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The value of Phil Collins' Face Value

It is getting high time to take a closer look at the new medium that is about to conquer the market. The DVD technology offers incredible possibilities in audio and video quality and lots of comfort making use of it. It certainly is the most promising medium with gigantic growth rates. A DVD can contain anything – data, movies, music or all of that at once. A DVD can store anywhere from 4.7 to 17GB data, far more than the maximum 700MB that fit on a CD-ROM. The DVD medium sets new audio standards, too. While the audio resolution on a CD is 44KHz, the DVD extends it to 192KHz. One more reason to take close look at DVDs.

Another reason is provided by grandmaster Phil Collins who has released two DVDs. The first one, Live And Loose In Paris, is not very spectacular – the content is known from the video tape. The other one, Face Value, sounds promising. It even contains lots of “unseen footage” which will make it even more popular with fans.

cover1The DVD was released a couple of months ago by TDK in their “Classic Albums – The greatest records in Rock History” series. That is no exaggeration. It is not just Genesis fans who consider Face Value a milestone in rock music. The DVD runs for about 60 minutes. There is little bonus material – it is, in fact, limited to a brief biography / discography. You can have a broad range of subtitles (in English, German, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish). Unlike current cinema prodcutions the video format is still the standard 4:3. You can choose between normal stereo sound and high-resolution Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. You can jump from song to song, just like on a CD. The Face Value DVD also contains a short booklet in which Phil Collins is introduced in three languages. So far, so good – what about the content?

The DVD offers rare old material from 1979/80 as well as new film material from the studio that was shot probably last year or early in this year. We also get to see live recordings from 1982/83, 1985 and 1997. Many influential people from the rock business who were involved in the making of Collins’debut make their statements. It begins with In The Air Tonight, of course. Phil Collins is in his studio in 1999/2000 listening to the demos. He remembers that the clicking noise of the fridge ended up on the demos (probably also on the final version, 3:05 into the song). The story of In The Air Tonight is not all that new, but the story of Behind The Lines is. Genesis once played that song at double speed. Phil apparently liked that and recorded his own faster version. Tony and Mike as well as long-time manager Tony Smith and producer Hugh Padgham gives statements too. Homevideo recordings of individual recording sessions are of particular interest: For the first time we are given a glimpse at the way Collins works, though his approach for Face Value must have been quite unique. Alphonso Johnson, who once played with Chester Thompson in Joe Zawinul’s Weather Report, provided fine bass loops for I Missed Again and This Must Be Love. You do not have to be a pro to understand how they came about. Phil uses the demo tapes to remember how I Missed Again developed. At the time he would sing “I misses you babe – I really do”. Phil also demonstrates the Motown drumming style.

cover2One of the definitive highlights is Phil’s 1999/2000 rendition of Please Don’t Ask, a song that ended up on Genesis' Duke. Phil plays the song on the piano (he actually reads the lyrics from the Duke booklet). Even twenty years later, he’s close to tears near the end. The merry side of Phil Collins isn’t neglected either. Tom Tom Washington is always up for a joke. Daryl Stuermer remembers Louis Satterfield saying that Phil looked like an English farmer, but that he was as hip as anyone else on the drums. Shankar, who also worked with Peter Gabriel, mentions how impressed he was at Collins’ working style. He compares him with Frank Zappa because of his ability to improvise spontaneously when things don’t work. Shankar also demonstrates his quick tongue and improvises Droned.

There’s also some “I wouldn’t do it like that today anymore”. On listening to the rough mix of The Roof Is Leaking Phil regrets that he did not release it that way. This song is also performed in a current live version by Phil. His biggest patron at the time was the boss of Atlantic Records. Ahmet Ertegun is still enchanted by Face Value. For him, In The Air Tonight was a definitive item. He also reveals interesting details about hidden fragments on the record. A part of Hand In Hand was used at the end of Tomorrow Never Knows, albeit played faster and backwards. Phil assures that no drugs were taken. In the end there is another highlight – an almost complete live recording of If Leaving Me Is Easy that had never been seen before. Arif Mardin explains how the string arrangements were made. He also was the conductor of Pick Up The Pieces on A Hot Night In Paris. The DVD ends with the 1997 live version of In The Air Tonight.

Not all the songs are dissected and by far not all anecdotes are told. The most glaring omission is the lack of a commented You Know What I Mean. Still there are many lost treasures on this DVD that make it one of the best releases from the Genesis camp. At its end one is impressed by Phil’s versatility, a trait that was often overlooked in Phil in recent years. It may well be, that not only Genesis but Phil Collins, too, have not recorded anything that quite reached this quality anymore.

The DVD is recommended unreservedly. It’s a must for every fan. The only obstacle is the acquisition of a DVD player. There is supposed to be a Genesis DVD next year – one more reason to buy one. 

by Christian Gerhardts

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

Phil Collins

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