From Genesis to Revelation (1969)
From Genesis to Revelation (1969)
Album Score: 10
Once upon a time, Phil Collins was not a member of Genesis. Historians don't know what he was up to in 1969—my guess he spent that year standing in front of great big mirror admiring his full head of hair while it lasted. Instead, the drummer that can be heard most predominately on here is John Silver (Chris Stewart was the original drummer, and he can be heard on “Silent Sun”). Also, there was no Steve Hackett; there was a guy named Anthony Phillips. You might know Anthony Phillips from his solo career that began in the late '70s. Or you might not, since he's not very well known. Rest assured, however, Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford, and Tony Banks are present. They were teenagers, and they were dorks.
The weirdest thing about From Genesis to Revelation is the type of music on it. It has not even a trace of progressive rock—this is a pop album chiefly inspired by The Bee Gees. (THE BEE GEES!!!!) These songs generally last around three to four minutes, they all have corny string arrangements, and Peter Gabriel sings with a lot of reverb! Yeah, so you can pretty immediately tell that Genesis wasn't doing anything revolutionary whatsoever for the late '60s. And these lyrics are some of the most ridiculously pretentious that I've ever come across. This is a concept album, of sorts, about the God creating the universe. That's an ambitious goal for a quintet of teenagers, but excuse me while I walk to the nearest corner and laugh my head off.
Even though I'd imagine even the most faithful Genesis fan would probably finds this album to be pretty hilarious and dismiss it, it's worthy of a second glance. There is a surprising amount of good stuff on here. The lyrics might be bizarre and pretentious, but as I was reading through them, I discovered that I liked them. I thought they were pretty well-written for the most part. Even better was the ultra-dramatic way this teenaged Peter Gabriel sings them.
Here are the opening two stanzas of “The Serpent,” which talks about the creation of the universe and man: (“Dark night, planets are set / Creator prepares for the dawn of man / You're waking up, the day of incarnation / Said you're waking up to life / Images he made to love / Images of gods in flesh / Man is wonderful, very wonderful / Look at him / Beware the future.”) I'm not much of a lyrics kinda guy, but call me crazy—these are kinda good. They're nothing too revolutionary, but they're thought provoking and don't resort to obvious cliches. Even if you don't agree with me, you should be able to at least concede that they're not nearly as embarrassing as they could have been.
Though, as I said, I'm not really a lyrics man, and I listened to From Genesis to Revelation paying mind to the instrumentation and melodies. Obviously, these guys had a long way to go before their instrumentation would be perfected; they don't come off as anything other than a bunch of teenagers who want to play some corny pop music. Phillips strums his acoustic guitar pretty much the same way in all these songs, and Tony Banks' piano solos mostly consist of boring patterns. But I'd say they did alright considering their imitations. The melodies, however, are surprisingly strong. For my money, “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet” is the best of them, starting out with a West Side Story-style jazz groove and then progressing to a rather warm pop song with a sweet melody. I also have to mention that these guys seem to know a thing or two about chord progressions. They're not only surprisingly very ably written, but sometimes fairly complicated. I guess it was no surprise that they would quickly turn into disciples of King Crimson, then!
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a big reason these guys wrote a bunch of Bee Gees clones is that they wanted to please their original producer, Jonathan King. Unfortunately that producer wasn't too good, and these songs sound pretty dang atrocious as a result. The strings are oftentimes quite intrusive, the guitars don't sound crisp enough, and while the cheesy reverb on Gabriel's vocals are cute at first, it gets old pretty quickly. This album also gets pretty boring by the end. As I was scoring the track reviews, I got a little tired of how all these songs seemed to sound alike. Not even The Bee Gees had this much of a saminess problems. So, anyway, this would be the last album they would produce with King, and the last album they would release with the Decca label. Ah, Decca. If only they could have known what mega-stars these guys would become!
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 11
Genesis abandoned all that sunshine-pop stuff and went all King Crimson on us, which I'm sure disappointed about two people. Even though this is still pretty early in their career, it sounds exactly like a Genesis album. That is to say, there's no major stylistic difference between this and Selling England By the Pound. Yup, this is an album full of wimpy sounding songs, and lyrics that indicate that they read a lot of geeky fantasy novels. ...Of course, that's one of the main reasons I like Genesis. I am a pretty wimpy reader of fantasy novels myself. Also, Genesis has a pretty good handle on melodies and atmospheres, and, generally speaking, good melodies and atmospheres are why I like listening to music. (That's one of the reasons I never cared for Rush or Styx even though I do sympathize with their incurable geekiness.)
Really, that's all there is to Genesis' appeal, because God knows they weren't very good instrumentalists. ...That is to say, they were pretty good, but they really had nothin' on many of the other huge bands of the day. (I don't think that is news to anyone.) They didn't have any real virtuosos in the group. Their guitarists and keyboardist usually just stuck to playing arpeggios. Peter Gabriel played his flute about as well as you'd expect to hear at a high school recital. Phil Collins wasn't even in this incarnation of the band, and thus the drumming on Trespass is merely average. What's more, they sometimes even come off as amateurish in this release. They get some slack there, though, since they were still extremely young.
Luckily Genesis isn't about their instrumentalists and they never pretended to be; they were about songs. And they come up with some pleasant ones in Trespass. Right away, “Looking For Someone” is a highly engaging, mystical sort of song with interesting lyrics, thick atmosphere, and a rather ear-catching melody. It's nothing that really blows away my toupee; I consider it more to be a song that I just enjoy listening to while relaxing in a big chair. But even for such a song, they do a really respectable job developing it through a series of dramatic crescendos! If I'm going to listen to a seven-minute song, it's great that it has a lot of crescendos in it, because it actually gives me the feeling that it's going somewhere! Sometimes it gets boring, but I listen to it knowing that it won't be boring for long.
On the other hand, “White Mountain,” does seem to get stuck in a few ruts. The slower, mystical parts seem to go on for too long, and its crescendos aren't very numerous and not very well developed. However, I do like some of the textures they pull out there, which is the main reason I gave it a respectable 'B' rating in the track reviews... So, this is still a good song to listen to while lazing around in my big chair! “Vision of Angels” is a near-brilliant song that does develop rather well... That beautiful piano passage that opens it is incredibly ear-catching, and I'm almost moved profoundly whenever they get to that chorus. (It seems to take a lot to move me nowadays, so “almost moving me” is a pretty big deal.) The instrumental interlude is intricate and keeps the overall song moving at a solid pace.
“Stagnation” is very slow moving, but it's the sort of thing that I can lose myself into, which is quite a rarity for me. It's a sweet, pastoral epic is another sweet thing to listen to while I'm in that relaxed position. (And it's not like it's 100 percent “stagnant,” either... it gets pretty tense at times.) “Dusk” never gets tense at all, but it's excused because it's only four minutes long, and it's a nice precursor to the song that follows, “The Knife.” That is without a doubt the highlight of Trespass due to the fact that it's nine minutes long and pretty consistently tense throughout. It might be “slow” at times, but it always gives me the impression that something big is happening. Again, that's not something I experience too often...
Somehow I feel a bit strange awarding this album such a high score even though I'd imagine that 95 percent of the human race wouldn't feel the same about it. Although I guess I'm at a point in my life where I'm not surprised if 95 percent of the human race is profoundly different than me! Despite my pretty glowing recommendation of Trespass, this is not a great place to start with Genesis. If you already own the similar though superior albums Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme, Selling England By the Pound and you're itching for more, then get Trespass immediately. And try not to feel bad about being an egghead. You should never feel bad for being an egghead. We're the ones that make the world go round. According to me.
Read the track reviews:
Nursery Cryme (1971)
Album Score: 12
This Medieval-progressive-folk album sounds much like Trespass except it's about a billion times better. And, look! They got a new drummer! Phil Collins! You might not recognize this guy if you were to see a photograph of him, since he had more or less a full head of hair, but he would later go on to become one of the most popular stars of the 1980s. How a major '80s pop star came from rock 'n' roll's geekiest band is one of the world's most tantalizing mysteries. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. This was 1971. It was the year of wonder and magic. (I wasn't born yet, but if this album is any indication, living in 1971 was like living in a princess fairy tale.) Steve Hackett joined the group, too. Not that the previous guitarist Anthony Phillips was terrible, but he couldn't take the stress of live performances.
And thus, Genesis had their classic line-up. They not only seemed to hit their stride as a collective unit, but they also started to write more consistently interesting melodies, had a better handle on instrumentation, and figured out how to write more engaging lyrics. In other words, Nursery Cryme is a bona fide progressive-rock classic. Let's talk more about Phil Collins, because that man was awesome in ways that were completely unrelated to his '80s career. The way he was able to so expertly throw in complicated fill after complicated fill is enough to make my head spin. In particular, take a listen to his work “Fountain of Salamacis.” Sheesh! I could try to imagine that song without Collins' drumming, but that would make me too depressed. That song rules.
One of my favorite things about Trespass was Genesis' constant ability to connect a song through a series of crescendos. Rest assured, Genesis hadn't given up that art, but they're using it more gracefully now. “The Musical Box” is a 10-minute song and only goes through a couple major build-ups. But each build-up seems very well deserved, and usually gets me on the edge of my seat. The first few minutes of that song is some terribly enchanting Medieval folk with sweet, pastoral textures and a haunting melody gently delivered by Peter Gabriel. But old Steve Hackett ups the ante somewhere in the middle by delivering some gruff electric guitar passages, and Tony Banks comes forth with some bouncy organ chords. ...In short, its ups are exciting and its downs are gorgeous. I suppose these guys could have figured out how to noodle a little better... I'm not nearly as impressed with Genesis as I am with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, for instance. But I guess Genesis were a texture-oriented group anyway, and they were quite good at it. All in all, “The Musical Box” is about as good as it gets in prog-rock. ...Well, with the exception of the other songs Genesis did in Foxtrot and Selling England By the Pound. Those didn't exist yet, though.
“Harold the Barrel” is a major highlight of Nursery Cryme even though it's not one of the 5+-minute prog epics. It's more of a silly, bouncy-piano pop tune, but the melody is FANTASTIC, and it develops astoundingly. The number of different melodies and textures they cram into just three minutes had enough ideas to fill up at least half of a good album. And it's utterly thrilling. Other short songs, the Medieval folky “For Absent Friends” and “Harlequin” don't make quite the same impression, but they're both interesting melodically and they make terribly sweet listens. Singers Phil Collins (on the former) and Peter Gabriel (on the latter) might as well be the star of those songs; their gentle, high-pitched vocals help lend the song a bittersweet flavor that I fall in love with.
