Thirty years ago, pounding drums and ominous synths opened the second solo album by Phil Collins. That lead-off cut, “I Don’t Care Anymore,” picked up where “In the Air Tonight” left off the year before, with a sparse, percussion-driven arrangement and increasingly unhinged lead vocals. Working again with Hugh Padgham, the producer and engineer with whom Collins collaborated on Face Value, his 1981 solo debut, Hello, I Must Be Going! was another major hit. The album has been remastered by Steve Hoffman for Audio Fidelity and reissued as a limited edition 24 karat gold CD.
Unlike some other ‘80s music icons, Phil Collins has had a very difficult time holding a favorable opinion among critics. Despite being among the dominant commercial forces of that decade, by himself and as front man for Genesis, he has become curiously underrated over the years. Often dismissed as an inconsequential soft rock lightweight and frivolous lyricist, Collins’ versatility and unerring pop instincts are long overdue for a reevaluation. Though pricier than standard CDs (and harder to acquire once they sell out), the Audio Fidelity remasters offer a great way to revisit vintage recordings, as Hoffman strives to preserve the exact tonal integrity of the original master tapes. The music isn’t remixed, nor has it been re-equalized or compressed.
As for Hello, I Must Be Going!, the major hit was Collins’ bouncy cover of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” a Billboard top ten hit and, even more impressive, a chart-topper in the U.K. Other up-tempo tunes include the much less successful single “I Cannot Believe It’s True” and the instrumental “The West Side,” both of which featured The Phenix Horns, the four-man section Collins’ co-opted from Earth, Wind, and Fire the previous year. Listen closely to saxophonist Don Myrick’s lead melody on “The West Side” for a quick riff that brings to mind Collins’ hit “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” still two years away.
The poppiest tunes are balanced out with darker material, including the aforementioned “I Don’t Care Anymore,” a top five hit on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. “Do You Know, Do You Care?” features booming drums and a rage-filled vocal. Both songs find Collins multi-tracking several instrumental parts, including drums, keyboards, and bass pedals, accompanied only by Daryl Stuermer on guitar. Though it didn’t catch on when released as a single in the U.K., “Thru These Walls” is a creepily evocative highlight. The tale of an aural voyeur who gets off while listening to his neighbors with a glass pressed to the wall takes an even less savory turn when he spies on children playing outside. “I hope it won’t end/If I promise not to touch/Just be a friend,” the song’s protagonist pleads. Not exactly the stuff of mainstream fluff.
Hello, I Must Be Going! is, first and foremost, a sturdy collection of pop songs. Like Collins’ other albums produced in collaboration with Hugh Padgham and reissued by Audio Fidelity—Face Value (1981), No Jacket Required (1985), and But Seriously (1989)—it sounds very much of its era, but that’s certainly not a bad thing for fans of ‘80s music. Strong melodies, memorable hooks, interesting production textures, and vocals infused with a variety of moods all combine for a solid album. Audio Fidelity’s team has made sure they all sound great, making this a perfect opportunity to reacquaint yourself with an artist who was once ubiquitous, but has become increasingly under-appreciated.
Watch for my interview with producer Hugh Padgham, coming soon to TMR.