Phil Collins – Hello, I Must Be Going! (review)

Phil Collins – Hello, I Must Be Going! (Deluxe Edition) (Atlantic) review

Collins’ sophomore album shows him developing as a solo artist

When Phil Collins went in to record his second solo album, Hello, I Must Be Going, things had changed drastically in about 18 months: his debut record, Face Value, was a surprise hit, with the nascent network MTV embracing “In the Air Tonight,” and putting it in heavy rotation. Plus, his band, Genesis, had released their biggest album to date, ABACAB. The original album has been remastered and paired with a bonus disc of live tracks and demos.
You could argue that his second album was less adventurous than his first, yet he was also now aware of who is audience was. At this point, there were essentially two Phil Collins: Phil the rocker, best captured on the guitar-driven “Like China”; and Phil the funky pop singer, on songs like the horn-infused “I Cannot Believe It’s True.” The line between his solo career and his band were blurring as well – “Do You Know, Do You Care?” featured the same dark vibe that Genesis would impart on their hit, “Mama,” a year later.

Successful or not, Collins was still writing fierce accounts on failed relationships. In fact, “I Don’t Care Anymore” ranks as one of the bleakest songs ever to scrape the Top Forty, while “Thru These Walls” is deeply disturbing, portraying a lonely man who enjoys eavesdropping on his amorous neighbors.

His surprise cover of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” would give Collins his first Top Ten hit. His take holds up surprisingly well, embodying the signature Motown sound, complete with echo, with the bass and drums pushed way up in the mix. The album ends with the ballad, “Why Can’t it Wait ’Til Morning.”

The bonus disc leads with a spirited, extended version of “I Don’t Care Anymore.” “I Cannot Believe It’s True” is so polished, it’s hard to tell if it’s actually live, while “Like China” is given more muscle in a concert setting. Of particular note is the Big Band treatment of the instrumental “The West Side.” Collins tackles a pair of Curtis Mayfield tracks – “People Get Ready” shows off his ability to impart a soulful element into his singing. However, “It’s Alright,” although a spirited performance, sounds like it was transferred from Youtube, containing roll off in the high end.

Both “Oddball” (which is a demo of “Do You Know, Do You Care?”) and “Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away” give us a glimpse of Collins’ writing method. Both have the melodies fully formed but contain mumbled singing – he hadn’t yet written proper lyrics to either tune.

A quick note about the album cover, which features a recent photo of Collins. This can be misleading – these are not new recordings, or even remixes, but the versions you are familiar with.

Because of its diversity, Hello, I Must Be Going! has held up quite well, and deserves a second look as one of Phil Collins’ finest albums. —Tony Peters