When it comes to epic tracks, it doesn't get much more epic than “The Return of the Giant Hogweed.” It is a BIG song that has BIG ambitions and accomplishes BIG things! OK... maybe I'm overrating it since its loud organ chords and drum patterns don't quite seem to make up for the weakish melody. But that's still a fun song to listen to. “Seven Stones” is also, a nice, sweet folky ballad, but I suppose it drags just a little bit.
I've heard reports from a number of factions that Nursery Cryme is a boring album. I've never understood this. I can listen to an album like this and find it so exciting that I practically pee my pants. But I suppose there are some people who can't get themselves immersed in the beautiful folky sections and can't get too excited with the epic, drum-heavy moments. Maybe other people find Peter Gabriel's fantasy lyrics too pretentious. ...These people are nuts, if you ask me, but each to his own. Let them listen to their stupid Kiss albums. (Sorry about not discussing the lyrics. You can read them for yourself on the Internet, you know!)
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 14
This album makes me feel good. I listen to it all the time and perhaps it's *the* indisputable proof that I am a geek. (I like Selling England By the Pound slightly more than this, but somehow Foxtrot seems geekier.) Genesis dramatically improved their act since Nursery Cryme too; that much you'll get after listening to the first song. Whereas their instrumentation standards on earlier albums have seemed somewhat amateurish and rough around the edges, they have blossomed so much on Foxtrot that they had surely become among the best instrumentalists in the business.
Maybe they weren't as technically proficient as Yes, King Crimson or Jethro Tull, but give me their arrangement sensibilities over those bands any time. Listening to the pastoral sounds of “Time Table” for instance is exactly what it's like to spend a happy day outdoors in the summer sun. There aren't a whole hell of a lot of songs that give me that impression so distinctly. That's my favorite song in Foxtrot, by the way, which the vast majority of this album's fans probably wouldn't share. But I don't care! I love it! The vocal melody is just as warm and beautiful as the instrumentation!
Peter Gabriel's singing has also improved greatly since the last album. He's more or less play acting through most of this, and I buy everything he does. He sounds so compelling with his dramatic turns throughout “Get 'Em Out By Friday,” for instance, that I hang onto his every word and never for a moment think he's being corny or pretentious. I also have to continue my endless appraisal of Phil Collins' masterful abilities as a prog drummer. Especially his work in “Watcher of the Skies” has me in total awe. I'm not even sure how those incessantly fast and complicated rolls and fills are even physically possible. He must have ingested a magic bean.
I only have one complaint about Foxtrot, and it's so minor that it's pretty much not a complaint at all. While “Can-Utility and the Coastliner” is lovely, everything I said about Genesis improving their sound doesn't apply so much to that song. It's rather loose around the edges, and the journey it takes us on through different textures and crescendos doesn't compel me nearly as much as the other songs. I still like listening to it quite a lot, mostly because the vocal melody is sweet, but it seems like they easily could have done more with it. It's just a minor lost opportunity.
The closing track, “Supper's Ready” is a 23-minute suite and a pure treat from beginning to end. I suppose the normal people will listen to it and think it's mostly dull, particularly those slow and quiet spots, but I cannot express enough to you that I am not a normal person. That's one song that I listen to with my eyes closed, and I let it transport me to a different land! (I try not to do that when I'm listening to it in the car, though.) There is such a wide variety of different textures, moods and melodies in there that I always have a blast with it. It's even terribly silly in the middle with those Hobbit singers! (Yes, I think those are Hobbits. ...I already told you that I am a geek! Get over it!!)
The more I listen to Foxtrot, the more I seem to like it. It is an amazing album, and surely one of the greatest prog works ever made. Not only does it have an amazing array of textures, moods and melodies, but it's consistently entertaining and beautiful. I have spent many happy years listening to, dissecting, and loving this album, and I plan to spend many more years continuing that. Many, many, many years. (Somebody please play “Time Table” at my funeral... It'll cheer everyone up, and I think my corpse would like it, too.)
Read the track reviews:
Genesis Live (1973)
Album Score: 13
Amazingly despite my professed love and affection for early Genesis albums, I've never totally gotten into their live albums. “What's the point of them?” I've been known to ask myself. “They did their songs perfectly in the studio, and it's not like there were any major virtuosos like Pete Townsend or Eric Clapton in the group.” On the other hand, I was thinking those things before I even bothered listening to them. Isn't that just like me, completely talking out of my ass?
And yet my more ignorant previous self did have a point. The only people who need to purchase this live album are those who are already bona fide Genesis eggheads, and they certainly don't need to read my thoughts on this before they go out and buy it. Well, perhaps they would part more easily with their hard earned cash after I tell them that this album is a total hoot, but chances are they would have gotten it even if I said it was donkey crap. So, why do I even need to write this? ...When it comes down to it, I guess it's the same reason I felt the need to write about Foxtrot. I feel like it...
True, there are no major virtuosos in Genesis, but they were capable of jamming, and they do it differently than they did in the studio, which I'm sure the fans would lap up. For instance, the guitar solo in the final third of “The Knife” is surprisingly blistering for Genesis! I'd even say that the entire song is more hardened and edgier than it was in the studio, and a marked improvement. So that right there already makes Genesis Live a valuable product for any fan. Surely, the highlights of this album are “Get 'Em Out By Friday” and “The Musical Box,” but those were pretty much perfect masterpieces to begin with and it shouldn't be a big surprise that they sound great live. “The Knife,” on the other hand, might surprise you.
Peter Gabriel is probably at his peak as a singer, and his vocal performances sound remarkably bold and confident. He was known for wearing elaborate costumes during their concerts and making it seem like they were in woodland fairy plays. If that were me in his shoes, I would have felt like a complete idiot, but all that nonsense seemed to empower Peter Gabriel! It's easy to fall in love with his vocal performance in “Get 'Em Out By Friday,” where he does the same amount of play acting as he did in the studio version and perhaps with even more gusto. Gabriel was having so much fun at the time that he even cracked a joke at the beginning of “The Musical Box.” That is amazing since I didn't figure that Gabriel was the sort of person who usually cracks jokes.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Genesis Live is that there are only five songs in it. A double live album is usually standard for prog bands... I would even expect a triple live album before a double one. I kind of regret that they didn't go for a double album, since there's a notable lack of “Supper's Ready,” and I would have also liked to hear live versions of their shorter songs such as “Time Table” and “For Absent Friends.” That said, since this is a short album, they're only covering their best work, and thus this is probably the most purely entertaining live album that they were capable of at the time. Things tend to be more entertaining when they're succinct, right? It forces you to edit. It's funny describing early Genesis as succinct, but I guess releasing a single live album is an instance where that applies.
So, yes. This is an excellent live album that every fan should eventually pick up some day. The only downside I can see of it is that it doesn't contain any material from Selling England By the Pound! Of course that's an idiotic thing to be disappointed over since that album didn't exist when they released this, but I would nonetheless have loved to hear live versions of those songs in their main discography! And no, Seconds Out doesn't count, because that's Phil “Bloody” Collins doing the lead vocals. He was quite a drummer, but he was no Peter Gabriel. Oh god he was no Peter Gabriel.
Read the track reviews:
Selling England By the Pound (1973)
Album Score: 15
If this isn't the greatest prog album of all time, then I don't know what is. I must have heard it well over 100 times, and it continues to fascinate me. No other record in my collection or out of my collection (that I'm aware of) contains such a rich variety of arresting textures, hooky melodies, and pure emotion.
I can even say that I get excited about listening to this album in the first two seconds of its opening song, “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” That's not because I'm particularly thrilled about Peter Gabriel singing a Medieval folk ballad a cappella, but I greatly anticipate the journey that it's about to take me on. That song is a perfect example of how majestically well Gabriel-era Genesis were able to smoothly interweave a variety of constantly evolving textures and emotions. If I were to play snippets of it in random places, they would seem like they came from completely different songs, but as I'm actually listening to it from beginning to end, everything fits together flawlessly. It's amazing sitting through that song, and it must be heard to be believed.
Genesis were not only on top of their game as songwriters, but also as instrumentalists. They are even more amazing than they were in Foxtrot! If you want proof of that, you needn't look further than “Firth of Fifth.” There, you'll find Peter Gabriel delivering a rather uneasy, somewhat paranoid flute solo, Tony Banks dazzling the crap out of us with a few chord-heavy keyboard solos, and Steve Hackett playing a guitar solo that sounds bigger than the universe. Not only do these solos have a distinct personality, but they're just as melodic and memorable as one of Peter Gabriel's vocal melodies, which are as memorable and melodic as Genesis has ever been or will ever be again.
Although not all these epic prog outings are quite so wildly developing. The 11-minute “Cinema Show” starts as one of the most sweetest, gentlest folk songs I've ever heard, and it very gradually turns into something more dramatic and thunderous. That's quite a song, too; it must be the most warmest, nostalgic pieces of music I've ever listened to. I can't help imagining Peter Gabriel singing its fairy tale lyrics to his children on a snowy day by the fireside. Of course he ends up scaring the children with its rather tense and scary ending, but that's just like all the other fairy tales we were told as kids.
Phil Collins deserves a lot of the flack that he gets, but I don't quite understand what so many people have against “More Fool Me,” a rather loose, three-minute folk ballad. Sure, it sounds like a demo and it's not one of the grandiose progressive epics, but it has a catchy melody and Collins' lead vocals seem genuine and sweet. Any song with those qualities would qualify as a great song in my book.
I am about as attached to this album as a pet owner is attached to a pet, and it's impossible for me to try to imagine what my life would have been like without it. Whether I listened to it passively while driving in the car or listening to it intensely with my headphones, it have always greatly treasured its diversions as I soak up its rich variety of textures. Sometimes the album sweet and angelic and other times it's tense and dramatic; through all its twists and turns, I've always manage to hold onto its every move.
