Phil Collins – Face Value with Hugh Padgham’s Big Drum Sound

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  • Great sound throughout with both sides of this original UK pressing rating a solid Double Plus (A++) and playing quietly 
  • Hugh Padgham discovered an amazing drum sound on Peter Gabriel’s 3rd album, and he really went to town with it on this one, Collins’ debut (and Masterpiece)
  • His most consistent songwriting and many of his biggest hits – In The Air Tonight sounds amazing, but practically everything here does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Collins proves himself a passionate singer with a gift for both deeply felt ballads and snarling rockers.”

Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine on this breakout debut, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. We’ve tried to do some of his other albums but nothing we’ve played seems remotely as well recorded as this album from 1981.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, sounds digital and ridiculously processed. I suppose not many albums from 1985 weren’t, but it’s still an unfortunate development for us audiophile types who might’ve wanted to enjoy these albums but are just not able to get past the bad sound.

Fortunately, the recording quality of this album is still analog and can be excellent, thanks to hugely talented engineer and producer Hugh Padgham (Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.). On this copy, the sound is nothing short of superb.

Check out Phil’s take on Tomorrow Never Knows for some heavily reverbed vocal effects, complete with a slew of backwards psychedelic sounds. If anybody can play the weirdly syncopated rhythms of TNK, it’s Phil Collins.

What the best sides of this Phil Collins Classic from 1981 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1981
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we listed above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Whomp!

Until we heard some of the better copies we were never able to appreciate just how important bass definition and weight are to the sound of this record. When the bass is wooly or thin, as it is on so many copies — not clear, not deep, not full enough — it throws the rest of the mix off. When the bass is huge and powerful the music itself becomes huge and powerful.

The copies with the big bottom end are the only ones that really make you sit up and take notice.

Transparency Is Key

Phil’s lead and harmony vocals are both breathy and present on the best copies, with natural, not hyped-up, texture, and harmonics. This is especially important for the love songs.

The many ballads on the album — This Must Be Love and If Leaving Me Is Easy are two of our favorites — don’t work unless the sound is intimate and immediate.

Only the better pressings have the kind of high-resolution, full-bodied sound that allows both the rockers and the ballads to sound their best.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage British pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

In The Air Tonight
This Must Be Love
Behind The Lines
The Roof Is Leaking
Droned
Hand In Hand

Side Two

I Missed Again
You Know What I Mean
Thunder and Lightning
I’m Not Moving
If Leaving Me Is Easy
Tomorrow Never Knows
Over The Rainbow

AMG Review

Collins proves himself a passionate singer (and distinctive drummer) with a gift for both deeply felt ballads and snarling rockers. His debut album transformed him from the frontman of Genesis to a solo star who happened to be in Genesis, too. Contains “In the Air Tonight” and “I Missed Again.