In 1996, Phil Collins released his sixth solo album, his first after officially leaving Genesis and – on a less positive note – his first to fail to go platinum.
Dance Into the Light found Collins reuniting with longtime producer Hugh Padgham after producing (and playing) 1993's Both Sides on his own. This time out, he sought musical inspiration in a mixture of Bob Dylan, Youssou N’Dour, and African music he’d heard on tour. At the same time, his relationship with Orianne Cevey, soon to be his third wife, was getting serious - and he'd found himself writing more on guitar than keyboards for the first time in his career. The result: a decidedly more upbeat affair that doesn't quite sound like any of his other albums.
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In the liner notes of the deluxe edition of the album, Collins detailed how he’d removed the drum machines that had been on the original demos for the songs and performed the drum work himself. It was a decision based partially on complaints from fans who’d hoped to hear him behind the kit more prominently on Both Sides, but he also admitted that it served to make the music livelier and more energetic, which – let's face it – certainly ain’t a bad thing.
Alas, critics were less than kind to Dance Into the Light, with Collins unfortunately suffering comparisons to his former bandmate Peter Gabriel as well as Paul Simon, who’d also dabbled in African rhythms over the last decade. Consumers weren’t wholly thrilled by the album, either: although it climbed into the Top 5 in the U.K., it stalled outside the Top 20 in America, failing to earn even so much as a single entry on the Hot 100.
For what it’s worth, though, when Collins was asked by the A.V Club in 2016 if there was an album in his back catalog that he thought of as particularly underrated, he cited Both Sides, Testify, the Motown covers album Going Back, and even Hello, I Must Be Going! to various degrees, but Dance Into the Light didn’t rate so much as a mention. While it might be going to far to suggest that even he wasn’t ecstatic about how it turned out, one might at least reasonably theorize that he felt that, as his solo albums go, that one got what it deserved.
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