I think you might have guessed it by this point, but Selling England By the Pound is one of my favorite albums of all time. I didn't even get to talk about everything I wanted to in the main portion of this review! But instead of making this review twice as long as it already is, I figure I'd better shut up and give you a chance to experience it for yourselves. If you haven't heard this album before, then don't let another second go by. If you have heard it and you thought it was boring (which is a fairly common reaction), then I urge you to take another close and unhindered listen. If there's even an inkling of a chance that you might come to see the treasures I see in this that I see, then your efforts would surely pay off.
Read the track reviews:
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)
Album Score: 13
I'm oversimplifying it, but Genesis had been rewriting the same album over and over again until they perfected it with Selling England By the Pound. Since it seems they couldn't go any higher, they decided to do something different and create this sprawling, 23-track, double-disc rock opera.
This is very, very pretentious, but that's not a shocker; this is Genesis, and they have always been pretentious, even back when they were a pop band aiming to be the next Bee Gees. Some listeners have complained that the concept is way too difficult to understand, but I don't find it to be too tantalizing. It's a strange oftentimes abstract story, but that just means it's like every other self-respecting rock opera out there. With that said, I've chosen not to try to interpret the rock opera for you. It'd just take too much space. All I'll tell you is that they're worth a bit of time studying for yourself.
The album begins with the explosive title track, which contains so much glory and drama that I could not think of a better opener for a rock opera. The song has me hooked right from the beginning when we hear Tony Banks' tight keyboard textures fade-in. Those sorts of beautiful keyboard textures are one of the hallmarks of this album, surfacing on many of the most memorable tracks. I can't imagine that “Cuckoo Cocoon” would have been even remotely as absorbing if it weren't for Banks' enchanting keyboard texture that draws me in right from the beginning. Similarly, I'm convinced that “The Carpet Crawlers” is one of the most beautiful, mystifying songs of all time thanks in part to those delicate keyboard patterns throughout!
Of course, the keyboards aren't the only great thing about listening to this album; the melodies are frequently so rich and warm that I have trouble keeping myself from singing along with them from my heart. (I should be embarrassed for writing that, but I've been growing much more comfortable with my geekery ever since I hit 25.) “Counting Out Time” is one of the album's poppiest songs, which makes it especially fun to sing along with. I'd even go so far as to say that song might, believe it or not, have made a great arena-rocker.
While this album has plenty of great moments, there are plenty weaker bits as well, but I even find the weaker moments to be wholly entertaining. Two of the 7+ minute tracks, “The Lamia” and “The Colony of Slippermen,” might fail to ignite my imagination like so many of their lengthy compositions have done in the past, but I enjoy listening to their complicated and constantly evolving guitar/keyboard/drum textures that they always seem to come up with. Also, a few of the ambient tracks in the second half are pretty well-done, but not quite absorbing enough to be considered great in my book. You can read more details about those, if you want, in the track reviews.
The closing song, “It,” has been known to cause a few Genesis fans some grief; they have complained that it is a rather disappointingly cheap ending that effectively parodies the whole album. I understand what they mean, since it has always reminded me of a cheesy game show theme, but I'm still fond of it. Gabriel's vocal performance is as intense and dramatic as ever and the melody is extremely catchy. I suppose they could have ended the album with something more definitively epic, but through the years I've been listening to this, I've found it to fit pretty well.
There are enough weak spots—particularly in the second half—that I have to consider this a major step down from Genesis' heights in Foxtrot and Selling England By the Pound, but it remains a great, ambitious work in its own right. If nothing else, it has a bunch of excellent songs on it that I enjoy the crap out of! What more could I ever want from an album?
Read the track reviews:
A Trick of the Tail (1976)
Album Score: 12
An eagle visited Peter Gabriel on a hilltop and told him to leave Genesis, so he did, but the other four members still wanted to keep the party going. They set out to find a replacement singer, but after holding 400 painstaking auditions, they discovered that the best person for the job had been among them all along. Surely as a singer, Phil Collins hadn't as much personality nor as much talent as Gabriel, but his voice nonetheless was nice to listen to. He was a fitful choice.
The band members were clearly concerned about the fans' reactions to them continuing without Gabriel, so they made A Trick of the Tail sound as much like a classic Genesis album as possible. However, in doing that, they were starting to sound more like Genesis imitators and less like that same ambitious and imaginative band that we've all come to know and love. Albeit, they were especially good imitators.
Thankfully, they hadn't forgotten how to write an engaging song; everything on A Trick of a Tail is hooky and memorable. What Genesis skimped on, mainly, were the arrangements. Selling England By the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway had so many rich textures and wildly imaginative moments that they had me gaping at them in a childlike manner. A Trick of the Tail, on the other hand, contains much thinner atmospheres, less interesting synthesizer tones, and their extended instrumental interludes contain fewer surprises.
My favorite moment on this album, oddly enough, is “Entangled,” which sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel classic, except it's better. I stand by my earlier statement that the arrangements throughout this album aren't nearly as exotic and captivating as they were on Genesis' previous three works, but the jangly guitar texture they create is undeniably beautiful. Collins might not have had Gabriel's expressive singing voice, but his vocal delivery is so warm and sweet that I can do nothing else but love it. The only conceivable complaint I have against that song is that it's more than six minutes long, and it never changes its course. Lengthy songs on Selling England By the Pound would go to the moon and back, but “Entangled” pretty much stays put, preferring merely to wallow around in that gentle texture. (Banks comes in with some ominous Mellotron passages at the end, which helps for sure.) Nonetheless, a good song is a good song, and “Entangled” certainly fits that bill.
I'm also quite fond of the title track, which is about the extent of Collins ability to do performance singing! That's a silly, playful song with evolving textures and a melody that's so catchy that it's golden. “Squonk” is an entertaining song that, if Wikipedia can be trusted at all, was Genesis' attempt to mimic Led Zeppelin. If that's true, then those who complain about Genesis' under-utilization of their guitarist definitely have a point since it's Tony Banks who plays the main riff with that wussy sounding keyboard of his!
I also approve of the epic way this album opens and closes. The main riff on “Dance on a Volcano” is quite memorable and those huge synthesizers Banks plays starts to sound larger than life. The near-instrumental, “Los Endos” is similarly exciting and fun to listen to. The midsection of the album surely could have been beefed up a bit although I find the vocal melodies to be quite exquisite. “Mad Man Moon,” in particular, is nice to listen to, but I find its instrumentation to be woefully bare and uneventful. Surely if Gabriel had been there, he would have wagged his finger at them for that!
All in all, while this album isn't as imaginative or as ambitious as the Gabriel-led Genesis albums, it's a formidable and entertaining work in its own right. Also, not to spoil the remainder of my Genesis reviews, this is handily my favorite album of the Collins-era.
Read the track reviews:
Wind & Wuthering (1977)
Album Score: 9
I can't understand it, but a lot of people think Wind & Wuthering is one of Genesis' best releases. Reportedly, even Tony Banks agrees with such sentiment. Let me ask you, have you ever listened to a Tony Banks solo album? I have. The man is an excellent keyboardist, but he can't write engaging, meaningful music on his own to save his life. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that this would be one of his favorite Genesis albums.
While Wind & Wuthering has its fair share of decent tunes, it's not even close to recapturing the majesty of their earlier albums. Those albums were beautiful and colorful, and when I listened to them, I could hear summer scents emitting from my speakers. While this album has its fair share of formidable songs, I don't think it has much personality. I listen to it, and it feels limp and cold. Some parts of it are so boring that they give me that all-too-familiar antsy feeling I used to have as a kid when my dad would drag me to random history museums. In those days, I would visit the museum's bathrooms only when I kinda sorta had to go just so that I would have something to do.
Genesis' biggest betrayal was an even greater reduction in texture development; they replaced those haunting Mellotrons and exotic guitar arpeggios from the Peter Gabriel era with plain and dull synthesizer tones. That said, they get things going off in a nice way with “Eleventh Earl of Mar,” easily my favorite song of the album. Even though the instrumentation is bland and the vocal hooks don't really leap out at me, it's a fun and exciting experience to sit through. The organ riffs are bouncy, and of course Collins' tight drumming provides a plentitude of exciting and tight fills.
After that song, however, I really start to shrug my shoulders at this album. “One For the Vine” is a lot like “Eleventh Ear of Mar” except it's slow to develop. It's hardly a terrible song, and it's quite skillfully done, but I nonetheless sit through it yawning my head off. Some people have a fondness for “Your Own Special Way,” which is so smoothly instrumented and poppy that it sounds a bit like one of Collins' adult contemporary songs from the '90s. The melody isn't bad, and the loud chorus was certainly a needed touch. But I still find it tedious to sit through. It's a six minute song that's more like a three-minute song that was played twice. Blah.
I've read that Genesis were considering becoming an instrumental band. And we can get a pretty good account at how crappy that would have turned out with such instrumentals as “Wot Gorilla?,” “Unquiet Slumbers For the Sleepers...,” and “In That Quiet Earth.” They are competent and technically well played, but they're unimaginative and pretty much stick to a single texture. (Don't you miss it when extended instrumental sections in Genesis songs explored so many different textures that it seemed like they had an endless supply of them? Those days are over, my friends.) Their main themes are typically taken care of by a synthesizer. However, the synthesizer would rather play bland scales than an actual melody. Blah, blah.
There's a little bit of redemption in the second half of the album. “Blood on the Rooftops” is the first Genesis in God knows how long to consistently weave a series of crescendos together! They even give Steve Hackett a chance to play his acoustic guitar at the beginning of it without being hindered by synthesizers. Ah, I see Tony Banks, the man in charge of the band's cookies, decided to give Hackett one! I also like “All in a Mouse's Night” for its excitement and drama. Although Collins' vocals were clearly too weak for such material. He sings it woefully straight. He would have been better off play-acting with it. Come on, Bald Man McCollins, break a sweat!
In closing, this is a great album to twiddle your thumbs to. That's why I cannot give this album neither a thumbs up nor a thumbs down. They're too busy twiddling!
Read the track reviews:
Second's Out (1977)
Album Score: 11
This is the double live album in which that blasphemer Phil Collins sings many of the band's celebrated classics that were originally sung by Archangel Gabriel. Every time Collins uses the letter 'S' in his speech, I can hear that parcel tongue of his slithering through his lips.
