|Released 13 February 1981 (UK)|
Artist Phil Collins
Label Atlantic Records
Release date 13 February 1981
Genres Pop rock, Art rock
|Recorded June 1980 – January 1981|
Studio The Town House (West London, England)
Producer Phil Collins Hugh Padgham
Face Value (1981) Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982)
Similar Phil Collins albums, Rock music albums
Face Value is the debut solo studio album by English singer-songwriter Phil Collins. It was released in February 1981 on the Virgin label internationally and Atlantic Records in North America. The album reached number one in the UK on its initial release and was well-received by critics. It opens with his successful debut single "In the Air Tonight", which had a dark mood inspired by the separation from his wife Andrea and rose to number two in the UK. The album was reissued, with bonus tracks included, on 29 January 2016. The reissued version's cover art is taken in the same fashion as the original's, except it features a present-day Collins instead.
By 1978, Phil Collins had been part of the progressive rock band Genesis for eight years. After spending the first five of those years as a drummer, he reluctantly accepted the role of frontman of the group following original vocalist Peter Gabriel's departure at the end of the tour for their concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Collins took over vocals for 1976's A Trick of the Tail. While still featuring the complex progressive rock the group had been recording since its 1970 album Trespass, it also featured a more mainstream sound which attracted a larger audience. Their 1978 album, ...And Then There Were Three..., featured their first crossover hit single, "Follow You Follow Me".
Collins had been planning to record a solo album for some time. He told Modern Drummer in 1979:
One ambition is to do my own album which will have a lot of variety. I write songy [sic] stuff, as well as some from the Brand X area. I'm also hip to what Eno does - those kind of soundtracks which I've always been interested in - two or three minutes of just mood. The album, when it does come out, will have a lot of different styles on it.
Following ...And Then There Were Three... and a world tour across America, Europe, and Japan, Collins took a leave of absence from the group to deal with his troubled family life. Collins' first wife filed for divorce in 1979 and left Collins in the home they shared in England by himself. Collins reportedly stayed in his house for weeks working on songs that reflected his personal life. Initially, Collins did not want to record them for an album until Atlantic Records, Genesis' record label in America, and Virgin Records, his label overseas, offered him a solo contract. Collins would base the majority of Face Value on the divorce he had endured. During the conception of the album, Collins had forged a close friendship with John Martyn and contributed towards his 1980 album Grace and Danger, which contained a similar narrative relating to divorce and relationship breakdown. Some of Collins' material that he wrote for Face Value made its way onto Genesis' subsequent follow-up, Duke. Collins' radio-friendly vocals and increased songwriting contributions helped to make Duke a major commercial success and Genesis's first UK number one album in April 1980.
Production and music
Recording sessions for Face Value took place at the Town House in London between late winter of 1979 and early January 1981. According to Classic Albums, in what was then considered a controversial move at the time, Collins, who grew up listening to American R&B as a child in Chiswick, decided to incorporate an R&B horn section, hiring the Phenix Horns, who played backup for Earth, Wind & Fire. Collins refused to listen to friends who had advised him not to use the horns and they would play a major role for most of his solo career. Assistant recording engineer Nick Launay was hired after Collins was impressed with his work with Public Image Limited.
Collins also used another then-controversial method in using drum programming rather than just live drum instrumentation despite his reputation as a drummer. Collins said he wanted to experiment with different sounds and was inspired by the works of his former band mate Peter Gabriel, who had used drum programming on his last album. Collins was often part of these sessions. Many of the songs' arrangements were done by Collins and session arranger Tom Tom 84. He also incorporated Indian-styled violins, played by L. Shankar, for additional textures. The last recording session for Face Value was in January 1981 prior to the release of the first single, "In the Air Tonight". Atlantic CEO Ahmet Ertegun advised Collins to perform drums during the verses and opening of the song, whereas the album version did not feature live drumming until the bridge. Several songs on the album featured an autobiographical view into Collins' life at the time, mainly to the anger he felt at his impending divorce. Rumours about "In the Air Tonight" being similarly autobiographical were widely circulated in America; in fact, the lyrics were ad-libbed and have no actual meaning. Other songs such as "You Know What I Mean" (a song that was used on Frida's Something's Going On album) and "If Leaving Me Is Easy" were solemn ballads that talked of heartbreak. "I Missed Again" also had a solemn tone but was revised as a peppier song while still focusing its theme of heartbreak. The jazzy ballad "This Must Be Love" focused on Collins' then new romance at the time with Jill Tavelman, who would be his second wife (and second divorce).
