Phil Collins – Face Value

More Phil Collins

  • Phil Collins KILLER solo debut finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both of this vintage import’s sides
  • 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.)
  • We’ve tried some of his other albums but nothing we’ve played has struck us as being remotely as well recorded as his debut album from 1981
  • 5 stars: “. . . Collins’ most honest, most compelling work. He went on to become a huge star, with loads more hits, but Face Value stands as his masterpiece and one of the finest moments of the ’80s musical landscape.”

Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. The sound on the best copies is VIBRANT, with SUPERB extension on the top, PUNCHY BASS, and excellent texture on the drums and percussion, as well as spacious strings and vocals.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, is digital and ridiculously processed sounding. 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.

This vintage Atlantic Import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Face Value 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 pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1981
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

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 discuss 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.

Bass Definition

Until we heard some of the better copies we were simply not able to appreciate just how important good bass definition and serious weight down low 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 of just how good these songs are. 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 backward psychedelic sounds. If anybody can play the weirdly syncopated rhythms of TNK, it’s Phil Collins.

What We’re Listening For on Face Value

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Hugh Padgham in this case — would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Further Reading

We’ve identified a number of Demo Discs for Bass on the site, and there are surely many more to come.

Whomp is a quality of the bottom end we look for here at Better Records. If you have speakers that move a lot of air down low and like to play your music loud you know what whomp is all about.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

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 5 Star Rave Review

Phil Collins’ first solo album, 1981’s Face Value, was a long time coming, but it proved worth the wait, both for the Genesis drummer/vocalist himself and fans of thoughtful, emotionally charged pop. He’d been wrestling with the idea of doing a solo record for years, finding great inspiration in the pain caused by an impending divorce and craving artistic independence after years of collaboration. Many of the songs ended up on Genesis’ 1980 album Duke — and “Against All Odds” was pocketed for later use — but he kept enough to make an album that stands as a classic moment of ’80s pop/rock. Collins produced the album himself and played keyboards and drums, calling in friends and the Earth, Wind & Fire horns to fill out the songs.

Kicking off with the bitter anthem “In the Air Tonight,” rightly considered one of the great heartbreak songs of all time, the album alternates between moody ballads and bouncily soulful tracks that try to put a smile on the pain. On the quieter songs like “If Leaving Me Is Easy,” Collins’ wracked vocals leave no doubt that he’s not sugarcoating his emotional devastation as he sorts through the wreckage of his life. The poppier tracks, like the snappy “Behind the Lines” and the impossibly hooky “I Missed Again,” show off his skills as a hitmaker and vocalist. The pulsing “I’m Not Moving” marries one of Collins’ catchiest melodies and airiest productions with the most forceful lyrics on the record.

His everyman style of singing translates to both types of songs; he’s just as good at wringing every drop of emotion out of the ballads as he is at sailing through the deceptive breezy tunes. His production is very much of the era; fretless bass pops and lush synth pads are very ’80s-sounding, as are the huge gated drums. It’s also surprisingly subtle at times, though considering that Collins worked with Brian Eno, maybe it’s not so shocking. The new agey “Droned” and the swinging “Hand in Hand” give the album some instrumental texture and allow a break from all the desperate emotion on display. The gently sung, sweet-as-punch “This Must Be Love,” which was written post-divorce about a new love, also gives an early respite after the lurching, bruising “In the Air Tonight.”

This range of sound and emotion is part of what helps the album succeed as much as it does; so does the feeling that Collins felt driven to make this album to help him heal. It’s not a career move or a cash grab; it’s a transmission from a wounded soul delivered with a soft touch and sensitivity. As such, it’s Collins’ most honest, most compelling work. He went on to become a huge star, with loads more hits, but Face Value stands as his masterpiece and one of the finest moments of the ’80s musical landscape.