...Actually, Collins surprises me and does a reasonably decent job covering the band's former classics. Of course, he's not even close to matching Gabriel's level of theatricality, but I believe I've done a thorough job of beating that dead horse into a mangled pulp by now. Collins' lack of Gabriel-ness could have been a fatal mistake in this album, because they flat-out concentrate on covering songs from his era. It's nice hearing Collins at least try to give the theatrics his best go. At some points, he sounds like he's having a total blast (particularly in the middle of their awesomely full-length covering of the 23-minute “Supper's Ready”). That was a fitful way for him to have shown the world that he could adequately fill Gabriel's shoes; give everyone the impression that you're having the time of your life. Audiences usually respond well to that, both those physically at the concerts and those at home listening to the album.
I'm pleasantly surprised that they only covered one song from Wind & Wuthering even though that was probably the album they were touring at the time to support. Its lackadaisical closer, “Afterglow,” which is by far this live album's snooziest moment. Covering that album too much would have been a huge mistake, of course. It would have made me fall asleep too much.
Other than that, I don't have many complaints about the song selection; overall, this is a solid lot of songs. Except for the opener, “Squonk,” which wasn't my favorite song from A Trick of the Tail, and it sounds even duller here. But don't fret too much about that; the dust really starts to pick up with the second song, “The Carpet Crawlers,” one of my favorite parts of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. They do a precise job of recreating its enchanting texture, and Collins' pretty vocal performance is quite captivating. But he's not Peter Gabriel!!! (Alright, that mangled Jello mound of blood, flesh, and bones is thus no longer a dead horse.) Other songs from A Trick of the Tail are the quirky and fun “Robbery, Assault & Battery,” and a back-to-back smattering of the opener and closer, “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos.” I would have also have liked the title track, but you can't have everything. I guess.
It's unfair albeit entirely expected of me that I complained a lot about their inferior treatment of songs from Selling England By the Pound in the track reviews. After all, I've listened to that album so many times that I practically have every note memorized, and I believe them all to be perfect! I find it puzzling that they removed Tony Banks' mesmerizing piano introduction of “Firth of Fifth” and even more puzzled to learn, later on, that he had completely replaced that song's characteristic piano and the harrowing flute solo with a simple soft synthesizer. They also extended “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” by four minutes. I wouldn't necessarily be against that idea, but all that extra time was taken up by an aimless, crowd-pleasing jam session. (And you can tell that the audience was pleased to witness it... They erupt in cheers at some points, but it's not clear to me why they're doing it.) I liked that they pulled out “Cinema Show,” which is one of the best songs Genesis has ever done, but they don't even come close to matching the original's wide-eyed wonderment.
Of course it's to be expected that live versions of songs are going to be inferior to their studio counterparts especially when the band is doing their best to recreate the original songs exactly. Technically, I fail to find the point of live albums that do that... but I have to be careful saying that, because I cried foul in the paragraph previous to this when they did anything to mess with the originals!
But anyway, many-a-fan would love to hear what Genesis sounded like in the live setting in 1977. Especially youngins like me who didn't have the forethought of being born before this album was recorded. So let's stop nitpicking and just give this thing a go! It might not have been an ideal live album (that honor goes exclusively to Genesis Live), but it's good! I can't lose sight on the fact that this is Genesis playing great Genesis songs.
Read the track reviews:
...And Then There Were Three (1978)
Album Score: 10
When several songs that Steve Hackett had written for Wind & Wuthering were left off the album at the insistence of the other band members, he left the band in frustration to embark on a successful (and frequently awesome) solo career. That left Genesis as a trio, the trio that their legions of '80s fans would know them best. This story also explains the hilarious title of this album.
This is also recognized as Genesis' final progressive rock album; their 1980 follow-up Duke had much more of a pop flavor to it. And thank heavens they switched to pop music, because I don't think I could have taken much more of their progressive rock. Granted, this isn't the worst prog album on the face of the planet (and in fact I think it's better than many people give it credit for), but it's pretty clear after listening to this record that Genesis needed a change of pace.
They went from creating some of the most fascinating pieces of progressive rock ever recorded to pure boringness like “The Lady Lies.” It's a song that's put together well; it's laden with quiet, dramatic parts that escalates into crescendos, and Phil does what he can to carry the material decently well. However, I've listened to that song at least a dozen times and tried to get into it, but I just can't seem to do it. Genesis' previous prog-pieces, such as “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” were the musical equivalents of a roller coaster; they took me on an exciting journey through all of its twists and turns. “The Lady Lies” is also like a roller coaster, but it seems more like I'm watching it at a distance rather than on it. Phil's melody at the beginning, even though he performs it warmly and sweetly, never hooks me in. The chord progressions are sophisticated but soulless. The instrumentation is textured, but never enchanting, as Tony Banks is stuck using ho-hum patterns with his organ, synthesizers, and piano. The bombastic chorus is loud but distant. That said, their other lengthy prog-tune “Burning Rope” is much better developed, dramatically, but it's still no great shakes.
Other than those oversights, at least this is a huge improvement over Wind & Wuthering. Simply put: That album was a complete bore to sit through, and this album isn't. On that album, they tended to write slow and poorly developed songs and then whitewashing them with Banks' blank synthesizers. Here, they spend much more time crafting intricate textures, and sometimes these textures tend to be rather dark. Of course it still doesn't hold a candle to the textures from Selling England By the Pound, but I kind of have to take what I can get from Genesis at this stage.
The album opener, “Down and Out” for instance is partly characterized by that deep and pounding synthesizer, which helps give the song a dark and menacing atmosphere. Unfortunately, that song doesn't have any memorable melodies or enchanting harmonies, but at least Phil Collins finally figured out how he wanted to sing: loud and snarling. That song doesn't require any fancy vocal acrobatics, and thus Collins comes off better singing them.
“Many Too Many” is a straightforward ballad that sounds to me like it could have been included on one of his (infamous?) solo '80s albums. It's not terribly complicated, but it's a beautiful song, and Collins' sweet vocals eventually builds up to a more passionate chorus. It's all quite well done. He also does a good job singing the similar “Snowbound,” which could very well be the most beautiful song that post-Gabriel Genesis ever did. It begins with a sweet, acoustic guitar texture before building up to a rather majestic and memorable chorus.
Some people have called this Genesis' country-western album, which I never completely understood. Some of the songs have Wild West themes in it, but I can't picture Willie Nelson going out and covering any of these! I do find “Deep in the Motherlode” entertaining for its Wild West lyrics; hearing Phil Collins sing “Go west young man / Earn a dollar a day / Just like your family said” is especially entertaining to me for some reason.
On the whole, the best songs on ...And Then There Were Three are typically the simplest, poppiest ones. So it's no wonder these guys would very soon put their prog ambitions aside and experiment more with pop music starting on their next album, Duke. It's a good thing, too, because as I said earlier in this review, I don't think I could have taken much more of their watered-down prog.
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 10
I got the notion in my head sometime in 2003 (my ye olde formative years) that Duke was the blandest album on the Planet Earth. I mean, I always thought it was a fairly entertaining record that passed the time just fine, but it's instantly forgettable the moment it stops playing. It's as if the 55-minutes it takes to listen to this album have been sucked into a black hole.
Time has passed since 2003. Now, it's 2010. I've grown an appreciation for some things I used to consider boring. They include Beethoven symphonies, civil war museums, and soft cheeses. But, for the life of me, I still find nothing memorable about Duke. It doesn't contain any singularly great moments, nor does it contain any singularly horrible moments. This is the most above-averagely consistent album that ever lived.
I usually start my reviews with a couple paragraphs of introduction, and then go right into talking about the songs. But I can't think of a song that I should talk about. For just a single millisecond, I wish at least something in Duke would outright suck so I could have something to talk about. This album is rock 'n' roll purgatory. That's a statement I believe so strongly that said it with capital letters and exclamation marks in the track reviews. (I suppose that could also partly be explained by the fact that I had consumed an entire box of Junior Mints right before writing those. Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint? ...or an entire box of them for that matter. Not I. I didn't get where I am today by turning down boxes of Junior Mints.)
The instrumentation is expertly played, absolutely. Everything is without a flaw. I'm as sure about that statement as I'm sure that the Earth isn't flat. (I mean, there are friggin' hills all over the place.) Tony Banks plays a straight piano and straight synthesizer tones. Emphasis on the straight. He plays good textures, too. He never ventures into playing anything mesmerizing like he did throughout The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but he also never plays anything dead-boring like he did throughout Wind and Wuthering. Well, I guess there is a brief moment in “Heathhaze” when I think he's about to get into something memorable. There's also a brief moment in “Cul-De-Sac” where I think he's about to get into something boring. But alas, those moments only come in flashes. The keyboards are always “good,” and there's just no getting away from that.
The drums! Philly boy! He plays them like a greek god in this disc! BOOM!!! CRASH!!! What rhythm! What timing! What male pattern baldness! In a few spots, I think he might just be tinkering with a few drum machines here and there, which would be consistent with the theory that Duke is their transition to the drum-machine music of Abacab. Why, that could almost be something interesting I could talk about! And, yes, there's some electric guitar in here. There's some acoustic, too, but let's not get crazy. The guitar sound is melded wonderfully with the drums and keyboards to create some all-around good pop-rock music. Goodie.
Phil Collins is a fine singer. I've said that about him for centuries. He can sing so dramatically that it will make your pants fall off. (The next time you change into your PJs, remember that it was Phil Collins.) And he sings dramatically on every single last one of these songs. There's never another tone on Duke that Phil Collins sings other than dramatic. Except for “Duke's End,” because he doesn't sing on that at all. (You see, Phil's vocals had actually made the Duke's pants fall off. Hence “Duke's End.” Hence Phil felt he no longer had to sing.)
Well, this was probably the goofiest album review I've ever written, but I won't apologize for that. This is the only album on the planet that I can neither praise nor criticize. Nothing is ever GREAT. Nothing is ever BORING. Everything is GOOD. Everything, in fact, is so GOOD that it's distressing to me.
Now it's time to come up with the album rating. Technically, this deserves an 11. But considering this album has been my mortal enemy for seven years, I feel that I must punish it somehow. Therefore, Duke: I dub thee a 10. HAHAHAHAHAHHHHH!!! YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO LIVE THAT ONE DOWN, WILL YOU!!!!!
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 11
Well. There goes the neighborhood. Do you remember the neighborhood? It was a small collection of hovels in the middle of vast tracts of English pumpkin farms. Its villagers would often gather at night, armed with jugs of hard cider, telling one another of fantastic legends of knights, moonlight, and dancing. But then some guy wearing a hard hat came along, shooed them along, and built a fabulous, modern shopping mall in its place.
