Sometimes non-guitarists make great guitar albums. These expanded reissues from drummers Billy Cobham and Phil Collins are cases in point.
After a blistering career in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham went solo and released a spate of excellent fusion albums, compiled here in an eight-CD box-set. His debut – 1973’s Spectrum – has long been recognized as a groundbreaking fusion effort and guitar hero Tommy Bolin’s finest hour. Without this LP, there would have been no Blow By Blow by Jeff Beck, nor many other jazz-rock recordings. It’s that important, and Bolin’s playing is simply off the hook with chops, taste, and soul. As a treat, we also get an outtake from these Cobham sessions called “All 4 One.”
Cobham followed it up with more strong albums. On six-string, he used fusion godfather John Abercrombie in 1974-’75, then hired young gun John Scofield to rip it up until ’78. The accent throughout is on funk-fusion, and both Johns could throw down a groove with complex, tasty improv on top. Unfortunately, the set’s booklet contains faulty liner notes in which the author confuses Scofield for Abercrombie – not once, but twice.
Still, if you love classic ’70s fusion, this is hot music. The standard of musicianship set by Cobham and his bandmates is all but lost to rock audiences today, and should be revered as such.
Phil Collins was a fusion skin-pounder for Brand X, but made his most lasting mark as Genesis’ drummer and, after Peter Gabriel’s departure, its lead vocalist. In ’81, he released his first solo album, Face Value, a paradigm-changing pop-rock album. In fact, it became one of the most influential of the decade, judging by the countless artists that copied his vocals, minimalist keyboards, production style, and gated snare drum.
The album featured another fusion notable – guitarist Daryl Stuermer (Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke), who had been Genesis’ touring guitarist and bassist. On the smash hit “In The Air Tonight,” the drummer gave Stuermer space to add haunting guitar lines. It was a fuzzy, modulation-drenched sound that would soon appear on a zillion Collins cuts, like “I Don’t Care Anymore” from the followup, Hello, I Must Be Going. By decade’s end, Stuermer’s lead tone and style was a trademark of the MTV era, even if most fans never knew his name.
As expanded reissues, both Collins CDs feature unreleased demos and extra live tracks, more chances to check out Stuermer’s superb and instantly recognizable ’80s guitarmanship.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.