Sound: This is Phil Collins' first solo album. There are two main musical styles explored here that later became trademarks for his solo and group efforts.
Firstly there is a drum sound that at the time of release hit the listener with the force nothing short of a revelation. It was created by feedbacking the drum signal into the mixing consoles talkback mic and then gating the reverb. This "gated reverb" sound later became "the" drum sound used by almost everybody in the 80's. Gated reverb was finally put on everything - vocals, guitars, any kind of percussion - to create this "I-want-to-get-out-of-here" effect that everybody knew from the last part of Collins' "In the Air Tonight". It became one of the the signature sounds of 80's productions.
Secondly there is the funky turn Collins' productions took from here on. Earth, Wind and Fire's horn section, the "Phoenix Horns", add their skills and give many songs on this album a sharp and funky edge. The use of horns also influenced Collins' drumming and singing.
Of course there a the ballads, too. But on this album they do not seem as calculated as Collins' later efforts. All the songs convey a sense of urgency that is really infectious. // 10
Lyrics: Collins was in the middle of a divorce when he wrote the songs that later became "Face Value". Although the lyrics mostly explore the topics of loss and betrayal they are never bitter and match the mood of the music perfectly.
On the album you can also hear how much Collins had matured since he replaced Peter Gabriel as the lead singer of Genesis four years before. He does it all, from fragile ballads to scat vocals. // 9
Overall Impression: Most people discard "Face Value" as the first step of what they regard as Collins' decline into the mainstream chart sector. He is further blamed for dragging Genesis with him. Although it won't make much of a difference and will not change anybody's opinion about this album, I'd still like to express a dissenting opinion:
I can't help saying, it's actually very good.
When this came out it wasn't likely to be successful at all. The recordings had been turned down by several record companies until Collins was reluctantly signed by Atlantic. Surprisingly, the first single the haunting In the Air Tonight made the Top Ten worldwide and paved the way for this very personal album. The atmosphere ranges from warm and intimate to exuberant and light, from playful to earnest and the recording is very dynamic. The playing is impeccable, sound and production was groundbreaking and, in fact, has aged quite well. One should not lay the blame for Collins' later career on this record. It cannot be held responsible. It's different. Give it a chance! // 10