Face Value

Phil Collins

Atlantic Records, 1981


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


If jazzy pop is your forté, Phil Collins’ debut album Face Value will surely satisfy. Personally, I have always preferred his second and third releases, Hello, I Must Be Going and the Grammy winning No Jacket Required. But I’m willing to be fair and give Face Value another opportunity to win me over. Yes, it does start out strong enough with everybody’s go-to Phil Collins hit, “In The Air Tonight,” though I’ve always maintained that the music itself is straight out of Peter Gabriel’s playbook. Phil wisely included those power drum fills to make the song his own and distinguish it from the edgy material that his ex-Genesis bandmate was coming out with at the time. Still, I couldn’t help but think of Peter Gabriel raising an eyebrow when he first heard it.

Horns abound on Face Value, which makes the other hit single “I Missed Again” all the more refreshing after the languid, claustrophobic feel of “In The Air Tonight.” Most of this album sounds like something a member of the band Chicago do, but certainly not a member of Genesis. Phil’s Genesis material is far superior to anything he would ever do solo, which is why the recent reunion with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks went over so well. That was one trio that always managed to keep us guessing what they were going to come up with next. With Phil Collins’ solo career, you pretty much knew that he wasn’t going to stray too far from the AC formula, though he did push himself quite considerably for 1985’s gold standard, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 No Jacket Required.

The be-bop, finger-snapping rhythms of “Behind The Lines” show how overjoyed Phil was in finally breaking free and proving that he could fly solo. Keep in mind that he almost didn’t become a lead singer. When Peter Gabriel left the band, Genesis didn’t know what to do. In fact, they almost disbanded. Had Phil Collins not volunteered, we not only would’ve missed out on all those amazing latter day, mega-successful Genesis albums and singles, but all the hits that Phil had on his own too. In interviews in the last decade, Collins has tried to distance himself from his solo career, even making some startling and disparaging comments about his lack of talent. His fans wouldn’t hear of it. What would the ‘80s have been without Phil Collins? Unimaginable.

Other standouts on his half decent first showing are the stark ballad “The Roof Is Leaking,” its instrumental cousin “Droned” (which should’ve been listed as track one) and the surprisingly twisted Beatles cover “Tomorrow Never Knows.” There’s also the traditional piano number “You Know What I Mean” and the sexy – yes, I said sexy (I bet you never thought you’d hear that word in a Phil Collins review, did ya) quiet storm of a song, “If Leaving Me Is Easy.”

No Phil Collins album is completely free of filler and Face Value is certainly no exception. From the pointless “This Must Be Love,” to the redundant “Thunder And Lightning,” to the silly “Hand In Hand,” these are the most glaring examples of songs that leave little to no impression behind. And what’s up with the half-finished “I’m Not Moving”? What happened? I was just getting into the song when it suddenly was over! I know you should leave the listener wanting more, Phil, but this is ridiculous…

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



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