Face Value – Phil Collins (1981)


Growing up in the 90’s and really getting into music in the early 00’s Phil Collins always just seemed like a bit of a naff singer from the 80’s. In my early days DJ’ing I would often play his cover of the Supremes “You Can’t Hurry Love” without thinking about this nasal vocalist who I’d heard mainly on oldie radio stations.

I watched the movie “American psycho” and couldn’t help but be transfixed by the weird knowledge our strange main character had of Phil Collins. We also had a Cadburys advert which was of a Gorilla playing the drums to “In The Air Tonight”.

To me Phil Collins just seemed a bit of anomaly. He had come from the 1980’s and been in a massive group with Genesis but he was small, balding and without much star appeal at all. Effectively he was just Phil from Hounslow which sounds like the introduction for someone auditioning for the X Factor that you know is going to be excruciatingly bad.

But Phil Collins is one of the biggest selling artists of all time. He is one of only THREE singers to sell over 100 million records in a band AND as a solo artist. He is a singer that few seem to admit to me they like but someone had to be buying his music.

I recently read an interview with him on the BBC website and he is about to embark on a comeback tour so I thought it would be the right time to delve into his debut album “Face Value”.

The opening track is “In The Air Tonight” and this  pretty much unbeatable in terms of quality on the entire album. It in no way sets a tone as there are no other tracks like it and in fact I don’t really recall any song by any artist being remotely similar, certainly not one that was such a massive hit.

The way the song builds up immediately has me hooked no matter how many times I have listened to it. There is minimal music as Collins tells a story which is a little confusing but seems to be about resentment and the feeling betrayal. He knows what is coming and is just waiting the crushing feelings that he seems to have always been afraid of and continues to anticipate.

Musically, everyone is just waiting for 3:41 to come as Collins pounds down on the drums and the bassline kicks in. It’s a fascinatingly odd song. It’s not one to dance to, it’s not exactly a love ballad and it has little going on but it is a wonderfully engaging track.

“This Must Be Love” puts to bed my opinion that Phil Collins can’t sing as he clearly can on this track. Perhaps I have just heard him sing songs his voice doesn’t suit (a Motown covers album was painful) but this chilled, lights out song suits his vocal perfectly.

The song tells the story of the woman he was in love with at the time and it’s a pretty track but ultimately nothing we haven’t heard before. It’s pleasant without much going on.

“Behind The Lines” leans more towards the pop/R&B with a much more funky rhythm flowing through it. That ‘Earth Wind & Fire’ type of bassline structure was deliberate as Collins shows his love for the Funk and Disco of the time. This song is actually a Genesis track on their album “Duke” which Collins has reworked for ‘Face Value’.

“The Roof Is Leaking” tells a sad tale of a man trying to keep things together for his family but everything seems to be getting on top of him. The roof is leaking, it’s freezing cold, his wife is pregnant and his only solace is that Spring will be here soon. But even that bit of spark turns to questioning as he contemplates the horror of Spring being late and winter continuing.

The 5th track “Droned” is an instrumental. It starts of interestingly enough but very quickly becomes just noise and one to skip.

“Hand In Hand” is also an instrumental and like the previous track have an African music vibe with this track bringing in the sound of African children chanting and a bigger and louder brass section. At over 5 minutes it is way too long and this half of the album has soon become boring.

A big song is required and thankfully we get it with “I Missed Again”. This is a fantastic song from start to finish with a great hook that I couldn’t help but sing along to.

It’s soulful, funky with some solid bass work. Collins uses some different variations to his vocal and the whole thing musically is polished and slick.

“You Know What I Mean” is just all a bit blahhh. I use that word (?) deliberately as it’s just a bit tedious. I’ve tried listening to this track 3 times now in an effort to find something that I can get with but it’s just so mundane and soulless.

“Thunder and Lightning” is Collins looking in the mirror and saying ‘I want to be Earth Wind & Fire”. It sounds like it could be a cover of a song by the great EWF but it’s just Collins enjoying creating a track which is influenced by a band he clearly likes.

It all sounds a little unnatural to me. The horns are pretty but the lack of edge to this song makes it sound hollow.

On the 10th track “I’m not moving” Collins changes direction again  with a more jumpy piano driven number. This track is slightly more engaging as his vocal is certainly more gripping. Lyrically he seems to be calling his partner out to say what they want but all he knows is no matter what they say to him he will not be moving.

“If Leaving Me Is Easy” is without a doubt the most personal track on the set as he deals with the breakdown of his marriage with his first wife. It’s a nice song and whilst it cannot rival “In The Air Tonight” in terms of the dark atmosphere it creates it is still a solid track that probably should have been a bigger hit for Collins with his use of his upper register in vocal being rolled out.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is the final track on “Face Value”. It a cover of the Beatles track from their album “Revolver”. I hate this track by the Beatles and I despise this cover from Phil Collins. Seriously, this is a shower of shit that makes me what to throw something at the speaker.

I dare you to put your headphones on and turn this up loud. Let me know how long you can actually last.


So was it worth listening to a full album by Phil Collins? Well it is always worth listening to albums as to have a full opinion you should surely pay it some attention and give it a go.

My problem with “Face Value” is it is just a bit uninteresting which if you knew nothing about the artists or his music you would not believe could be the outcome after the mysteriously delicious “In The Air Tonight”. But that song may lure you in but the album offers nothing even remotely on the same likes.

“I Missed Again” and “Roof Is Leaking” are high points but the dull instrumentals and that dreadful cover of a shite Beatles song doesn’t really make me want to listen to this album again.



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