sure what instrument is played at the start of this, as it sounds too delicate to be guitar. A gentle percussive beat accompanies it with a swirling airy synth whooshes in the background. Phil comes in with some more heartfelt vocals, but it takes about 4 minutes for a beat to kick in, and it’s a 7m 34s track. I didn’t find this track interesting.

Things pick up in There’s A Place For Us, which whilst it’s another ballad, it has more of a melody, and it’s one that builds nicely. As the song progresses, the piano and vocals are joined by increasing levels of synth strings and drums, and eventually electric guitar.

Penultimate track We Wait And We Wonder is next, and this was the album’s third single. Bagpipes and an almost military drummer start the track, before giving way to a great upbeat track. This song feels bright and fully fledged, and steers away from the ballad styles that dominate this album. This gives Phil something to show his vocals off against, as drums and keys build the song up. It’s a good track, but sadly stalled at #45 when it hit the UK charts. This album version is the second track to hit beyond 7 minutes.

The album closes with Please Come Out Tonight, which takes us back to the softer sound. Enveloped in synths and soft beats, Phil sings this slower number, as he attempts to lure us outside with him. This is a really nice track, and the perfect ending to the album.

Phil Collins’ lead single ‘Both Sides Of The Story’.

Verdict

Over all, this album is ballad central. The tracks are very well conceived, and Phil’s vocals and musicianship (he performed every instrument) are impressive. He manages to switch from stadium rock to ballad to M.O.R easily from track to track, and he expertly builds up many of the songs here.

The two 7+ minute tracks are just a little bit too long, and I’d rather they left me wanting more at the <4 min mark.

If you’re a fan of Phil in his Genesis role, then you’re probably going to find this album nice, but a bit sluggish and overindulgent. The serious ballad weighting puts this album mostly in the slow lane, which is frustrating when you know just how good he can be.

Rated 3 stars - Give it a go!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1993 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #1, certified 2x Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from an Oxfam store.

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