Speaking in slightly more normal words, this is where Genesis went full force into the land of synth-pop. The eternally dull Duke brushed up against such music, but it wasn't until Abacab that they became taxpaying citizens. Fortunately, at least for now, Genesis were interested in keeping up their reputation as an “art” band intact. So while these synth-pop ditties are usually catchy and accessible, there's an experimental twist to many of them. And this was a mightily successful album, too. Not only did it sell a lot of copies, but it was influential; many synth-pop bands at the time would claim to aspire to it.
And they had a good reason to aspire to it! Just take a listen to the first song, the title track. It's splenderiffic. (Shut up, spellchecker.) It's catchy, it's fun, it's dramatic, it's inventive. What more could you want? Really, the instrumentation is done perfectly. The pulsating bass and mechanical drums make my foot tap. Furthermore, the drums evolve and there are tons of excellent fills within that keeps things punchy. Phil Collins might be using drum machines, but he hadn't forgotten how to make interesting rhythms. Tony Banks' synthesizers are also awesome (surprisingly). The synthesizer tone that opens this song is weird and scratchy, and during the main portion of the song, he uses a softer organ tone, which does a playful call-and-response style interaction with Rutherford's poppy guitar licks. Collins' singing is boisterous, playful and dramatic, and the vocal melody is so catchy that I want to sing right along with him. What an excellent way to start the album.
The horn arranger and players for Earth, Wind & Fire can be heard on “No Reply At All," and they help create a texture that is complicated and intriguing, and I have fun listening to it. Another major highlight is “Dodo / Lurker,” which is a sprawling, seven-and-a-half-minute epic that shows us that they weren't that ready to leave their prog days behind. That's a driving and dramatic song with evolving textures. Very awesome. “Who Dunnit?” is a real odd-duck characterized by a drunken and very repetitive synthesizer loop and a rather crazed Phil Collins performance who is sporting a heavy British accent. At one point, he sings “We know / we know / we know / we know / we know / we know...” and keeps on going for awhile. ...Either you'll find it annoying and awesome, or you'll find it annoying and terrible. I'm not wild over the song, but I'll nevertheless put myself in the camp of the former.
All three members took an opportunity to write one solo song each. Tony Banks' “Me and Sarah Jane” is a lovely showcase of his new family of keyboards (it's quite unlike the blank keyboard sounds he was adopting for the last few Genesis records). Plus, he writes an interesting, wandering melody, and Collins does it justice by delivering a passionate vocal performance. Unfortunately, Collins' and Rutherford's solo songs aren't nearly as good—Collins' “Man on the Corner” is boring and sounds like something he left off his solo debut album (Gag), and Rutherford's “Like it or Not” is similarly boring with a melody and instrumentation that never pops out at me. Hmhm.
Nevertheless, Abacab is still quite terrific album. It's the first uninhibitedly terrific album they released since A Trick of the Tail and also the first time in their post-Gabriel discography where they successfully found a unique sound of their own. With that said, for some reason, I've not been in the habit of listening to it very much compared to other '80s Genesis albums... even Invisible Touch. However, I have a feeling that's going to change in the coming years. I had forgotten how delightful this album was.
Read the track reviews:
Three Sides Live (1982)
Album Score: 11
It was live album #3 for these guys and the first of them to be released in their pop period. But why am I not jumping-out-of-my-bones excited about this? I shall answer that by expressing my sincerest regrets that they couldn't have saved their next live album until after 1983's Genesis came out. That album has some of the greatest '80s pop songs ever written, and if this live album had more songs from there and fewer songs from Duke (AKA Puke), then it likely would have gone from “hmmmm!” to “whoooahhh!”
Nonetheless, we can't rewrite history. And of course I can't blame Genesis, because they might not have been aware that an album like Genesis was cooking in their brains at the time. AND, I can't really complain too much, because listening to songs from Duke can be quite enjoyable when they're interspersed with other songs from their catalog. They open the album up nicely with a rousing rendition of “Turn it On Again.” I might have never noticed it before, but that song was already reminiscent of Abacab thanks to a pulsating synth-bass, which gives it a greater sense of urgency.
Should I say it again? ...Alright. Phil Collins is an excellent singer. I'll never be able to understand people's arguments that he wasn't. He has a nice, soulful texture to his voice, and he's able to reach powerfully an entire range of notes. (Naturally he suffers in comparison to Peter Gabriel who had all that, plus the ability to playact. ...But I think I might have mentioned that before in my Genesis reviews.) Most importantly, Collins sounds like he's having the time of his life singing these songs. I can picture the huge smile he must've had on his face as he was singing boisterously through “Abacab,” which was probably the best pop song they released to that point. Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford also had a chance to shine there, frequently taking a few moments to improvise with their synthesizer and guitar, respectively. They typically solo about melodically and never come across too much like they were showing off.
Not surprisingly, they concentrate mainly on songs from Duke and Abacab, but they take a few moments to revisit songs deeper in their past. “Follow You, Follow Me” is easily one of the finer tracks from ...And Then There Were Three, and this rendition is about as pleasant as it gets. “Afterglow” is from Wind & Wuthering, and somehow I enjoy hearing it here more than I did on the studio album. ...On the downside, they did an entire 11-minute rendition of “On the Vine,” and … Yawn. ...But why didn't they do any songs from A Trick of the Tail? I must say: representation from that album is sorely missed.
People who went to Genesis concerts in the mid '80s pining for the Peter Gabriel days got everything they could have ever wished for (sans Gabriel himself joining them on stage) in a 12-minute medley that contains elements from “In the Cage,” “Cinema Show,” “Riding the Scree,” and “The Colony of Slippermen.” It's hugely entertaining, and Collins' singing could not have been more fantastically boisterous. I'm also amazed at how well they managed to meld those songs together! I almost don't even notice that they switch to different songs sometimes! They close the album with another medley, this time 11-minutes long and combines “It” with “Watcher of the Skies.” Those songs were the grand finale of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and the epic opener for Foxtrot respectively, and hearing them combine their forces to create an even greater epic finish to this live set was an excellent idea. (Also, according to Wikipedia, that recording was from 1976, which meant that Steve Hackett was still in the band... That's an anomaly since most other songs were recorded sometime in the early '80s.)
The original vinyl pressing in the US of this album had an entire side devoted to new studio songs (hence the album title Three Sides Live). However, the UK version omitted these songs and instead put in some more live recordings. When it came time to release this album on CD in the US, they went ahead and released the UK version, so those five studio songs are no longer available. I'm not complaining so much about that, because those extra live songs are, for my money, the highlights of this album. You can find most of the missing studio songs on Genesis Archive 1976-1992. But because I love you all, I decided to write some track reviews of them so that you can see what they're like. The only one that's really worth its weight in gold is the toe-tapping and horn-ridden “Paperlate,” which sounds very similar to “No Reply At All.” Other than that, they're OK, but nothing to write home about. (Not that I've ever written home about “Paperlate.”)
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 12
If you needed indisputable proof, here it is. Listen to Phil Collins sing in “Mama,” and try to convince yourself that he wasn't a great singer. He might have eventually become a tiresome pop figure in the '80s, but you've got to respect the man after hearing him belt it out for that song. Not only does he yell-sing in an incredibly soaring way, but he sounds to me like he's genuinely hurting. (“It's hot, too hot for me mama / But I can hardly wait / My eyes they're burning mama / And I can feel my body shake / Don't stop, don't stop me mama / Oh make the pain, make it go away / No I won't hurt you mama / But it's getting so hard”) Ouch …And what's with those devilish laughs he belts out in the refrains? That's pretty freaky, man...
Of course that's an excellent song besides the vocal performance and the lyrics. It proves once again how excellent these guys were at operating drum machines. They're quiet and ominous in the first half of the song before they suddenly grow very loud and quite threatening, which positively sends shivers of electricity down my spine. Tony Banks comes up with some compelling synthesizers to play deeply in the background, which sets the menacing mood quite fittingly. Of course the whole thing is very '80s, but as I'm listening to that song, it makes me want to redeem the entire decade. It's that strong. (I'll probably rescind that statement once I get around to reviewing Mike + The Mechanics albums!)
If “Mama” freaked you out too much, then don't worry; they follow it up with a much more pleasant pop-song, “That's All.” ...I really just like that song because it's catchy as hell, but of course they do a few delightful, ear-dazzling things there with the instrumentation. Banks plays a pleasant and bouncy piano riff, which is backed-up well with a mid-tempo and texturally evolving drum machine pattern. Rutherford earns some kudos for bringing in a bright and bubbly guitar solo right at the end. ...Really, there's a lot going on with the instrumentation, and it's futile for me to try to describe everything! You'll just have to listen to it, if you haven't already.
If those songs weren't enough for you, I also love “Illegal Alien.” It managed to cause some controversy over the years, because people apparently didn't get that it's supposed to be satirical. I'm quite pleased with them for coming out with lyrical matter this biting; it's right up there with the sophistication of Randy Newman's also oft-misunderstood bits of satire: “Yellow Man,” “Rednecks,” and “Short People.” ...Oh, and did I mention that “Illegal Alien” is catchy as hell? Tony Banks deserves some special recognition for playing a few extremely memorable lines with that quirky, wobbly high-pitched synthesizer.
“Home By the Sea” might not have quite as much ear candy as the previous three songs I mentioned, particularly Banks' synthesizers, which are appropriately atmospheric but kinda blank. However, it's melody is very catchy and growlingly delivered by Collins once again. “Just a Job to Do” has a driving rhythm to it, and I particularly enjoy hearing Collins scream “With a bang bang bang!!!” and then hearing it immediately followed up with two loud raps from a drum machine. (Amusing!) “Silver Rainbow” has a really wonderful and strangely uplifting chorus. ...I'm also not sure how he did it, but Tony Banks finds some really odd keyboard chords to play through it, and I'm surprised they got away with it. The drum machines there are also so rumbly that they're epic.
Despite all the strong pop songs on here, there are a few numbers that don't have as much of a liking for. “Home By the Sea” was great, but I can't say the same thing for “Second Home By the Sea.” It's mostly an instrumental and unfortunately it's plagued with a hollow drum machine texture that gets rather tiresome to me. “Taking it All Too Hard” is a fitful Phil Collins ballad, but it doesn't manage to strike my particular fancy. I like the closing song “It's Gonna Get Better,” in particular some of Banks' synthesizer textures, but it's a relatively weak ending to a much stronger album.
