A rock giant’s R&B labor of love might just be the last album he ever makes

Phil Collins has sold more than 250 million albums over four decades as both a solo star and as the singer and drummer for rock supergroup Genesis. He has earned seven Grammy awards, an Oscar, two Golden Globes and membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now Collins claims that he is well and truly finished. He swears that Going Back, a new 18-track album of faithfully reproduced soul classics, is his last. “I wasn’t intending to make another record, but this was always on my mind,” says Collins, 59. “I wanted to try and make the songs sound almost the same as they were done originally, and sing the songs that I never got a chance to.”

This is familiar territory for Collins, who scored a Top 10 hit with his 1982 remake of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and topped the charts six years later with “Two Hearts,” a throwback collaboration with hit Motown tunesmith Lamont Dozier. Collins added an authentic touch to his latest effort by inviting several other Motown veterans—bass player Bob Babbitt and guitarists Eddie Willis and Ray Monette—to bring their old-school magic touch to Going Back.

Collins insisted on playing keyboards and drums on the new album himself, which proved a painful exercise given a recent spate of health woes. A bout with neck problems began during a 2007 reunion tour with Genesis, the group he had left in 1996 after 25 years. “Somewhere a nerve popped out and I had four vertebrae crushing my spinal cord,” he explains. “I didn’t know anything was wrong, because it didn’t hurt.” An MRI following the tour confirmed the worst, and three subsequent operations have yielded little improvement. “I still can’t feel the ends of my fingers,” he reports. “And drumming … as soon as I started, the stick flew out of my hand. So I taped the stick to my hand on these sessions and got through it. It was frustrating, but with computer technology and a great engineer, we got it right.”

Collins has also lost some of his hearing due to a viral infection several years ago. Despite these challenges—or perhaps in part because of them—the making of Going Back proved a satisfying full-circle experience for a London native who grew up adoring the sounds of American R&B. “This is purely a selfish stab at doing something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “It’s been a lifelong ambition.”

–Nick Krewen

comment closed

Copyright © 2011 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·