Face Value (1981)


 
1.In The Air Tonight 2.This Must Be Love 3.Behind the Lines 4.The Roof is Leaking 5.Droned 6.Hand in Hand 7.I Missed Again 8.You Know What I Mean 9.I'm Not Moving 10.Thunder and Lightning 11.If Leaving Me Is Easy 12.Tomorrow Never Knows

 

The super group Genesis had recorded a total of ten albums since Phil Collins had joined the band in 1971. Collins almost left the band for good in 1979 since he needed time to try to heal his failing marriage. Fortunately, the other two members decided on a temporary hiatus as well to record solo efforts, and when Collins was unable to reconcile with his wife, he suddenly had a lot of extra time on his hands. He decided to mirror his band mates and record a solo album of his own. It probably seemed an ambitious project since he was always the least musical of Genesis and has always maintained that his contribution to the band was always far less than the other two members.

It surprised everyone, most notably Collins himself, when he would soon become one of the most popular solo artists to emerge in the enitre decade of the 1980's. This joyous ride began with the release of this album, and many maintain that it's still his best to date. Probably since there really weren't any high expectations, Collins was free to experiment in the studio and record whatever he felt like. This is a very honest release that wasn't trying to make a lot of hits, and quite frankly, there's very little on this album that could be considered radio friendly.

The song that everyone knows, In The Air Tonight, was released as a single, but this was one of those rare gems that didn't necessarily do that well upon first release but seemed to get more popular with age. It might have cracked the top 20, but years later it became a staple in eveything from the Miami Vice Television Show to countless benefit performances. It doesn't sound much like a hit single would, perhaps that's what makes it so special? One thing that made Collins such a breath of fresh air was that he was a big pioneer in using his drums as key instruments in his songs, instead of just as a backing rhythm section. You can't miss this fact on this song in particular.

Collins would show his love for Jazzy interpretations complete with brass sections on several songs on each of his earlier albums, and he would rarely dissappoint. This album features this style on songs such as I Missed Again (the first single and video) and Behind the Lines (the only Genesis song to ever appear on a Phil Collins solo album). He would also be well known for his tender romantic ballads that he also pulled off extremely well, although the only one on this collection is the beautiful (and sadly overlooked) If Leaving Me Is Easy.

Most of the rest of the album is pretty experimental and wouldn't, for the most part, be repeated on later efforts. The only other semi-radio friendly piece is probably This Must Be Love which probably has just enough quirky keyboard effects that would keep an otherwise pleasant melody to go mainstream. He experiments with the banjo even, on the semi-folksie The Roof is Leaking that somehow manages to segue into the lighly apocalyptic Droned only to further emerge in the instrumental plead for world unity on Hand in Hand.

The material on the latter half isn't quite as heavy but can be equally as melancholy. His marriage woes show up in the simple You Know What I Mean and the up tempo I'm Not Moving. He closes the album with an odd choice, a remake of The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows (for those who don't follow the Beatles, this was one of their weirdest tracks ever. Done with only one chord and tons of acid). Collins' spin of the song again has enough variety to make it a worthwhile listen.

For the next twelve years, Collins would alternate between a solo album and a Genesis song - throwing in a lot of other musical extras (duets, soundtracks, etc.) that would escalate his popularity along with Genesis well into the 1990's. The sound would become more commercial, which is not necessarily a dissappointment, but the earlier expermiental stuff featured here is rightly considered among his very best.

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