Towards the end of the 1970s, the premiere progressive band Genesis was in a state of flux and looking towards a new direction. They had lost their lead singer a few albums previously, but had ably continued with drummer Phil Collins stepping to the mike. They lost their lead guitarist only recently and released an album aptly titled And Then There Were Three. This recording was a dark and moody piece, with very little of the English pastoral sound they had been famous for in the past. With all this change happening, core members of the band began to make their first forays into solo recordings. Phil Collins was the last to take this step, but wound up finding his way to the most commercial success.
Face Value’s opener “In the Air Tonight” is one of the best examples of modern rock music of the time. Although the drum machine beginning sounds a bit cheesy and dated now, it was ground breaking then. When the drum roll that leads into the latter rocking half of the song comes in, it stakes its claim as one of the most popular songs of the era. Phil would make more use of the drum machine on later solo recordings, along with helping his band Genesis change their sound to accommodate it.
Genesis’ Duke had been released the previous year, and Phil took the excellent lead song “Behind the Lines” from that album, adds horns and turned it into a pop/R&B song! Who woulda thunk? He uses the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section on other tunes on Face Value too, like “I Missed Again” and “Thunder and Lightning.” These are both very catchy and fun. Not what we would have expected at all from one of the greatest drummers in the world from one of the premiere progressive rock bands.
“The Roof Is Leaking” is a light and melancholy, almost country flavored track with cool banjo playing from Genesis’ touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer. “Hand In Hand” features wordless vocals from Collins and a children’s choir, along with the punctuating EWF horn section again. There is a very sad song about the breakup with his wife, “You Know What I Mean.” It is kind of the prequel to Duke’s “Please Don’t Ask.” There is the upbeat “I’m Not Moving” which (with admirable restraint) surprisingly does not use the horn section. “If Leaving Me Is Easy” begins with a gorgeous free form sax solo that leads into a slow rhythmic piece whose deep and meaningful lyrics are beautifully sung by Mr. Collins.
There are two types of songs here. The fun and light dance tunes and the deep introspective pieces. This was an unexpected turn from the lead singer/drummer of Genesis, but became the direction that the rest of the band would take as they stepped towards their most commercial era during the 80s. I shouldn’t like this as much as I do, but it is so splendidly done I find it to be a guilty pleasure to be certain.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on January 8th, 2011