1981, Music

Face Value (1981) by Phil Collins

Phil Collins has had one of the weirder careers in pop rock, starting out as a prog rock / art rock drummer (who even played jazz fusion, at times) and then becoming a massive pop star. It’s an unusual arc to be sure, and this is the record that began the shift from the one to the other. And because of my fondness for prog and art rock, and because of my dislike of much mainstream pop rock, I was worried this album was going to suck and suck hard.

Well, it doesn’t.  Sure, there’s the big hit, which even I must acknowledge is a classic, even if it has dated rather horribly, due to the ridiculous ’80s vocal effects – and, of course, those ’80s drums, which Collins himself invented, the previous year.

But there’s a lot of variety here. And though I don’t love Collins’ lyrics and find the production at times to be rather horrible – those vocal effects are overused, to put it mildly – it’s a relatively risky record, especially for some one who was trying to establish a solo career – and likely had big expectations given Genesis’ recent commercial success.

It’s like sub-Peter Gabriel: it’s accessible but it takes risks most pop artists wouldn’t. (And this is coming from someone who really has never liked Phil Collins’ solo singles.)

It’s very much of its time, it’s over-produced and Collins isn’t the greatest writer, but it’s decent and has enough going on in the background that it doesn’t get boring.

The only really awful part is the Beatles cover, which is unnecessary and also not good.

7/10

All tracks written by Phil Collins, except where noted.

  1. “In the Air Tonight” 5:34
  2. “This Must Be Love” 3:55
  3. “Behind the Lines” (lyrics by Mike Rutherford; music by Tony Banks, Collins and Rutherford) 3:53
  4. “The Roof Is Leaking” 3:16
  5. “Droned” 2:49
  6. “Hand in Hand” 5:20
  7. “I Missed Again” 3:41
  8. “You Know What I Mean” 2:33
  9. “Thunder and Lightning” 4:12
  10. “I’m Not Moving” 2:33
  11. “If Leaving Me Is Easy” 4:54
  12. “Tomorrow Never Knows” (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) 4:15
  13. “Over the Rainbow” (lyrics by E.Y. Harburg; music by Harold Arlen) 0:31
  • Phil Collins – vocals, drums (1, 3, 6, 7, 9–12), Roland VP-330 vocoder (1, 6, 10), Roland CR-78 drum machine (1, 6, 12), Prophet-5 synthesizer (1, 2, 5–7, 10–12), Fender Rhodes (1, 2, 9, 11), percussion (2, 10), piano (4–8, 10), handclaps (5, 9), congas (5), marimba (6), acoustic guitar (13)
  • Daryl Stuermer – guitars (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12), banjo (4), 12-string guitar (5)
  • John Giblin – bass guitar (1, 9, 10, 12)
  • L. Shankar – violin (1, 5, 7, 12), tamboura (5), “voice drums” (5)
  • Alphonso Johnson – bass (2, 3, 6, 7, 11)
  • J. Peter Robinson – Prophet-5 (3)
  • Joe Partridge – slide guitar (4)
  • Stephen Bishop – background vocals (2)
  • Eric Clapton – guitar (4, 11)
  • Arif Mardin – string arrangements (8, 11)
    EWF Horns:

    • Don Myrick – tenor saxophone (3, 6, 7, 9, 12), alto sax solo (11)
    • Louis Satterfield – trombone (3, 6, 7, 9, 12)
    • Rahmlee Michael Davis and Michael Harris – trumpets (3, 6, 7, 9, 12), flugelhorns (11)
    • Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone solo (7)
  • Music preparation – Maurice Spears
  • Other background vocals on tracks 6 and 12 by several children choirs in Los Angeles
  • Strings on tracks 8 and 11 conducted by Martyn Ford:
    • Violins – Gavyn Wright (leader), Bill Benhem, Bruce Dukov, David Woodcock, Liz Edwards, Irvine Arditti, Ken Sillitoe, Peter Oxen and Richard Studt
    • Viola – Roger Best, Brian Hawkins and Simon Whistler
    • Cello – Tony Pleeth, Clive Anstee and Nigel Warren-Green
    • Double bass – Chris Lawrence

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