Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Classic Albums: Face Value (1999)

Phil Collins was a musical giant during the 1980s.

classic albums face value offers a steady stream of interesting facts about the British musician's debut album and how he came to rule the charts between 1981 and 1991. His own music, and work with Genesis as that band evolved from prog rock to pop with him as frontman, was constantly in the charts with hits such as Take Me Home, One More Night, Invisible Touch, Mama, That's All and I Can't Dance.


Face Value, released in 1981, sold 12 million copies and scored three Top 20 hits with In the Air Tonight peaking at No. 2 in England.

This 60-minute documentary dives right into the album that launched Collins' solo career. Don't leave the room in the opening minutes.

Collins, who took over as frontman of British prog-rock group Genesis in 1976 after six years backing lead vocalist Peter Gabriel on drums, wasn't even planning to do a solo album 30 years ago.

Face Value came to be because of the break-up of his first marriage and his desire to learn how to use recording equipment.

The album's creation, he said, was if he had "painted a few pictures in my room and someone wanted to look at them."


The lyrics to the album's first song, In the Air Tonight, were improvised. Collins discusses the track's use of a drum machine. "The drummer would get bored playing anything like this," he suggests.

We learn why Collins decided to record his own version of Behind the Lines, the opening track of the Genesis album, Duke.

An early version of I Missed Again, a second single from the album that soared on the charts, is played.

Collins describes the instrumental, Hand in Hand, as something that would fit into a Disney cartoon. That's an interesting observation. Collins wrote five songs for the 1999 animated film, Tarzan. You'll Be in My Heart spent 19 weeks at No. 1 on Billboards's Adult Contemporary chart.


There's a generous excerpt of Collins performing If Leaving Me is Easy live. He dropped the mournful tune from his set lists because he tired of concert-goers making noise during the quiet number.

This Classic Albums episode packs plenty of punch with a series of interviews with musicians who played on the album, the production team and even Atlantic Records co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun and string arranger Arif Maradin, both of whom have since died.

Genesis bandmates Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford and band manager Tony Smith. Here.

Genesis sideman, and Collins' collaborator, Darryl Stuermer. Check. Trombonist Lui Lui Satterfield. Present.

Bassist Alphonso Johnson offers some neat insights about his role on the album too.

Horn aranger Tom Tom Washington reveals he had no idea who Collins was prior to working with him on Face Value. Guess he didn't have The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in his LP collection. Indian violinist L. Shankar was part of this effort too.

British guitar god Eric Clapton, who guested on The Roof is Leaking, is sadly missing. Instead, there's just a photo of an apparently intoxicated Collins posing with the former Cream member.

Collins describes Please Don't Ask as the most intimate of the tracks he wrote for possible use on Face Value. "I've never really written anything like that since," said Collins. But instead, the song appeared on the great Genesis effort, Duke. Yet, there's no explanation why this powerful song was left off Face Value. Pity. But this music fan strongly recommends Duke as the best Genesis album with Collins at the helm.

RATING: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Wikipedia page dedicated to Collins offers some impressive stats about his solo career. As of 2000, he sold 150 million albums. Collins, Paul McCartney and the late Michael Jackson are the only three musicians who have sold 100 million albums-plus as a member of a group and a solo act.

"This record crept up behind everybody," said Collins near the documentary's end.
"Suddenly I had another thing to do apart from Genesis."

The Collins juggernaut would peak in 1985 when No Jacket Required was released. Sussudio and One More Night both hit No. 1 in United States. No Jacket Required went triple platinum in that country.
Collins, now 60, announced his retirement in early 2011. Genesis fans hoping for a reunion of the classic Genesis line-up of Banks, Gabriel, Collins, Steve Hackett and Rutherford mourned the news.

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