Both Sides (Deluxe Edition) – Take A Look At Me Now: Reissue Series
Where Face Value was easy to defend/praise I didn’t think that would be the case with Both Sides, also reissued as part of the Take A Lot At Me Now series and paired with Collins’ debut. Both Sides was where/when I ended my Collins fandom. It was the first album of his that I didn’t rush out to buy. I had moved on. Music had certainly moved on. That seemed to be the feeling…
But I was curious about this one when the reissue series was announced, I remember it contained two very good songs (Can’t Find My Way – which felt as good/better than anything on Genesis’ We Can’t Dance, perhaps the record that had already stolen the thunder of whatever Collins was going to do next. And also We Fly So Close, if Steve Winwood had released that people would have been praising the effort – over a decade later Winwood did release an album with a couple of songs that were reminiscent of that Collins track. And, yes, he received strong reviews).
Also, I was intrigued by the pairing of the albums – Both Sides was in the first bundle with Face Value. The debut was always considered a strong offering, surely. Both Sides was not the last Collins studio album, nor the follow-up to Face Value, nor any kind of thematic sequel. So why was it lined up alongside it.
Well, in taking a look at it now – it does play out as if some conceptual sequel, Collins crushed by divorce and venting in his songs. The writing of each record informed by the same sort of events then.
Okay, well that’s good enough – but what does the music sound like?
I’d remembered thinking the title track was brash and tasteless, but here it has a drive to it that makes it catchier than I’d thought first time around. Can’t Turn Back The Years has the late night soul pop that featured towards the end of Face Value and if Everyday plays out a bit too much like the “conscious” songwriting that got him in trouble on …But Seriously it still has a stateliness, again – so much of what Collins has done seems to be written off because it was him. Credit this to Bruce Hornsby or Winwood and you’ve got a nice enough tune.
There’s no way Both Sides soars – it too often gets bogged down, it’s no classic. But when he does favour the loosened tie, the unbuttoned jacket (not required?) – the late-night mope (as on the exquisite I’ve Forgotten Everything) there’s a joy within the melancholy.
Can’t Find My Way is still the standout, the mood conjured by the drums and Collins in fine voice. If this had have been a Genesis track it would be celebrated to this day. (That’s another connection between this album and Face Value, both arrived when Genesis was celebrating a World Tour record-shattering commercial peak).
Both Sides is a bit too long (one side might have been just perfect!) and there’s a soppiness to some of it, such a fine line because when Collins dances close to that soppiness he gets it right. When he ploughs on over the line it’s Drunk Uncle-
The bonus selections here are mostly live cuts with a couple of demos and one b-side. As with some of Face Value’s demos there’s a clarity in his process that is often remarkable. Can’t Find My Way seemed to arrive fully formed, I guess that’s part of the power and skill of his drum-machine programming, so mood layering and capturing.
Both Sides won’t pull in many new fans but if you were a reluctant purchaser at the time, if it’s never made it to your collection but you were a Collins fan through the eighties, or if you wore out and lost your original copy you’ll find much to like here. Including the connections between this and his finest effort, that sublime debut. I was pleased to see – and hear – those connections.