Phil Collins – No Jacket Required (Deluxe Edition) (Atlantic/WEA) review
Phil at the top
No Jacket Required, Phil Collins’ third solo album, was the pinnacle of his career; completing his transformation from prog rock drummer to international pop star. The record occupied the #1 spot on Billboard’s Albums Chart for seven weeks in 1985, selling upwards of 12 million copies in the States alone. It also won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Warner Brothers has just issued the original album in remastered form, with a second disc of bonus material.
Where his previous albums were more diverse in nature, No Jacket Required found Collins focusing his songwriting into a unique blend of horn-infused danceable pop/rock. The record leads with “Sussudio,” an infectiously funked-out track. The lyrics don’t really make sense, but the horns and insistent beat make it a moot point. “Only You Know and I Know” is dark in its subject matter, yet the synths and juiced-up tempo keep things positive. “Long Long Way to Go” is one of the album’s most underrated tracks – it’s a haunting ballad, featuring Sting on backing vocals.
Several singles were released, including “Don’t Lose My Number,” which showcases some fine guitar work by Daryl Stuermerg, and “One More Night” with its sparse production – just keyboards, a drum machine, and Collins’ voice.
“Who Said I Would” begins with a very similar arrangement to “Sussudio,” but features a great sax solo Gary Barnacle, while “Inside Out” could be mistaken for a Genesis track. Showing the album’s longevity, “Take Me Home,” with it’s digital percussion, lodged into the Top Ten Singles an entire year after the album’s initial release. The track features background vocals by former bandmate Peter Gabriel.
The string-laden “We Said Hello, Goodbye” was originally only available on the CD editions as a bonus track. Oddly, several songs recorded for the sessions that ended up as b-sides – “I Like the Way” and “The Man With the Horn” – are absent, even though there was room to fit them here.
The Deluxe Edition comes with a bonus disc featuring live cuts and demo versions. Of the live material, it’s nice to hear “Easy Lover,” a hit duet for Collins and Phillip Bailey, in a concert setting. But, where the live tracks from his previous two albums really stood out, these tracks do not compare to the stellar studio perfections. The demos for “One More Night” and “Take Me Home” are very similar to the hit versions, except Collins is still working out the verses, and mumbles instead; interesting to hear once, then put away.
During the middle of the decade, Collins was everywhere – recording solo albums, touring with his band Genesis, and producing hits for Howard Jones, Eric Clapton, Phillip Bailey, and many others, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing him somewhere. This contributed to a public backlash, and his sales began to decline. No Jacket Required’s monumental success certainly contributed to the public getting their “Fill of Phil.” Yet, listening to the album years later, it stands as one of the most consistent records of the Eighties. —Tony Peters