Judge Dennis Prince would like to apologize for what you may feel in the air tonight. Too many visits to Taco Bell, we suspect.
A rare and welcome insight into Collins's prodigious music talent and the fascinating story of the making of a true Classic Album.
Another in Eagle Rock's "Classic Albums" DVD series, Phil Collins—Face Value provides us an introspective look into Phil Collins's creative process and latter-day ruminations about his own swirling emotions as he delivered his first solo album apart from the band, Genesis. The album has long been lauded as a supreme yet unusual musical journey that is structurally diverse while maintaining thematic consistency. Its intent has long confounded listeners eager to unlock the mystery behind the lyrical expositions of an emerging talent whose energy for his craft is strangely juxtaposed by some unexplained inner brooding.
Well if you told me you were drowning,
Although he had been promoted to the role of front man for Genesis upon Peter Gabriel's departure, Phil Collins was clearly unfulfilled in his singing and songwriting endeavors. Citing his dissatisfaction of having to create by committee, Collins ventured into this self-helmed effort in 1981. With complete control over the creative process, Collins relished the possibilities in front of him. Unfortunately, this came at the same time as his divorce from Andrea Bertorelli, his wife of five years and mother to his son, Simon Collins. As he embarked upon recording Face Value, it was clear that his personal matters were weaving their way into his work. The collection of 12 songs is as diverse as the swirling emotions the artist was clearly undergoing. Nevertheless, the result was impeccable and sent the record to the top of the British charts and placed it consistently high on the U.S. Billboard tally as well.
Undoubtedly you're familiar with the major hit single, "In the Air Tonight," in which Collins seems to be singing about some dreadful occurrence he witnessed at an unstated time in an undisclosed location. This became the making of some of the most talked-about urban legends, with stories usually depicting Collins as witness to a drowning he either couldn't prevent or to which he willfully chose not intercede. According to Collins, it's all rubbish.
"I wasn't even intending on writing a song, I just was fooling around. And I got these chords that I liked…so I turned the microphone on…and then I started singing. And the lyrics you hear were what I wrote spontaneously with the feeling of that music at that time. And when someone says, 'Now tell me, Phil, what is it really about?,' I say, 'I don't know. I've no idea 'cause I just made it up as I went along.'"
But Collins is forthcoming when he identifies the pain and turmoil he was experiencing during his divorce and how that impacted his creative output. In this DVD, we catch up with Collins circa 1999 who, seated at his home-studio mixing board, offers insight into the Face Value album as a whole, in addition to commenting on each song therein. This makes for a compelling setting as we watch Collins in the act of genuine recollection and subsequent reaction while he listens to playback of each track and even goes on to perform some on camera (and he's clearly affected as he recognizes the emotions at work as he sings "Please Don't Ask," a number originally omitted from the album). He goes on to describe how he decided to incorporate the horns section from Earth, Wind & Fire into a track and also how frustrated he would become with live audiences when attempting to perform the soft and sensitive "If Leaving Me Is Easy," ultimately chiding those in attendance to shut up and listen:
"When I came out on stage here tonight, I said, 'This Dallas audience wants to listen to the quiet songs.' Am I right?! I hope so…"
Collins is joined by original engineer Hugh Padgham as well as by original musical contributors Tom Tom Washington (horns arranger), L. Shankar (violinist), and Alphonso Johnson (bass guitar). Throughout the excursion, Collins faithful will be treated to previously unseen concert footage as well as Collins's own home movies on the road and backstage.
As for the DVD, you'll find this one presented in a 1.33:1 full-frame format, unfortunately bearing the visible stigma of its videotaped sources. The audio is presented in an unnecessarily confined Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, one that should have been expanded to utilize extended channels to deliver a more immersive experience. It works as is, but you'll likely feel it could have been done up just a bit better. The only extras are textual biographical notes and a discography.
If you're a Phil Collins enthusiast, you'll no doubt enjoy this disc. It's a very personal chat with the multi-talented, multi-platinum performer that seems to end too soon. Give this one a look, if for nothing else than to hear the man himself dispel the wild stories surrounding "In the Air Tonight." Of course, you'll have trouble getting that infectious drum-machine riff out of your head.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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