Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Brand X - Unorthodox Behaviour (1976)

Phil Collins. Is he a Rock star or Pop icon? Neither. Despite what this article and many others tend to believe, Phil Collins isn't really that great a singer or front-man. What I mean by this is, when the dust settles, Phil Collins will not be remembered for his time as Genesis' lead vocalist or his endless parade of hit records in the 1980s. No my friends, Phil Collins was and will be long remembered in history for being one of the most creative drummers to sit behind a Jazz Fusion band. Allow me to explain.

Have you listened to one of Phillip's multi-million selling Pop albums from the 80s recently? Sure, catchy tunes aplenty. But really, these are dated artifacts so full of cheese and corn you could feed your livestock with them for decades to come. Quite frankly, after the marketing hype has died down and the radio stations stop playing them over and over and over again, those albums stink. They have dated worse than Chris Squire's hair circa 1986. Yugharchbleachhhh.

Now, plop this little plastic disc onto your turntable. As the first track, Nuclear Burn, takes off you immediately realize what Phil's legacy really is. That drumming is simply out of this world! It's so full of tricks and twists and precise speed that you have to wonder why the guy isn't hailed as one of the all time greats behind the kit. Probably because he spent the vast majority of his career dancing around the front of the stage acting like a stupid deranged lunatic on drugs. This album, the first by the Collins founded Brand X, is a major statement from one of the Prog world's great talented drummers.

The most incredible thing to me is, that despite how impressive his drumming was in Genesis around this time (Lamb Lies Down, Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering) he was clearly holding back. Brand X is Collins unleashed. Untethered from the chains of tight structure that is a Genesis song. Just listen to the way he handles the tricky time changes in Born Ugly. Not only does he play them with a smooth, almost smug confidence, he also finds time to add all sorts of complex jaw-dropping fills seamlessly into the mix. Why this album isn't required listening for an aspiring drummer is way beyond me. Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria indeed! That's another track with simply inspired playing by Collins. In fact, the rhythm section here with Percy Jones on bass, is one of the best I've heard in all the many Jazz Fusion albums I own.

So while I wouldn't recommend this sucker to those who think Phil's No Jacket Required album is the next best thing to rubbing his bald little head in person, this is required listening for anyone who wants to hear what Collins was really capable of behind the drum kit. It's sitting on the drummer's throne that he is really most at home and put to most use. Sadly, Phil's drumming skills seemed to decline as his rank of Pop star rose. With all that ails the man today, I doubt we'll see him drum ever again. As for me, I'll do all I can to remind folks that Phil Collins' name should be mentioned along side the likes of Bill Bruford and Neil Peart and not with Michael Jackson and Prince. If you like your Jazz Fusion with catchy hooks and complex rhythms you will adore Brand X's Unorthodox Behaviour.

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