Featured Album – Face Value – Phil Collins

A short while ago I did a post on my favorite debut albums. I’ve added a couple of albums since then including this one. Collins, of course, had been the drummer and (initially) reluctant singer of Genesis. Collins’ legacy is mixed (great drummer, good singer, a mix of good and soppy tunes.) And in some people’s minds, the ruination of Genesis by catalyzing their descent into a pop-rock band.

Not having been a big Genesis fan (I find them weirdy unmelodic), I carried no such baggage. So when Face Value was released in 1981 I listened to it and dug it quite a bit.

Why is that? Well, it’s an odd yet compelling mix of – as Wikipedia says – pop-rock, R&B, art rock, experimental pop, and new wave. Collins is that rare breed who is equally comfortable with jazz, prog, pop, and – especially – R&B.

But the song that took over the airwaves in 1981 was “In the Air Tonight,” a tune that was heavily influenced by Collins’ divorce (as was apparently the entire album.) The entire song rests on a moody, somber four-chord (Dmin-C-Bb-C) backbone and enigmatic lyrics. Collins said they came to him in a stream-of-consciousness mode.

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend
But I don’t know if you know who I am

Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

And that drum break? The “gated reverb” sound was a happy accident and it’s so iconic even Mike Tyson couldn’t resist playing it:*

In listening to this album again recently – and really enjoying it – it occurred to me that if you removed “In the Air Tonight” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” you’d mostly have a really good R&B album. “I Missed Again” is a good example of that.

“Like many of the songs on Face Value, “I Missed Again” is about Collins’s anger and frustration about his first wife leaving him. The original demo was entitled “I Miss You, Babe”, with sadder lyrics:”

Back then, Collins still had his drum chops intact. Here’s a cool instrumental called “Droned.”

Speaking of Genesis, this tune – “Behind the Lines” – was co-written with his bandmates Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. Great upbeat tune featuring the Earth, Wind And Fire horns. (EWF singer Phillip Bailey had a hit with Collins a few years later).

In case you’re wondering, Collins – for whatever reason – updated his picture on this album with an older, meaner-looking picture. Genesis just did what will be their final tour (at least with Collins) and Phil walked out with a cane and can no longer play drums. Time, I think, to leave the stage and let us enjoy your good work.


13 thoughts on “Featured Album – Face Value – Phil Collins

  1. I was into Phil Collins big time back in the ’80s. I think it was his cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love”, which seemingly was on the radio every time you switched it on, that initially got him on my radar screen. That tune was from “Hello, I Must Be Going!”, the follow-on to “Face Value.” From there, I went to his debut album and “In the Air Tonight”. And, yeah, I couldn’t get enough of that drum part!

    Collins seems to love soul and R&B. Eventually, he released an entire album of soul covers in 2010, “Going Back,” which I thought wasn’t bad. Apparently, most other music listeners disagreed. The album was largely ignored, and a clearly embittered Collins retired for the first time.

    My problem with Collins is this. I loved him in the ’80s and early ’90s. But between his solo albums, Genesis records and one-off collaborations like “Easy Lover” with Phil Bailey, he was completely overexposed. Eventually, I got tired of him – even to the point where his voice got on my nerves! So I essentially stopped listening to him altogether.

    By now I feel I’ve mellowed, and I might be ready to revisit some of his music. There’s no question Collins was a talented musician and songwriter. “Face Value” looks like a good start to reengage. I think this time I use an everything-in-moderation approach! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. I think we were all pretty much sick of Phil at that point in time. He still gets a lot of grief on the Interwebs.

      But a lot of time has passed, the poor guy’s in lousy health, etc. And that means it’s time for a Phil re-evaluation! Go listen to “Face Value.” You will love it all over again. I did.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Weirdly, I’ve never heard a Phil Collins solo album. ‘I Missed Again’ sounds really good, I didn’t know that song. It’s interesting that both Gabriel and Collins had some R&B-leaning material, considering how absent it is from prog-era Genesis.


    1. Yeah, prog and R&B were almost polar opposites. I confess to some surprise that you don’t know this one. I hadn’t heard it in a long time and I was pleased it was as good an album as I recalled.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to his 1980s solo stuff sometime and enjoy it – he certainly got overexposed and dropped off in the 1990s.


    2. You’re a keyboardist, yes? One of the things I like on “Missed Again” is what sounds like a delayed piano chord at the end of phrases. Delayed, or just sort of naked, like a punctuation


  3. Great read as always. Love Missed Again and most of this LP. My favourite solo album of his. I think Tony Banks was displeased that he kept In the Air Tonight for his debut solo album. I wrote a piece on Hugh Padgham if you’re interested in this era. Thanks for a good read Jim.


    1. Padgham, sure. Probably should have mentioned him. Trying to streamline my posts so I don’t include every single bit of info in my head. I’ll check that out. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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