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Phil Collins: No Jacket Required/Testify album review

Phil Collins' ‘Take A Look At Me Now’ reissue campaign continues.

It’s beyond the scope of this review to assess just why this certain superstar evokes both affection and wrath among Prog magazine readers and the wider world (now there’s a potential topic for our Paper Late column!), so let’s stick to the facts for a while. Phil Collins’ third solo album, No Jacket Required came out back in 1985 and has been his most successful work (only Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms sold better that same year). A year later, Genesis would hit their own commercial peak with Invisible Touch, and Collins’ much-loved/reviled pop sensibility clearly powers both. In this remastered form, No Jacket’s hit singles Sussudio, One More Night and Take Me Home remain a good listen, particularly that latter tune. Often, an 80s production can grate on the ear, but the period’s gated drum sound was actually an intrinsic part of Collins’ USP.

The second disc, Extra Large Jacket Required is for real fans only – a fun set of 13 demos and live versions of album tracks and Easy Lover, his contemporaneous hit with Philip Bailey. Fast-forward to 2002, and he’s now an older man, with a slightly more selective audience. With all the heat of expectation taken out of it, Testify may be a minor work, but it attests to his skill with a certain strand of well-produced, well-written MOR, delivered in his own distinctive, though now slightly reedier, voice. Don’t Get Me Started sees him on his social soapbox, there’s mature, resigned melancholy (Swing Low) and the old devil can still knock out a ballad (The Least You Can Do) and play a role (of a stalker ex, in Driving Me Crazy). The Additional Testimony disc contains demos, live versions of album cuts like Come With Me (played audibly before adoring audiences who are clapping along), while the four B-sides included here are broadly of a similar standard to the material that made the cut for the album. Depending on your own affection or wrath, make of that what you will.