I recently watched “Face Value,” the 1981 first album from
Phil Collins. It was the subject of yet another installment in
the Classic Albums series. This documentary was released in
1999, which was presumably when the majority of the
featured interviews took place. Seated at the mixing console,
Phil Collins discussed the “hows and whys” of this album,
as well as the origins of his huge hit, “In the Air Tonight.”
Apparently, the lyrics came to him spontaneously. Contrary to
many opinions, this album wasn’t the end product of laborious
detail, as Collins’ restless attention span precluded such
Phil Collins was able to enlist the services of several topnotch
musicians for this project, including Eric Clapton, bassist
Alphonso Johnson, and Indian violinist Lakshminarayanan
(aka “L.”) Shankar. Johnson illustrated some of his licks on
this album for this documentary. After Steve Hackett left
Genesis in 1977, Daryl Stuermer became the guitarist for
their live performances and played on the “Face Value”
album. As a result, he was also interviewed for this film.
Other notable contributors included record executive,
Ahmet Ertegun, string arranger, Arif Mardin, and
manager Tony Smith.
This film also included a discussion of the R&B influence
on the album, as well as the then-controversial use of
a horn section exclusively featuring African-American
musicians, and Phil Collins’ band mates in Genesis,
Mark Rutherford and Tony Banks, weighed in on Phil Collins’
solo projects and abilities as an arranger/songwriter.
It’s important to keep in mind that when “Face Value” was
primarily recorded in 1980, Phil Collins was still very involved
with Genesis, and sandwiched this solo project between their
“Duke” and “Abacab” albums. Therefore, he juggled two
separate careers: singer-drummer with Genesis and solo
artist. In 1976, Collins formed his fusion-type band, “Brand X,”
thereby providing him with an outlet for his improvisational
drumming skills. In other words, he was a very busy guy!
Although “Face Value would remain his most “classic” solo
effort, Collins produced a number of other solo albums in
the following years, officially leaving Genesis in 1995.
Of course, it’s well known that he eventually reunited with
Genesis years later, for a massive reunion tour. Fortunately,
I was able to see footage from that tour on DVD.
Personally, I found most of the music on “Face Value” rather
boring in comparison with the more interesting songs Collins
was producing with Genesis, at that time. I must admit that
I also preferred the Genesis instrumental contributions, even
those that were made during their more commercial “Pop”
tunes. Aside from a scripted biography of Phil Collins and a
solo discography through 1999, this DVD had no other
bonus features. Nevertheless, I believe it is another strong
entry in the Classic Albums series, particularly for Phil Collins fans.