Phil Collins – Face Value (Deluxe Edition) (review)

Phil Collins – Face Value (Deluxe Edition) (Atlantic) review

We may have gotten our fill of Phil in the Eighties, but this one deserves another look

Phil Collins was one of the biggest artists of the 1980’s, with his songs dominating the airwaves and MTV. Whether coming from him, his band Genesis, or the numerous acts that he produced (Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, Howard Jones, etc), it seems like you couldn’t escape his presence.

As with any artist who’s been oversaturated, it’s been too easy to write Collins off as a hit-making machine with little substance. Truth is, he was a songwriter of incredible depth, and his newly-remastered debut, Face Value, is not only his finest work, it’s also an incredible piece of catharsis following the breakup of a relationship.

When Collins stepped out from behind the Genesis drum kit, no one could have predicted that his solo career would soon eclipse his band. Although the main focus of the album is his failed marriage, the diversity of the material never lets the subject matter weigh things down.

Immediately apparent is his innate melodicism, especially on tracks like “This Must Be Love,” which features some surprisingly gritty Collins’ vocals. He retooled “Behind the Lines” (off Genesis’ Duke LP), adding a funky beat and horns, and the results blow away the original. “The Roof is Leaking,” “You Know What I Mean,” and “If Leaving Me is Easy” (which features a great sax solo from Don Myrick), are the tracks which most obviously clue us in on the somber mood of the album. Yet, these songs are surrounded by things like the buoyant “I’m Not Moving,” and the Motown homage, “I Missed Again,” which are no less biting in the lyrics, but the music is so infectious, it doesn’t matter.

Of course, the real standout is “In the Air Tonight” – still one of the most haunting songs to ever hit the Top Forty. Despite the digital percussion that permeates the track, it has lost none of it’s power over the years.

The bonus disc really sheds light into more of Collins’ emotional state at the time. The live version of “In the Air Tonight” is especially chilling. A big surprise is that his future #1 hit, “Against All Odds,” was written at the same time, but didn’t make the cut. It’s included here in a demo form, sans lyrics. There’s also a demo of “Misunderstanding,” which he also gave to Genesis for the album Duke.

If we toss away the baggage from the Eighties and take this album at (excuse the pun) Face Value, it really is one of the greatest albums of the decade. —Tony Peters