But those are just nitpicks in the end, and they don't matter. I'll say that they are at least decent songs anyway, and they hardly detract from the overall experience of Genesis. Naturally, this isn't quite as powerful or entrancing as their classic prog outings, but I think I made it abundantly clear by now that those days were long behind them. In my book, this pop album earns its place in Genesis' discography as one of the highlights.
Read the track reviews:
Invisible Touch (1986)
Album Score: 9
The protagonist of the film American Psycho called Invisible Touch Genesis' undisputed masterpiece. That, and the fact that he killed people, was the reason he was a public menace. However, I can at least say I like the mega '80s pop hit “Land of Confusion.” While I'm not a huge fan of that very blocky drum-machine/bass instrument playing throughout it (a familiar sound that many-a-pop-band utilized post-1985), it has an extraordinarily catchy melody and Phil Collins sings it in a convincingly boisterous way. Tony Banks' keyboards play excellent textures at just the right times, and Michael Rutherford comes in with a few gruff electric guitar licks to help give it a little bit of drive. Yes indeed, that's a good song. Unfortunately, everything else is crap.
Well, maybe not *crap* per se, but … er … disappointing. What happened to them? Didn't I just get off of my review of their 1983 eponymous calling it not only one of the best albums of their career, but a landmark pop album for the entire, godforsaken '80s? Invisible Touch isn't even close to that. The album's opening number is the title track, and it make an OK listen as long as you've already committed to sitting through it. The melody is hooky, although I don't care much for the stilted way Collins sings the chorus. (“She seems to have! An invisible touch yeah! She reaches in! And! Grabs! Right! Hold! Of your Heart!”) On the bright side, these guys continue to showcase their abilities to create more or less interesting textures on that song. Unfortunately, such practices aren't consistent for the whole album.
You can hear the proof that Genesis were losing their instrumental touch with the closing number, “The Brazilian,” which annoys me more than it fascinates me. The drum machines flutter about in a cluttery fashion, and I couldn't be less interested in the dull melodic theme Banks comes up with his synthesizer. It's certainly a skilled piece, but it lacks that special level of inspiration that was flowing out of these guys in their previous album.
In a move that I find absolutely questionable, they include two songs that go on for an exorbitant amount of time: “Tonight Tonight Tonight” and “Domino.” The former is actually quite good; Collins sings it well and the melody is catchy. It has a drum rhythm that's quite complex and fun to listen to, and Banks creates a despondent synthesizer texture that sounds like drippy cave music from an 8-bit video game. The problem with it are those extended instrumental breaks they engage in. ...They just repeat the same old textures over and over and over, throwing in few new ideas into the mix as it lumbers towards its conclusion. That song would have been far better had they cut it down to four minutes as opposed to the nine they used. Nonetheless, I give that song a pass (in my infinite wisdom).
“Domino,” on the other hand, goes on for 11 minutes and plumb bores me. That was more or less an attempt to bring them back to their progressive-rock roots while still utilizing typical '80s instrumentation standards... Unfortunately, the textures don't evolve well enough, and I really don't care for that electro-groove they start playing mid-way through. It sounds like they were doing the soundtrack to an '80s workout video.
I'll make mentions of “In Too Deep” and “Throwing It All Away.” They both sound like they're from one of Phil Collins' solo albums. We could probably have expected to find those sorts of songs here, because as you're probably aware, Collins was at the peak of his solo career fame in 1986. ...I wouldn't call either of them *bad* so much as sterile and boring. I mean, Michael Bolton would have been comfortable covering such songs and—perhaps—they would constitute the highlights of any of his albums. They're fine. ...BUT WAIT!! NO THEY'RE NOT!!! THIS IS GENESIS!!!!!! GENESIS USED TO BE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can say many things about those songs, but “awesome” is not one of them.
This is hardly one of the worst pop albums of the '80s, but compared to Abacab and Genesis, this is a dud. While they could still create relatively interesting synthesizer and guitar textures, they are not anywhere close to dazzling me like they had done so frequently in the past. The melodies have their fair share of hooks, but that doesn't alter the fact it all bores me. About the rating, I was on the fence between an 8 and a 9 but decided on the higher rating because of the singular strengths of “Land of Confusion.” ...Even though its music video creeps the hell out of me. (I can watch Blue Velvet without flinching, but for the life of me, I can't make it through that video.)
Read the track reviews:
We Can't Dance (1991)
Album Score: 9
I can't dance, either. So Phil Collins and I have something in common other than male pattern baldness. It also appears as though Collins likes to make fun of televangelists by saying Jaeeeeeesus a lot, which is another trait that we share. This has me wondering... Could Phil Collins and I possibly be related?... I'm just gonna say 'yes.' Alright, Uncle Phil. I've got something to say to you: I'm getting just a wee tired of your pop-Genesis shenanigans. It's like you only cared about making a handful of radio-friendly hits, and then you just halfheartedly brushed off the rest of this album. Why do you need to care about the rest of the album? People are going to buy it anyway for the hits, right?... Seriously, as Genesis fans, do we have to put up for this? ...Oh, apparently Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford were still members of the band and thus technically it's a shared responsibility. But I'll bet you the remainder of the hairs I have left dangling for dear life on my scalp that this was mostly Phil's baby.
Perhaps it's not fair of me to say that most We Can't Dance is throwaway since it's a LOOOONG album, clocking in at 72 massive minutes. If they were indeed being lazy, they probably would've just filled it up to 40 minutes passed the obligatory hit-songs and then called it a day. ...In other words, it would be a more succinct album and thus an improved one! (Don't you love paradoxes like that?) As it stands, however, We Can't Dance is one of the most boring albums I have in my esteemed collection. (There's about one person jealous of all my records. ...That's good enough to call it “esteemed.”)
But this album does have three great hits on it, so let's talk about those. My favorite is easily “Jesus He Knows Me,” an extremely catchy and driven pop song. I won't bother to give many compliments to the instrumentation (it's quite ordinary early '90s adult contemporary fare), but WOW! That's a fun song to listen to, if there ever was one. Watch it with the music video, and it gets even better. (Phil Collins is funny.) “No Son of Mine” is a passionate and soaring power-ballad that's so good it makes me want to turn up the volume way loud. It's a serious song and therefore quite like his solo career. It's a pretty good showcase of how good Collins could be, if you're even willing to entertain such a notion.
I remember the title track of this album back when it was new. (It's sad but most people who are exactly my age only know Genesis as the guys who did “We Can't Dance” … I remember bringing up to someone that my favorite Genesis song was called “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” and he looked at me as though I were making it up...) Well, that is a good song, anyway. It's characterized by a catchy little gruffy riff (that's nonetheless tamed enough for mass marketing), and Collins follows suit with a growling performance. I wouldn't call it Genesis' golden moment in the sun, but it's a nice little pop song.
OK, now I'm going to talk about the icky stuff. Like they did throughout Invisible Touch, they supplement this album with a number of songs that go welllllll beyond their shelf-life. The two culprits are “Driving the Last Spike” and “Fading Lights,” both of which go on for 10 minutes each. I mean, it's bad enough having to listen to those songs for five minutes, because they bore the living daylights out of me, but 10? “Driving the Last Spike” is like listening to a boring five minute song, and then when it's over, listening to it again. Why must they tarnish Genesis' good name by wasting my time like that?
I also gag a little whenever I get to “Hold On My Heart,” which is a terrible adult-contemporary ballad. Uncle Phil's soft-spoken melody is toneless, and the smooth backing synthesizers are toothless. With that said, Collins comes off a little better when he gets to the Whitney-Houston-like pop-gospel song “Since I Lost You.” But even then, couldn't they have written a melody that doesn't come off so generic?
There are many more songs I didn't talk about in this review, but there's really no compelling reason to. I talked about them in the track reviews, anyway. So there. ...Now, about the album rating. I suppose when it comes right down to it, I like this album slightly more than I liked Invisible Touch. That's not a terribly popular opinion, but my reasoning simply is this: Invisible Touch has one good radio pop song, and We Can't Dance has three. Three is greater than one, and therefore I like We Can't Dance more. ...They still both got 9s, though, which is nothing to brag about. I know for a fact that Genesis knew better than to make an album this long and boring. (Or maybe they didn't... I guess I have to heartlessly remind myself what their next studio album was... *Gag*, *shudder*, etc.)
Read the track reviews:
The Way We Walk, Volume 1: The Shorts (1992)
Album Score: 9
It had been more than 10 years since the release of the previous Genesis live album, so they figured the time was right for a new one. Except instead of releasing the standard double album, they had the weird idea of splitting it into two and putting all the short songs on one disc and the long songs on the other disc. I really don't get the benefit of doing such a thing, and I guess that's just one of pop-rock's greatest mysteries. This album is officially titled The Way We Walk, Volume 1: The Shorts, so you can guess which half of the album I'm going to listen to today. (And there goes my original impression that this album contained only songs about underpants.)
Genesis had the history of being an excellent live band and they're quite good here. Unfortunately, the material they cover is mostly tailor-made singles for the radio, and they do all they can to reproduce the studio originals note-for-note. They concentrate mainly on covering material from the three Genesis albums that were released since their previous live album came out: Genesis, Invisible Touch, and We Can't Dance. They do a good job of covering all the highlights of those three albums, so I doubt this disappointed any of their fans at the time. The album opens with a terrific rendition of “Land of Confusion,” and I can hear their audience reacting wildly to it. As is the nature with most live albums from bands like Genesis that thrive predominantly in the studio, you can expect this version to be much rawer and probably less exciting, too.
Although I'll tell you I almost get as much of a kick out of “Jesus He Knows Me” in this live cut as its studio counterpart. ...I also like that Collins takes a moment to give a 10-second monologue, similarly to the one he gave at the beginning of its musical video (i.e. he says Jaeeeeesus). This was Genesis' song of the moment, and I can sense through Collins boisterous singing that he was proud of it! As he should be! I am similarly excited to hear a rousing rendition of “No Son of Mine,” where he can really pick up a storm with his passionate vocal performance.
