[Review] Phil Collins: Face Value (1981)

This is coin of the realm for Phil Collins’ albums, leaving no misunderstanding that a star had been born.

Kronomyth 1.0: From duke to royal phil, a monarch.

Phil Collins was the last member from Genesis to release a solo album. Face Value proved worth the wait. Although he had made recent commercial inroads with Genesis, notably the single “Misunderstanding” (from Duke), Face Value elevated the singer/drummer to star status.

The songs are influenced less by Genesis (in fact, the reverse would prove to be the case) than Peter Gabriel’s third album, on which Collins had appeared. Using heavy, exotic percussive textures (often sans cymbals) and moody synthesizers, Face Value brought to mind some of Gabriel’s darker character studies (“Intruder,” “Biko”) with its advance single and video, In The Air Tonight. But Collins proved to be a man of many faces: a romantic balladeer, a smooth pop singer, a sympathetic storyteller, a sonic adventurer. Subsequent singles from Face Value revealed a heretofore hidden knack for writing catchy pop songs that resurrected the halcyon days of Motown’s golden era, ably aided by members of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Th opening track, “In The Air Tonight,” mesmerized me when I first heard it. Written about his recent divorce, it sets the tone for what could well be a concept album about divorce. This Must Be Love is a remarkably smooth ballad that showcases Collins’ romantic side. At the time, Behind The Lines seemed the very antithesis of Genesis’ brooding arrangements, contrasting the two by re-arranging the Duke song, excising the two-minute intro and getting right to the sweet stuff in a sped-up, skipping rendition. (If you enjoy this version, and I certainly do, you need to pick up a copy of Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche ’85.) The Roof Is Leaking is a somber picture of a young couple that instantly recalls the sad stories of Peter Gabriel (“Home Sweet Home,” “Indigo”). Droned is Collins’ take on Gabriel’s world music, while Hand In Hand adds a children’s choir to the mix.

The second side kicks off with I Missed Again, featuring a punchy horn section that seems remarkably light-hearted for a song about divorce. You Know What I Mean digs even deeper into Collins’ sensitive side. It’s a weepy ballad, a style he would revisit often including, three songs later, on If Leaving Me Is Easy. Thunder and Lightning brings the EWF horns back for another surprisingly funky, swinging number. I’m Not Moving is a cute little number about divorce that suggests ELO. The album takes an unexpectedly psychedelic turn at the end with a great version of The BeatlesTomorrow Never Knows.

I was a pretty big Genesis fan when this was released, and Face Value totally floored me because it was a) so different from Genesis and b) so good. In retrospect, its success may have corroded the soul of Genesis, or maybe it prolonged their career, who knows? Originally conceived on an 8-track recorder, it stands as one of the greatest DIY albums of all time, in my opinion anyway. It also established a very successful template both for Collins and Genesis, although I largely tuned out after Abacab and Three Sides Live because, you know, I’m partial to prog.

Original elpee version

A1. In The Air Tonight (5:32)
A2. This Must Be Love (3:55)
A3. Behind The Lines (Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford) (3:53)
A4. The Roof Is Leaking (3:16)
A5. Droned (2:55)
A6. Hand In Hand (5:12)
B1. I Missed Again (3:41)|
B2. You Know What I Mean (2:33)
B3. Thunder And Lightning (4:12)
B4. I’m Not Moving (2:33)
B5. If Leaving Me Is Easy (4:54)
B6. Tomorrow Never Knows (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (4:46)

All songs written by Phil Collins unless noted.

Original 8-track version
A1. In The Air Tonight
A2. I Missed Again
A3. You Know What I Mean
B1. This Must Be Love
B2. Droned
B3. If Leaving Me Is Easy
C1. Hand In Hand
C2. Thunder And Lightning
C3. I’m Not Moving
D1. Behind The Lines
D2. The Roof Is Leaking
D3. Tomorrow Never Knows

Deluxe Edition bonus disc (Extra Values) tracks
1. Misunderstanding (live)
2. If Leaving Me Is Easy (live)
3. In The Air Tonight (live)
4. Behind The Lines (live)
5. The Roof Is Leaking (live)
6. Hand In Hand (live)
7. I Missed Again (live)
8. …And So To F (live)
9. This Must Be Love (demo)
10. Please Don’t Ask (demo)
11. Misunderstanding (demo)
12. Against All Odds (demo)

The Players

Phil Collins (vocals, Roland drum machine, drums, Prophet, Rhodes, vocoder, percussion, Fender, piano, congas, claps, marimba), Daryl Stuermer (guitar, banjo, 12-string guitar) with Stephen Bishop (backing vocals on B2), Children from The Church of Los Angeles (choir on A6/B6), Eric Clapton (guitar on B5), Rahmlee Michael Davis (trumpet/flugelhorn on A3/A6/B1/B3/B5), Martyn Ford Orchestra (string section), John Giblin (bass on A1/B3/B4/B6), Michael Harris (trumpet/flugelhorn on A3/A6/B1/B3/B5), Alphonso Johnson (bass on A2/A3/A6/B1/B5), Arif Mardin (string arrangements on B2/B5), Don Myrick (tenor sax/alto sax on A3/A6/B1/B3/B5), Joe Partridge (slide guitar on A4), Peter Robinson (Prophet on A3), Louis Satterfield (trombone on A3/A6/B1/B3), Ronnie Scott (tenor sax solo on B2), Shankar (violins, tamboura, voice drums on A1/A5/B1), Gavyn Wright (string section leader) [violins: Ken Sillitoe, Richard Studt, Irvine Arditti, Bruce Dukov, Peter Oxen, David Woodcock, Liz Edwards, Bill Benham; violas: Brian Hawkins, Roger Best, Simon Whistler; cellos: Clive Anstee, Nigel Warren-Green, Tony Pleeth; double bass: Chris Lawrence]. Produced by Phil Collins assisted by Hugh Padgham; 8-track engineering by Phil Collins, engineered by Hugh Padgham.

The Pictures

Photography by Trevor Key.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on February 13, 1981 in the UK (Virgin, V/TCV 2185), the US (Atlantic, SD/CS/TP 16029), Canada (Atlantic, XSD-16029), Germany (WEA 99 143/499 143), Italy (Atlantic, U 99143), Japan (Atlantic, P-10984A) and Spain (MD 499143) with gatefold cover. Reached #1 on the UK charts and #7 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1983 in Yugoslavia (Atlantic, ATL 99143).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Atlantic, 16029-2) [target cd made in w. germany].
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Atlantic, 16029-2) [made in japan].
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Canada (Atlantic, CD 16029).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Atlantic, 32XD 339).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in the Netherlands (Atlantic, 86325-2).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in June 1988 in the UK (Virgin, CDV 2185) and the US (Atlantic, 16029-2).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in Germany (Atlantic, 54939-2).
  9. Re-released on 24k gold remastered compact disc in 1994 in the US (Atlantic Gold Standards, 82520-2).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc on December 21, 2005 in Japan (WEA, WPCR-75134).
  11. Re-issued on 24k gold remastered compact disc in 2010 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 084).
  12. Re-released as Deluxe Edition expanded, remastered 2CD on January 29, 2016 in Europe (Atlantic, PCCD 81) with bonus disc.

1 thought on “[Review] Phil Collins: Face Value (1981)

  1. Another description I remember about Mr. P.C.: “From first class drummer to world famous pop singer.”

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