That Time Phil Collins Explored His Motown Roots on ‘Going Back’
Phil Collins’ reverence for soul music has never been in question. He famously recruited Earth, Wind & Fire’s Phoenix Horns to play on many of his solo records, and his first Top 10 single was a cover of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love." The Genesis drummer/frontman even supervised 2000’s Urban Renewal, a tribute album of sorts that placed his compositions in the hands of contemporary R&B and hip-hop artists. With those facts in mind, it’s easy to see Collins' Going Back, which was released on Sept. 13, 2010, as less of a calculated attempt to cash-in a la Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook series, and more of a tribute to a style of music that was deeply influential to him.
Going Back’s track listing is largely comprised of Motown songs from the mid-to-late '60s. He also included a version of the Impressions’ “Talkin’ About My Baby”, as well as two songs composed by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, “Some Of Your Lovin’” and the title track. Both songs were popularized in the '60s by British blue-eyed soul icon Dusty Springfield. The rest of the album celebrated the “Sound of Young America” with an interesting mixture of hits (“Uptight”, “Heat Wave”, “Standing in the Shadows of Love”), and lesser-known songs like “In My Lonely Room,” a 1964 single by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.
Collins’ intention with Going Back was to recreate the sound of the original songs he’d fallen so in love with. To that end, he recruited several surviving members of Motown’s legendary house band, the Funk Brothers. Phil himself delivered his customary instrumental prowess to the album, playing bass, guitar and keyboards in addition to the drums. Due to complications from a then-recent surgical procedure, Collins had to tape the drumsticks to his hands in order to play.
The end result was an album that, while pleasant, had even more of a karaoke effect than most covers albums. Phil’s desire to emulate the original arrangements of the songs was admirable, and his fondness for those songs was palpable, but the album itself was not particularly exciting. Nevertheless, Going Back debuted at No. 1 on the British album chart and was certified gold or platinum in 10 countries. In the U.S., however, the album debuted and peaked at No. 34, becoming the lowest-charting album of Collins’ lengthy career.
While Going Back was not the blockbuster commercial success that Phil had grown accustomed to, it was a classy way for the singer to pay tribute to his influences. In its wake, various maladies (including the aforementioned surgery, as well as hearing loss) had compromised Collins’ ability to create music, and the singer officially announced a hiatus from the music business in 2011. While many fans and members of the press took the announcement to mean that Phil was retiring, the singer denied that he was hanging it up, and has since performed live several times. More recently, Collins has worked with modern day megastar Adele, and recently announced a reissue campaign for his entire catalog, which will kick off later this year with new versions of 1981’s Face Value and 1993’s Both Sides.
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