Those were the first three songs on here, so it was so far so good, right? Alas, these albums have other songs on them, which aren't so good. Probably the worst of them is “In Too Deep,” one of the most boring and lifeless adult contemporary pieces of sludge I've ever had to sit through. “Hold On My Heart” isn't much better, but I will at least give Michael Rutherford some credit for playing a guitar solo that's almost so good that it threatened to give the song a little personality. Unfortunately, that doesn't quite save it from being having a forgettable melody and a blank synthscape provided by our friend Tony Banks.
Speaking of synthscapes, why couldn't banks have done a little something in that department to give a little more body to “That's All?” I know that the original song mostly consisted of Banks playing a catchy piano riff, but it seems like it could have used a little more than that at spots to help make it more uplifting. ...I'll also add that Collins gives a pretty good vocal performance there, but he was far more energetic in the original version. I guess he was turning into an old man by 1992, wasn't he?
I am extremely grateful, however, that they pulled out songs from Genesis, which was easily the best album of their pop era. “Mama,” in particular, is a remarkable highlight. Hearing how enthusiastically Collins snarls off those evil ha-haaaaaaahs throughout it is both charming and exciting. ...But why couldn't they have also covered “Illegal Alien” and “Silver Rainbow” from that in lieu of some of these other songs? Were they concerned that this live album would be too awesome, or something?
But I guess they felt responsible to do an extended version of “I Can't Dance,” which I'm sure all the teenagers and 20-somethings I hear screaming in the audience were utterly thrilled to hear. ...Well, it's an excellent pop song, so maybe I would have been screaming, too. (You might think that seven minutes is kind of long for a live album titled The Shorts... just you wait until we get to The Longs... Those songs are looong.) As a whole, this is a decent live album. It hardly blows me away or anything, so I would only buy this if you were a discography completest or a foaming-at-the-mouth Phil Collins fan.
Read the track reviews:
The Way We Walk, Volume 2: The Longs (1993)
Album Score: 8
I still feel like I'm in the land of confusion about why Genesis decided to split up their 1992 live album release like this. The release I reviewed previously that had all their short songs on it was alright, but now that I've gotten to the release with all their long, I find that it's ... er... a bit cumbersome. I mean, wouldn't it have been better to let the shorter bits help break up the long, never-ending stretches of instrumental purgatory? ...Or was that just too sensible?
Of course, let's not forget that this was Genesis, and they had more than their fair share of phenomenal lengthy prog tunes in their repertoire. If only this album weren't released in 1992, a live album of “the longs” might have been pretty good! Unfortunately, their more recent lengthy songs isn't anything in particular to brag about: “Driving the Last Spike,” “Domino,” “Fading Lights,” “Home By the Sea / Second Home By the Sea.” ...Are they trying to slowly bore me to death, or something? ...I'll tell you what, come to think of it: I'm about three hours closer to death than I was before I started writing this review. Ooof. How's that for a morbid thought.
But before they begin to bore us with their boring songs, they do a toast to their olden days with a 20-minute medley that's aptly called “Old Medley.” They quickly rattle off a series of 10 songs from their old repertoire in a manner that sounds like they were reading off some sort of grocery list... Except they actually do a very good job of threading the songs together, so there's not much reason for me to complain. Also, by default, it's the best song of the entire godforsaken album.
A distant second is “Home By the Sea / Second Home By the Sea.” The first half was an excellent pop song from 1983's Genesis, but unfortunately the second half was a much less exciting instrumental from that same album. ...But what was a not-so-exciting instrumental on Genesis, it's a pure highlight on this live release considering it has pounding drums and an engaging electric guitar solo in it from our trusty friend Michael Rutherford.
Because, you see, the other extended songs are boring. “Driving the Last Spike,” from We Can't Dance, is still a needlessly lengthy adult-contemporary tune that's not so much a boring 10-minute adult-contemporary tune, but a boring five-minute adult-contemporary tune that was played twice. “Domino” was a yawny yawn yawn thing from Invisible Touch; I suppose bringing it out live helped make it more gritty, but that could hardly save it from being one of the most underwhelming songs in their repertoire. The sprawling adult-contemporary epic “Fading Lights” also had might as well not exist; it not only takes itself too seriously and has nothing in terms of distinctive melody, but it swallows up 11 minutes of your time! ...I'm inching closer and closer to death, here, and that song makes me watch the time tick away...
And for crap's sake, why do they have a song in here called “Drum Duet?” I'll give them props for an honest song title, but come on, now, does anyone really want to hear Phil Collins battle it out on the drums with Chester Thompson? ...Well, I guess there's always someone out there on this planet who likes something, but it sure wasn't me. As we all know, I am the only person every musician in the world, past and present, strives to achieve the approval of. (I've never mentioned this before, but Chester Thompson was the guy who played drums for Genesis while they were on tour. I guess it was too important for Collins to hop around on stage while he sang, or something.)
By far the biggest problem with putting all the long songs on one disc is that the longer songs Genesis had been writing from 1983-1991 were by far the low-lights of their respective albums. I reckon that if it wasn't for the 20-minute “Old Medley,” this whole album would have driven me totally crazy. I mean, someone might have had to put me in a straight-jacket or something. ...So with that, I conclude my thoughts on the Way We Walk series. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. (If you don't feel like stabbing a fork into your forehead right now, then I feel that I've done my job.)
Read the track reviews:
Calling All Stations (1997)
Album Score: 6
After Phil Collins formally announced his departure from Genesis in 1996, it left the two remaining members with the keys to the parents' van. When they set out to find a quick replacement singer, they settled on 30-year-old Ray Wilson who was the lead singer for a grunge band called Stiltskin. Then, they composed about 1,000,000 hours worth of dark, depressing, and boring music and put it on this album. ...Alright, I might have exaggerated about the actual length of the album; if you were to time it, you'd discover that it is merely 97 minutes long. But when I sit through it, I swear it feel like I've aged about 114 years. What a boring, boring, boring, boring, boring monstrosity.
This album also sounds, curiously, like one of Peter Gabriel's solo albums, except it sucks. Could Banks and Rutherford have been secretly bitter at Gabriel for not taking them with him? (The eagle could have only visited one man on top of the hill.) Probably the best song of the album is “Congo,” which is directly out of Gabriel's Security. The world-beat rhythms lend the song an actual texture, whereas most of these other songs rely merely on Banks' cloudy synthesizer tones. Also, the chorus is pretty decent whenever it comes up. ...This also begs me to bring up the point that nothing about the song, or any other song on this album, sounds like it's from 1997. The synthesizers, bass-synths, and reverb-heavy drum machines have the mid-'80s written all over them. Mind you, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If these songs were well-written, I might not have cared about such datedness... But unfortunately, these songs are so awful that there's nothing left to do but call them embarrassments.
If you want to hear one of the worst ballads in the world, then look no further than “If That's What You Need.” Hilariously enough, it steals the same bubbly guitar texture from “Hold On My Heart” from We Can't Dance and makes even worse use of it. Wilson also over-sings the crap out of it, sounding like he was doing a horrible impersonation of Peter Gabriel in So. ...I mean, I hear his voice on the verge of cracking. And what, pray tell, did he find so important to be singing with such faux-passion? (“Talking makes us human that's what I was told / So why do I find it so difficult to let my feelings unfold / Had I the courage to tell you I'd promise you this / If that's what you need / I'll be the river, I'll be the mountain always beside you / If that's what you need / I will be stronger, I will be braver than ever before.”) Crap!!! I'm going to have to each lunch again now, because I just lost it all over my carpet... With that said, easily the worst Ray Wilson performance occurs during the chorus of “There Must Be Some Other Way.” ...If I ever write/direct/star in a silly comedy, I'm going to lip synch to it with my eyes closed for some instant comedy magic.
Neither Banks nor Rutherford apparently had much of an idea how to end songs. Almost all of them end with a very awkward fade-out, which takes place in the course of 15 to 30 seconds. How they decided between placing the fade outs in the middle of a chorus or in the middle of the verses I'll never know. The only song that has a proper, punchy ending is “The Dividing Line,” which is such an altogether long and tedious song that I have no energy left to be impressed about it. ...Urgh! Maybe they should have let Ray Wilson write a few songs. I don't know much about Stiltskin, but I have two bits in my pocket that says they were better than this.
These guys were also pretty hopeless at their respective instruments, which is the biggest disappointment of them all. I would have at least thought they would have had that in order. Banks spends most of this album playing such plodding whole notes that I'm pretty confident I could have played those. (Just so there isn't any confusion on the matter, I suck at the piano.) I would have thought with only one other member to contend with, Rutherford would have been able to finagle more solos out of the deal, but … I guess he just didn't want to. But even when he does surface, he tends to be somewhat awkward.
So that concludes my opinions of Genesis' Calling All Stations. Other people might have varying opinions of it, but there's one thing that I think everyone agrees upon universally: This is handily the worst album of Genesis' discography. In fact, I'm more sure about that than I'm sure that I'm an actual life form and not just made up in somebody's dream. ...I would go onto say that this is probably the worst album ever written in the world, but then I have to remind myself that Michael Bolton is also in the world. ...And then I regret reminding myself of that.
Read the track reviews:
Genesis Archive 1967-75 (1998)
Album Score: 12
1998 must have been a red letter year for true-blue, Genesis fans. The five titans of the group, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford, got together and assembled this awesome, four-disc box set. The first three discs predominantly contain material taken from live shows (that weren't also included on Genesis Live). Part of the third disc and all of the fourth disc contain non-album singles, demos, and an assortment of early, unreleased songs. There are 52 songs on this collection in total. Indeed, sitting through this album is a project. However, speaking as someone who not only listened to this entire collection, but wrote a track review for every single one of them, I'll tell you...... I had a blast!
The first thing you should note about it is that the first two discs contain a live rendition of the entire rock opera, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. They play its songs very similarly to how they were played in the studio album. It's a valid criticism that it makes it a pointless collection to own, because it's essentially an inferior version of it. ...However, I appreciate it, because I like to marvel that they were able to capture so many of those delicate textures from the album in that live setting. (With that said, there were parts that had to be rerecorded in 1998 due to technical problems with the original recording. Notably for the album closer, “It,” Gabriel's vocals had aged tremendously! Admittedly, it would have been better if they left it alone, but surely the soul of the original shows are still there in full display.) Steve Hackett fans should especially appreciate that he gets to shine a bit more here than he did in the studio cut.
