At the start of Phil Collins' sixth solo album, Both Sides, it's business as usual. The first single, ''Both Sides of the Story,'' contains all of Collins' stapleshis barking tenor, a killer melody, thoughtfully mature lyrics, and thundering drums under a simple synthesizer riff. But after that, Collins downshifts from Killer Single to Deathly Ballad. Eight of the 11 songs here are dreamy musings taken at often glacial tempos.
Because Collins recorded the entire disc alone in his home studio, the subdued, confessional tone is understandablesuch personal writing usually requires delicate arrangements. But that solitude costs him the adrenaline that a few hotshot accompanists might have provided. On several tracks, such as the spooky ''We Fly So Close'' (a clone of 1981's ''In the Air Tonight''), he refuses to let the song's dynamics build up beyond polite. Too often he merely sounds like he's afraid of waking up the family.
But ultimately, loyal fans will not be disappointed: Collins delivers his usual smooth, VH-1-ready product: an immaculate album by a master craftsman. Trouble is, the job description called for art, not craft. B-