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Collins, Simon: U-Catastrophe

There are some progressive rock websites that would mark down the ranking of Simon Collins's U-Catastrophe because it is not really "progressive rock". I'm not about to do that here - music is music and I would rather ascribe a ranking on the basis of the impact that the music has on me rather than adjust it because of some, sometimes artificial and inaccurate, determination of genre. You yourselves can adjust the ranking if you like when I tell you that U-Catastrophe is as straightforward a melodic rock album as you're likely to find.

True, there are keyboard sounds aplenty and the final track might be classed as electro-funk/rock fusion but, on the other hand, the overall soundscape is mainstream melodic rock. Having said that, it is an exceptionally good album of melodic rock! Simon shows the kind of flair for catchy hooks that earned his famous dad, Phil Collins, a fair few million dollars but thankfully infuses most of these songs with a rocky edge that was sadly lacking from Phil's solo work.

U-Catastrophe is a commercial-sounding album, easy to like on a first hearing, and if it gets the right promotional push and a slice of luck could end up selling a lot of units. It is Simon's first album release in the United States although he has recorded two others: a synthesizer based, trance-fueled debut All of Who You Are (released by WEA Germany) and the self-released Time for Truth (2005). In 2007, Collins signed with Razor & Tie. Teaming up with 2008 Juno Award winner (Recording Engineer Of The Year) Kevin Churko, Simon found a natural rapport with Kevin that led to the two being the main protagonists in the recording of this current album: Kevin assisting with some of the song-writing, production and playing guitar, bass and keyboards throughout.

The album's opening is explosive, "U-Catastrophe" being the kind of pacey, melodic and very catchy tune that puts a smile on my face. Having got you on the hook, Simon follows up with a series of up-tempo rocky numbers that rarely let the pace fade until you get to "The Good Son", the album's sixth track. It's a blistering opening, mixing autobiographical songs with the environmental protest of "Disappearing". Simon plays drums (of course...), rather well it has to be said, as well as keyboards, the occasional guitar part and the lead vocal. His voice is good and strong; it's a good rock singer's voice, a better voice than his dad's and it suits this style of music.

"Unconditional", one of two slowish numbers, has a gorgeous melody and is very catchy, as is "Us (Love Transcends)", a pretty love song based on beautiful piano phrasing.

These two slower numbers are well integrated into the album's overall rocky feel. For instance, the slowish "Unconditional" is followed by a powerful instrumental (well, nearly instrumental) number based on some cracking drum playing from Simon and Phil Collins, making a guest appearance on this track. Add some attractive rock guitar phrasing and you have what must be one of the rock instrumentals of the year. Another ex-Genesis musician making a guest appearance is Steve Hackett, who contributes a guitar solo to the exciting finale, "Fast Forward the Future".

Overall, then, a strong album of catchy, well-produced and played melodic rock that has the potential to sell well. If you are a "prog rock" purist though, it'll probably not be your favorite.

Track Listing:-
1) U-Catastrophe (5:24)
2) All I've Left to Lose (3:07)
3) Disappearing (4:20)
4) Powerless (3:38)
5) Go (Only One I Know) (4:26)
6) The Good Son (4:54)
7) Unconditional (3:40)
8) The Big bang (5:50)
9) Eco (5:11)
10) Us (Love Transcends) (4:21)
11) Between I & E (5:00)
12) Fast Forward the Future (6:34)

Added: March 4th 2009
Reviewer: Alex Torres
Related Link: Simon Collins's Website (MySpace)
Hits: 5131
Language: english

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Collins, Simon: U-Catastrophe
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-03-04 11:10:03
My Score:

If Phil Collins as a solo artist had ever been as adventurous as his son, Simon, maybe he wouldn't be reviled by a segment of the prog faithful. But this singer/drummer/keyboardist, despite his pedigree, is plenty adventurous. Dad plays a drum duet with his boy on "The Big Bang" a tour-de-force instrumental, with chunky bass, keys and guitar added for flavoring which does sound a tad like Dad's band, Genesis (See: "Home By the Sea"). But U-Catastrophe proves that the younger Vancouver, Canada-based Collins doesn't need to ride the family coattails.

Collins boasts a memorable clear and clean voice, and he makes music that, according to Collins himself, is "a little bit of rock, a little bit of prog, a little bit of pop and a little bit of electronica." That much is clear on the wide-ranging title track, named after the term "eucatastrophe" from a J.R.R. Tolkien novel that refers to the sudden turn of events in the protagonist's favor. Well, after a couple of seemingly false starts a trance-fueled debut in 2000 and an organic sounding political record in 2005 Collins finally seems to have found his groove on this U.S. debut.

"All I've Left To Lose" is an amazingly catchy rocker that blurs mid-Eighties Robert Palmer with, oh, let's say 3 Doors Down and The Cult. "Between I & E," an indictment of the religious right, echoes Toy Matinee, and the album closes with "Fast Forward to the Future," a dreamy prog-electro-funk epic boasting a long-distance guitar solo by Steve Hackett, Dad's former band mate in Genesis. Sure, Collins sounds like Papa Phil on "The Good Son," but considering it's a mid-tempo ballad with that title, how could he not? But Simon still takes the track in unexpected directions, adding falsetto vocals, synth washes and layered loops.

Other tracks most likely "Powerless" and "Unconditional" could even be hits on mainstream American radio. The Phil connection will help, certainly, but all 12 of the songs on U-Catastrophe can (and should) stand on their own. This is as rewarding and contemporary as progressive-pop/rock gets these days.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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