But I'm not going to spend much time talking about the first two discs, because it's the third disc where the highest concentration of goodies are. Its crown jewel is an entire live rendition of “Supper's Ready,” a recording that probably should have been included on Genesis Live if only Genesis gave it the proper double album length. But anyway, hearing the band perform it live is fascinating to me, because it has nearly the same effect on me as its studio counterpart. They were able to recreate that magic on stage? Wow. Those lucky people in the audience! I also love all the Selling England By the Pound selections including “Firth of Fifth,” “More Fool Me,” “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and my personal favorite, “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” All marvelous live renditions (But why did they cut out Tony Banks' opening piano solo at the beginning of “Firth of Fifth?”)
With that said, probably the most interesting selections of this box set for most Genesis fans are the non-LP studio songs, because they're brand new to many people. “Twilight Alehouse” was the B-side to “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and it's quite fantastic! I'd say it would have been a pretty weak fit on Selling England By the Pound, because the transition between its folky beginnings and that strange dance groove comes across as jarring to me. Certainly it doesn't develop as gracefully as all the other songs on that album. But anyway, it's excellent to be able to hear another Genesis song from that era that I never heard before. “Happy the Man” sounds like an attempt for them to get a radio single in 1972. It's a sweet, sunny pop-rocker with a nice melody... However, it takes a few awkward turns here and there, so it's not much a shocker that it never took off.
All those early, pre-From Genesis to Revelation tracks on the final disc are certainly interesting to sit through. A few of them are demo versions of songs that would come up later in their discography, such as “In the Beginning,” “In the Wilderness,” and “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet.” But the majority of them had never been released before. Some of them can be quite interesting. “Going Out to Get You” is based on one of the weirdest piano grooves I've ever heard... It makes me think more of The Residents than Genesis! ...However, most of the other songs are very simplistic and shows these guys in their most formative years. Some of the material was even recorded as far back as 1967 when Peter Gabriel hadn't developed confidence a singer yet, and Tony Banks seemed to always just want to pound blocky chords at a cheap sounding piano like an amateur. But I do admit I find these art-nerd teenagers charming! I wonder if they had even an inkling of what would lie ahead in their future?
About the album score, this one was really tough to determine since I believe this is the first time I ever reviewed a box set like this. I could have gone as high as a 13 on this just based on the overall quality of it, but I figure ratings as high as 13s should be reserved for albums. For now, a 12 seems like a perfectly reasonable score. It's a wonderful collection that all Genesis fans will certainly treasure. If you've been sitting on the fence about acquiring it because its length intimidates you, then get off that fence. I was on it until recently, and I'm glad I have finally gotten off of it.
Read the track reviews:
Genesis Archive 2: 1976-92 (2000)
Album Score: 11
After the release and subsequent success of the four-disc box set of rare material from the Gabriel years, the next logical step for Genesis was to release one from the Phil Collins years. I admit, I wasn't terribly eager to give the volume a listen, but after doing so, I discovered to my delight that it contains quite a lot of gems in it. There are even a staggering amount of non-LP B-sides, which are miles more entertaining than their accompanying A-sides. For instance, remember that awful song from Invisible Touch called “In Too Deep?” ...I would never have suspected that the B-side of its single release, “Do the Neurotic,” is a vastly entertaining exploration of different textures, and … gasp … it shows Michael Rutherford coming out of his shell to shred his guitar in a blistering way!
“Paperlate” is one of the catchier songs they'd ever done, and it had originally appeared on the vinyl release of Three Sides Live. However, come its CD release, they cut the studio songs in favor of more live cuts. ...Thankfully, that nearly forgotten song is available here. Not only is it catchy, but I will always love it for its full, bubbly horn section. There were four other songs originally included on that vinyl release, and three of them are included here (“You Might Recall,” “Evidence of Autumn,” and “Open Door.”) The one conspicuously absent is “Me and Virgil” Granted, that song isn't their most inspired moment, but why leave it off?
An even greater crime is that they left off a song called “Match of the Day,” which was written by Steve Hackett. It's a beautiful pop song that he had intended it for Wind & Wuthering, but it had been unceremoniously left off for being “uncharacteristic.” (I guess there's no love for “Match of the Day.”) Another rejected song by Hackett, however, is thankfully included here, and it's called “Inside and Out.” It's easily one of the best folk-ballads they'd ever done. Leaving a song like that off the most boring album of their discography goes to show precisely where their heads were in relation to their bottoms at the time.
The second disc is the least interesting of the lot, filled with live performances from the Collins era. Considering there were already three double live albums from the Collins era, I don't think there were too many fans out there thirsting for more. (In contrast, there was merely one live album from the Gabriel era, and it wasn't double.) With that said, it's not completely worthless. For example, it starts out with a rousing rendition of “Illegal Alien.” Collins sounds as excited and boisterous as ever. You can't go wrong with that.
Where you can't go right is covering a song like “Dreaming While You Sleep,” which was one of the crappier songs from We Can't Dance... *Groan* But then there are also a few picks from A Trick of the Tail: “Ripples” and “Entangled.” The latter song was surely one of their finer moments, and the live rendition is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the inclusion of that song can't liven up the last half of the album, which is otherwise plagued with some of the most horribly tedious songs of their repertoire. ...I'll tell you what they are, but please be careful, because these songs are so boring that evoking their names have been known to make people pass out: “Your Own Special Way,” “Burning Rope,” and “Duke's Travels.” Blech!!!! ...If you're looking for a powerful, non-prescription sedative, then I think I found one!
There are also a handful of remixes here, which are almost entirely pointless. All the songs they remixed had already been perfected in their final studio form... or at least as perfect as they were ever going to get. All they really do, mostly, is add extra clicky percussion noises and put an annoying echoing effect on Phil Collins' vocals. They even lengthened the some of the songs significantly, which in the case of “Land of Confusion” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” gets on my nerves terribly. ...With all that said, they did a number on “I Can't Dance” by adding a flurry of synthesizers on top of it, which made it far quirkier than the original.
Even though sitting through some of this box set was a real chore—particularly the live performances and remixes—I had an all-around good time with this release. While this doesn't amaze me quite like Genesis' first archival box set, it's certainly worthwhile enough for it to earn that 11 I so graciously decided to award it. I not appreciate that it's around, but it also has its fair share of rare gems on it that I know I'm going to come to treasure in the years to come. I didn't even talk about a few of the gems in the main body of this review, so please do peruse the track reviews for more information about them. (And perhaps even some confusing sentences?)
Read the track reviews:
Live Over Europe 2007 (2007)
Album Score: 11
Try to imagine how much you think you'd enjoy a live Genesis album recorded in 2007 from their pop line up. This album isn't anything better than you're probably imagining. This double-disc, two-hour-long live collection contains some splendidly solid renditions of some of their classic tunes, but don't expect anything mind-blowing. This is roughly the same quality as any previous live recording from the Collins era. If you've listened to those, then you're probably aware that they tended to perform their songs as closely as possible to their studio counterparts. The same applies here, for the most part.
All of these live shows were recorded in various shows they did around Europe (hence the title), but they also did a leg of their tour in America. Except they skipped Seattle, which is that great big city that I happen to live in. It's like they were avoiding me or something, because I never liked their song “Hold On My Heart!” Screw that! It's not like I would have thrown eggs at them for performing it, or anything! ...Oh well, I don't suppose I would have been able to afford a ticket at that time, anyhow... I was just going back to school to study engineering after months of an unsuccessful job search. I was dirt poor...
As you'd probably expect, they acknowledge their prog-rock distant past in this live album, but not too much. “Firth of Fifth” and “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” are always great listens. They do a medley of sorts by combining “In the Cage” with “Cinema Show” and “Duke's Travels,” which works quite well. There are also plenty of additions from A Trick of the Tail, all of which I find delightful. ...But of course, the main concentration is material from the pop-Genesis years. You'll get to hear hearty smatterings of most of their staples including “Turn It On Again,” “No Son of Mine,” “Land of Confusion,” “Hold On My Heart” (gag), “Home By the Sea,” “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” and “I Can't Dance.” ...And then there's my favorite pop-Genesis song of them all, “Mama,” which shows impressively that Collins could still do those devil-laughs with conviction! But why didn't they do “Jesus He Knows Me?” Or anything from Abacab? ...Seriously, why no love for Abacab?
I suppose it wouldn't be a real Genesis show if they didn't have some songs that go on for ages. Many of them are quite good with the exception of the ll-minute rendition of “Domino,” which doesn't do a whole lot to float my boat. Another moment that keeps my boat half-submerged in water is “Conversation With 2 Stools,” which is a drum duet between Phil Collins and Chester Thompson. ...I've seen drum solos done a few times in the live arena, which can be entertaining when there's a light-show, rotating stages, or half-naked females dancing around, but it's not so much when I'm just sitting here in my bedroom with a pair of headphones. As far as drum pieces go, I'd say it's not bad, though—the drumming is rapid-fire, tight, clean, and rhythmic based. They had skills.
I'm also amused that Phil Collins adds a swear to “Invisible Touch.” I speculate he did that mostly out of bitterness from his most recent (and most expensive) divorce. (“Well, she don't like losing; to her it's still a game / And though she will f*ck up your life, you'll want her just the same / And now I know / She has a built-in ability / To take everything she sees / And now it seems I've fallen, fallen for her.”) ...Poor Phil. He always had trouble holding onto his ladies. (Perhaps they all just got tired of having to defend “Sussudio” to everybody?)
To conclude yet another one of my brilliant Genesis reviews, I will tell you that this is a decent live album, and I enjoyed listening to it. If you're a Genesis diehard fan or if you've actually been to one of these shows and want something for memories, then this is wholly recommendable. Other than that, I'd say this is iffy. There have already been five other Genesis live albums released—not including extensive live coverage in the Genesis Archive series—and I doubt most listeners really need another one. I certainly wouldn't forgo the purchase of Second's Out or Three Sides Live in favor of this one! Nevertheless, Live Over Europe 2007 is nice, because it shows that the reunionized pop-Genesis was in solid form and the song selection is mostly excellent. I might not have been able to go to one of their concerts in 2007, but I've at least gotten the sense of what it might have been like.
Read the track reviews:
Movie Reviews | Short Stories | Message Board | Contact Me