The album features songs of different genres. While technically a rock and pop offering, the basis of many of the tracks lies in R&B with light funk influences especially in "I'm Not Moving", for which Collins sang his backgrounds with the vocoder. The two instrumentals, "Droned" and "Hand in Hand", were progressive rock instrumentals with the first featuring an exotic African sound, while "Hand in Hand" featured jazz elements and a children's choir humming the music and improvisational instrumentation by Collins and the Phenix Horns. "The Roof Is Leaking" had Delta blues and country elements. "Behind the Lines" was originally released by Genesis on their Duke album as a progressive rock number, yet Collins worked up a new, horn-driven R&B/funk-inspired arrangement after speeding up the tape on the Genesis version and thinking that the sped-up version sounded like a Michael Jackson song. The album featured a cover of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", which included instruments and vocals playing in reverse while Collins provided multi-layered background vocals and sparse drumming. After the song ends, Collins can be heard quietly singing "Over the Rainbow" in reference to the recent murder of John Lennon; this final song is unlisted on most releases of the album (the original US cassette version being an exception), and would be the only time Collins used a "hidden" track on one of his own releases. Three of the most notable songs that Collins wrote during the Face Value sessions, but were ultimately omitted were "Misunderstanding" - later reworked as a Genesis song on their 1980 album Duke, "How Can You Just Sit There", which evolved into "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)", and what would become "Don't Lose My Number", which wouldn't appear until Collins' third album No Jacket Required in 1985.
AllMusic's William Ruhlmann rated Face Value four-and-a-half out of five stars. He stated: "Collins proves himself a passionate singer (and distinctive drummer) with a gift for both deeply felt ballads and snarling rockers." Steve Pond of Rolling Stone rated it three out of five stars. He explained that "[Collins] keeps the fluid vocal tone he's lately developed in Genesis, yet ignores the group's high-blown conceits in favor of some basic pop and R&B lessons". He also called the album "pop music about personal turmoil". However, he stated that "the singer's broken heart is too clearly on his sleeve, and musical missteps abound".
Writing for Ultimate Classic Rock in 2013, Will Levith described the album as a "now-classic" which "featured one of the dopest ’80s songs too: 'In the Air Tonight', which just about everybody has played air drums to one time or another". However, he described the cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" as "absolutely atrocious" and queried: "Why Collins thought it was necessary to lay such a giant turd on an otherwise awesome album is beyond us." In 2016, Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian described Face Value as "an intriguing debut, wandering between art-rock and soulful MOR... Face Value's most potent quality was its emotional transparency. Like the pensive portrait on the cover, the songs addressed the listener with unflinching directness."
Nigel F from Scunthorpe Telegraph gave the 2016 reissue a brief, but very positive review, praising Collins' hits such as "In the Air Tonight" and claiming the reworked material "sounds as fresh as ever". He also praised the additional content of the reissue as well, giving the album a 10/10 score in the end. Writing for Dorset Echo Joanna Davis gave the reissue a positive review, praising how "In the Air Tonight" sounds crystal-clear in the new surround sound and claiming most tracks stand the test of time, although some, like "If Leaving Me Is Easy," "belong in the forgotten land of 80s ballads preceded by a saxophone introduction". Icon Fetch reviewer, Tony Peters, was hugely positive about the album, acclaiming it as "not only his finest work, it’s also an incredible piece of catharsis following the breakup of a relationship" and praising the overall diversity of the music and concluding that it is one of the greatest albums of the decade.
Released on 13 February 1981, Face Value became an immediate success, reaching No. 1 in the UK, Canada, and other European countries, while peaking in the top ten in the U.S. "In the Air Tonight" became the album's biggest hit, reaching No. 2 in the UK, No. 1 in three other countries, and becoming a top twenty hit in the U.S. Other songs such as "I Missed Again" found modest success reaching No. 14 in the UK and No. 19 in the U.S., while the third single, "If Leaving Me Is Easy", reached No. 17 in the UK but was not released in America. Sales of the album reached five million in the U.S. and went five-times platinum in the UK and ten-times platinum in Canada. No solo tour was produced from this album.
All tracks written by Phil Collins, except where noted.
There were many songs which were omitted from the album including:
1In the Air Tonight5:30
2This Must Be Love3:56
3Behind The Lines3:55