Our Top 10 Phil Collins albums list looks at one of the most successful artists to have a mega solo career while also being a member of one of the greatest rock bands of all time. By the time Phil Collins released his first single as a solo artist, the Genesis drummer-turned-vocalist was verging 30 and the polar opposite of what a megastar should look like. It didn’t stop him from becoming one though. He dominated the charts in the ’80s, releasing hit after hit and earning a reputation as one of the hardest working men in show business. His omnipresence would eventually prompt a backlash, fueled by negative press attention and accusations of blandness from his peers. But backlash or not, there’s no denying the impact Phil Collins had on the charts, nor the brilliance of much of his output. Here’s our take on the top 10 Phil Collins albums.
#10 – Going Back
In 2010, Phil Collins revisited the music of his youth with an album of Motown covers. He’s not attempted to put his own twist on the songs and were it not for his vocals, you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between the original and the cover. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s pleasant enough listening.
#9 – Tarzan
Tarzan, the soundtrack to Disney’s 1999 blockbuster, has some truly epic songs. “Two Worlds” is particularly lovely, as is the multi-award-winning “You’ll Be in My Heart.” The problem is, even a great song can lose its appeal if you play it too often, and here, they get played to death. The numerous reprises and radio re-recordings might be designed to tap into as many different markets as possible, but they’re unnecessary, turning what would otherwise be one of Phil Collins‘ strongest collections of songs in years into a lame-duck of an album.
#8 – Testify
Testify, Phil Collins‘ seventh studio album, was a long time coming. When it finally arrived, it left a lot of fans wondering whether it was worth the wait. It’s not a bad album, but it is a predictable one. It’s nice, there are some admirable reflections on fatherhood, love (both of the lost and gained variety), and the world, and Phil Collins’ drumming is typically excellent. But it’s a little too safe and a little too mellow to be memorable. Whatever he’s trying to say with the album, he’s saying it too politely to be heard. A good album to listen to in an elevator, perhaps, but very few people’s idea of essential listening.
#7 – Dance Into the Light
Dance Into the Light was Phil Collins; first album after leaving Genesis and surviving a messy divorce. As the title implies (and the record’s tenor confirms), he’s feeling happy. There are a few weighty moments and the world music elements deserve to be taken seriously, but overall, it’s a bright, chipper album. Which would be fine, were it not about 20 minutes too long and almost utterly immemorable. It’s not a bad album when it’s playing, simply a difficult one to recall when it’s not.
#6 – Serious Hits… Live!
When it comes to live performers, Phil Collinsnhas always been head and shoulders above the competition. He rarely changes songs beyond the point that they stop being recognizable, he always delivers vocally, and he’s never short on enthusiasm. On Serious Hits… Live!, the quality and energy of his stage performances come across perfectly. All the big hits are here, from “Easy Lover” and “Sussudio” to “In the Air Tonight” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.” A solid album that lives up to its name.
#5 – Both Sides
Both Sides went platinum, spawned a massively successful, cross-continental tour, and reached No. 1 in the UK and No 13 in the US. By most artists’ standards, it was a major hit. Compared to ...But Seriously and No Jacket Required, it was a flop. The tide was shifting, grunge was happening, and Phil Collins was on the cusp of losing his crown. But still, those few million people who bought the album did it for a reason, and on tracks like “Can’t Find My Way” and “Survivors,” that reason becomes abundantly clear. It may be lacking in huge hits, but it’s still starkly compelling.
#4 – Hello, I Must Be Going!
After the massive success of Phil Collins debut album, the pressure was on for its follow-up. It didn’t disappoint. Stylistically, Hello, I Must Be Going! hovers somewhere in between the darker sounds of Face Value and the slick, mechanized pop of No Jacket Required... which, all things considered, is no bad place to be. Stand-out tracks include “I Don’t Care Anymore” (which is basically “In the Air Tonight – Part 2,” with attitude), the uptempo “Like China,” and the lush “Why Can’t It Wait ‘Til Morning.” It’s a little bit choppy, but overall, it’s still a lovely thing.
#3 – … But Seriously
1985’s No Jacket Required turned Phil Collins into one of the biggest stars on the planet. If he’d played it safe and stuck to the same sound for its follow-up, no one would have blamed him. Instead, he went lighter on the metronomic drum machines and keyboards and heavier on the live instrumentation. The shift to a more organic approach was a wise move, resulting in an album that’s aged far more gracefully than many of its contemporaries. If it has a flaw, it’s that it lacks the energy of its predecessor. If we were being picky, we’d also mention the overabundance of generic ballads. But it’s still a phenomenal album, with tracks like “Find a Way to My Heart,” “Hang in Long Enough” and “I Wish it Would Rain Down” standing out as particular highlights.
#2 – No Jacket Required
For a long time, admitting to liking Phil Collins was tantamount to social suicide. But while he may have been the antithesis of cool in the ’00s, he was the definition of commercial in the ’80s. Between 1981 and 1985, he released two mega-selling solo albums along with several similarly successful albums with Genesis. If he’d decided to take it easy for a couple of years, you couldn’t have blamed him. Instead, he released No Jacket Required, an album so huge, it blew all of his previous successes out of the water. The songwriting is focused, the production is slick, and the hooks are epic. If it had a problem, it was that it got too big. Suddenly, you couldn’t move for Phil Collins. The ubiquity inspired a backlash so severe, Phil Collins‘ reputation never quite recovered. For all that, it’s still a hugely impressive record.
#1 – Face Value
Choosing between Face Value, No Jacket Required, and …But Seriously is tricky. Some people might even consider Hello, I Must Be Going! or Both Sides as contenders for the top spot. But that’s the beauty of music and the pain of ranking it – everyone’s got an opinion and everyone’s opinion is valid (although if you’ve got a personal preference for Tarzan, you might want to keep it to yourself). As it is, we’ve gone for Face Value, arguably the most consistent and versatile album in Phil Collins‘ canon. It’s also the one with “In the Air Tonight” – whether you love the man or loathe him, there’s no denying that drum break. “That’s going to be on my headstone,” Phil Collins once said. “He wrote ‘In the Air Tonight.’ He. . . died.” As legacies go, it’s not the worst.
Top 10 Phil Collins Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021