No Jacket Required

Phil Collins

Atlantic, 1985

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Okay, I have to ask. How in holy hell did this win the Grammy for Best Album of the Year in 1985?

I know the Grammys are pretty irrelevant, choosing to reward popularity over true creativity and skill most times, but surely they could have chosen something better from that year. Why not Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms, R.E.M.'s Fables Of The Reconstruction, even Tears for Fears' Songs From The Big Chair? Hell, even Mike + the Mechanics’ self-titled album was better than this dated tripe.

Collins had been hinting that he would go full-blown pop since Genesis' Duke back in 1980, but there was hope on his first two albums that he would retain some of the experimental art-rock spirit and slight edge he had displayed with Genesis and Brand X. That has been left behind for a flotilla of cheesy up-tempo dance numbers laden with horns, synthesizers, electronic drums and simple lyrics. In a twist, the slow ballads here are about the only time this album has a soul, even if they fail to rise above better songs Phil had already written (or would write later).

"Sussudio" is the ultimate in ’80s cheese, a ripoff of Prince - something Collins didn't really deny - and an example of "80s music" at its worst. I always tell people there were two ’80s decades, the one of big hair and big soulless studio sounds, or the alternative/metal scene that had a lot more to offer. Sadly, the first one is what people remember. I won't deny the song is upbeat and fun, but so was "1999," and you can hear that on any Muzak grocery store station when you go buy milk.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Long Long Way To Go" is one of the few good songs, but it is bookended by the forgettable "I Don't Wanna Know" and "Only You Know And I Know." For a drummer to rely so much on electronic drums not only makes this a relic of the decade but tends to rob the songs of any organic emotion, which sinks those two as well as "Don't Lose My Number" and "Who Said I Would." At this time, Collins was still working the horns into his music, and the effort here is better than before, but not up to the level he would reach on ...But Seriously four years later.

Worse, the arrangements and songwriting are just forgettable, devoid of strong hooks; even the worst of the Genesis stuff from this period ("Invisible Touch", anyone?) was still catchy. Listen to "Inside Out" three times and see if you can remember it when it's done. At least "One More Night," despite its mawkish sentiment, is both memorable and semi-deserving of its hit status.

Same goes for "Take Me Home," where the lyrics, world-beat arrangement and ambition coalesce into something greater than the sum of its parts. It's hopeful and stirring, reaching for grandiosity without trying to, and it's the best song here; it helps that Peter Gabriel stopped by to help out his old bandmate, as did Sting. The CD version added on the ballad "We Said Hello Goodbye," which substitutes electronics for actual strings, piano and drums; fans of the album are not too keen on the piece, but it is an effective and moving song, reminiscent of late-70s Genesis (circa ...And Then There Were Three).

Look, I'm not one of those who just bashes Phil Collins out of laziness. I love Genesis, I like some of Phil's early solo stuff and I gave ...But Seriously a decent review. No  Jacket Required is very much a product of its time, which is not a death sentence. The album simply fails to deliver enough meaningful, memorable or emotional moments to make it worth returning to. Collins would apparently feel the same way; after this and Invisible Touch, he returned to more serious topics and somewhat better songwriting on his next two albums.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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