Atlantic Records, 1981
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/10/1998
Who went pop first: Genesis or Phil Collins?
Although Genesis stayed somewhat progressive in the first few years following the departure of original vocalist Peter Gabriel, their music did make a bit of a turn towards radio-friendly pop with their hit "Follow You, Follow Me" - and it seemed to light some sort of fire under drummer/new vocalist Collins. This transformation is clearly heard on Genesis's album Duke.
That he came forth with a solo effort like Face Value isn't a surprise; that it wasn't significantly different than what Genesis was putting out shouldn't be that big of a surprise. That Collins created such a solid album, playing many instruments himself, is a pleasant surprise.
Face Value will forever be remembered for its breakthrough hit "In The Air Tonight," a song that is quite enjoyable once you remove the bobmardment it receives on rock radio even to this day. And, like many of these "breakthrough" hits, once you listen to it in the context of the whole album, it actually sounds better. Another hit from this album, "I Missed Again," offered a clue on how Collins would eventually shape his solo career through use of a brass section.
I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I can't fathom why someone who is so skilled at drumming like Collins is would resort to using the Roland Drum Machine on so many tracks (interspersed with real drums, of course). If anything was not meant to be synthesized, drums are the one case - granting special exception to Rick Allen of Def Leppard, of course. Then again, seeing that Collins displays his talents on the keyboards on many songs, including the surprisingly beautiful "The Roof Is Leaking," maybe I can bend the rules in my head and grant Collins some slack.
But as much as Collins wanted to be seen as the next "great white hope" for pop music, there is evidence on Face Value that he had not abandoned the progressive vein. Starting with "The Roof Is Leaking," Collins crafts a three-song set (including "Droned" and "Hand In Hand") that flows together quite well, and makes for an interesting listen. Still, the rockers and funked-up numbers on this one, including "Thunder And Lightning" and "I'm Not Moving," outnumber any progressive hopes.
Collins's choice to close out his first solo effort by covering an old Beatles tune, "Tomorrow Never Knows," is both a surprising choice and a bold gamble - fortunately, it's one that pays off quite well. Collins stays pretty close to the original, making this one rather fun to listen to - indeed, I was actually disappointed when the track ended.
It might now be 17 years old, but Face Value has held up very well over time - better, in fact, than some Genesis albums. This is definitely an album worth picking up, whether you're a Genesis or a Collins fan.