Serious Hits... Live!

Phil Collins

Atlantic Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Live albums are always a dangerous thing for a musician to tackle. On one hand, you're faced with the difficulty of topping the studio versions of the songs that you and your band made popular with thousands of fans. On another hand, you have to try and translate the power and energy of the live performance back onto a piece of aluminum (or magnetic tape) and plastic and hope the listener can visualize themselves in the front row of the show.

Phil Collins has taken a lot of heat over the years for his 1990 concert release Serious Hits... Live! In a sense, I can understand why critics have had a field day with this release - after all, it comes off sounding rather sterile, and there are times when it sounds like the crowd noise is either being removed or spread on the tracks with a trowel.

But when the final notes fade out, this release really isn't as bad as the reputation it's been given. I mean, I'd much rather listen to this than those robotic pieces of crap that Genesis called my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Way We Walk -- and I have yet to go back and review the second volume.

The first half of Serious Hits... Live! is the most difficult to get through, as this is the portion that occasionally sounds like it could have been recorded at a sound check and had audience noises dubbed in at the start and finish. (I can't remember the last concert I was at where people were totally quiet during a song's performance -- I mean to the point of hearing nothing but the music.) This is a strike against Collins, and it leaves some of the performances sounding bland and forced, like "Who Said I Would" and "One More Night."

What also makes this portion of the album more difficult is that it's loaded up with most of the heavy-duty material, like "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven," "Another Day In Paradise," "Do You Remember?" and "Separate Lives." It might have worked a little better had Collins balanced the darkness with the light.

This is exactly what saves this album on the second half. Collins creates a much happier-sounding atmosphere by striking that balance. For each "Groovy Kind Of Love," there's a "Sussudio" or "Easy Lover" (a number that works well even without the contributions of Phillip Bailey) just around the corner waiting to life your spirits. This half of the release is actually fun to listen to - and you can hear the enjoyment of the crowd making things that much better.

Your enjoyment of this album will depend on your view of Collins's four solo releases to that point. If you didn't like the more intospective mood of ...But Seriously, then Serious Hits... Live! is not going to do a thing to change your mind. If you go into the album looking for the happy, perky songs that put Collins on the map as a solo act, it will be a bit of a trying journey, but your patience will eventually be rewarded in spades. If you just want to unwind with a live album, this should do nicely.

It says something that Collins was able to top the live discs from his former group... but Serious Hits... Live! also was a warning sign of what was to come for Genesis fans. It ain't perfect, but it's not the time bomb that many people have labeled this album. Judge for yourself.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.