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Old 10-02-2021, 01:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Default Trollheart's Album Discography Reviews: Genesis

Note: In these threads I will also be covering any solo projects or other bands artists may have been in. As all of these guys have their own solo work, expect to see their material featured at some point too.

All right, I obviously enjoy all of the artists I'm making threads here for and whose discographies I'm featuring, but this one holds a lot of personal significance for me, as this was the first band whose records I ever collected, and the one that got me into progressive rock. A byword for some for boring, lazy and predictable music - and that is sometimes hard to deny after the mid-eighties, in fairness - but for others an iconic band who pushed the boundaries almost before those boundaries were there, who developed a reputation for intricate, complicated and interesting music and for elaborate lightshows, who would be among the first to use multimedia, and who in the seventies were in the forefront of the new movement sweeping music as progressive rock was born.

Though I constantly get sneered at for liking them, the band recorded what I believe to be some of the most important albums in the genre, and many of their contemporaries today owe a debt of gratitude to them. Sure, they sort of imploded under the weight of their own self-importance and a partial betrayal of their principles near the end, but they remain my favourite band ever. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the music of Genesis.

As anyone who knows anything about the other two artists I've started threads on will realise, these discogs are not going to be in any order whatever; while I originally wrote some of them that way (including this one) I don't really want to retread that idea, and it can be a little boring. So instead I'm going to kick this off with what struggles with another of two of their albums as my favourite from the band, and often comes out on top. All the more amazing when you realise they released two in the same year, and yes, that other one is one of its rivals for the top spot

Wind and Wuthering (1976)


For me, this album has it all. Long, epic prog masterpieces, sumptuous ballads and gorgeous and provocative instrumentals; Banks at his best and Steve Hackett still with them, his swansong before departing the band for a solo career. Collins had only taken the helm that year with the previous A Trick of the Tail, which was the second album released by Genesis in 1976 and the first without longtime member and founder Peter Gabriel, and was settling well into his role. Phil Collins was actually the first vocalist I heard with Genesis, as my original introduction to them was via the double-live Seconds Out, with him on vocals, as related in the very first entry in this journal, almost a year ago now. So unlike others I had no real knowledge of the much different voice of Peter Gabriel, and was without their dislike for “the new guy”.

This is not to say that I prefer Collins, or that I undervalue the massive contribution Gabriel made to the band, but like the Fish vs Hogarth debate in Marillion over a decade later, I find I don't like one or the other: I like both, and each brings his own special set of skills and his own touch to the particular period he is associated with. Gabriel does great on songs like “Visions of Angels”, “Watcher of the Skies” and “The Musical Box”, but I actually prefer Collins' vocal on “Supper's Ready”, which was originally a Gabriel vehicle. Possibly the fact that two of my favourite Genesis albums turn out to be this and A Trick of the Tail could say something, but then I love The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Trespass, as well as Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme, though funnily perhaps I don't agree with the conclusion come to by the readers of Classic Rock presents Prog recently, when they voted their favourite Genesis album of all time to be Selling England by the Pound. So what does that say?

Well, the debate can go on and on, but for myself I'm happy to say that I appreciate both singers, in both their periods, and don't prefer one over the other. This though was one of the first studio Genesis albums I heard. I recall that for my birthday (don't ask me what age I was, though I was in school still so probably 15 or 16) I asked for A Trick of the Tail and Discovery (by ELO) as well as Paris by Supertramp as presents. My brother already had this album, so I had no need to buy it when I could just borrow, tape and listen to it. But it made a massive impression on me, almost as much as A Trick of the Tail did.

It's an album I hardly need to listen to in order to be able to review it, I know it so well, but sometimes when listening for review purposes I've discovered things on other albums which I hadn't previously noticed, so I'm spinning it as I write. It opens on “Eleventh Earl of Mar”, and it's obvious from the off that it's a keyboard-centric album, with as I mentioned somewhere else, possibly on someone else's journal, some of Tony Banks' very best work. This is probably borne out as he has cited it as one of his favourite albums. It's a heavy, synthy opening which quickly morphs into a bouncy, uptempo number with Phil Collins' vocals somehow fitting the material perfectly. Great Hammond organ work in particular from Tony, and some excellent guitar work from Steve Hackett.

Halfway through it slows down with an acoustic guitar bridge played by Hackett, very pastoral and with a gentle vocal from Collins, spacey keyboards keeping an ethereal backdrop until the song pulses back into life for the finale, with pretty thunderous drumming from our man Phil, the song finishing as it began on loud, expressive Hammond. The longest track by a long way, “One For the Vine” is next, loosely based on the experiences of a messiah-like figure, obvious comparisons to Christ come up. It starts on a squeaky keyboard intro which then slides into a rather beautiful piano piece by Tony Banks as the song rolls along gently, Collins introducing the “hero”, who has deserted the messiah he was following, as the man leads his people into battle. Straying off ”The path prepared for him/ Onto a wilderness of ice” he finds himself in a faraway place. Completely against his intentions he is mistaken by the people living here for that which he has just rejected, a saviour, and he ends up leading these people into another horrible battle.

As fervour catches in him, he declares he will save these people and the song gets faster and more frenetic, with powerful keys and heavy drumming, until he realises he is becoming that which he left behind, the messiah he lost faith in and escaped. He retreats to a lonely place to meditate, this being conveyed by another beautiful piano piece from Banks, with attendant synth. This then turns into a fast, uptempo, almost frantic showcase for Collins on the drumkit as the song pounds back into life, great bass work from Mike Rutherford and much more uptempo piano and keys from Tony, some sharp guitar from Hackett. Realising he can't let “his people” down, the man returns to take his place at the head of their army, and we move into another slow synth and piano piece similar to the one that opened the song. As it comes to a close, one of his followers strays off the path, and disappears, and the “saviour” sees this, realising that the whole thing is about to repeat itself; in fact, it's left open as to whether this is the “original” saviour he had been following, going “back” to “his” world, or whether it's a vision of himself. A powerful and epic song, it ends strongly and has become one of Genesis' standards. The piano line it ends on is the one it began on, as everything - story, song, music - come full circle.

“One For the Vine” is a Tony Banks composition, and it's really one of his masterpieces. Against that, Mike Rutherford's gentle ballad “Your Own Special Way” is a little mundane, but it's nice, with of course plenty of guitar, restrained and relaxed, soft keyboard lines and a gentle vocal from Collins. Not surprisingly, it was released as a single, and did well, especially in the USA, in some ways I guess introducing the band to America for the first time. It's followed by “Wot Gorilla?”, one of the few instrumentals Genesis recorded in their almost thirty-year career. It's a fast, cheerful uptempo piece driven by wailing keyboards and some fine drumming by Collins. In ways, it kind of foreshadows elements of the melodies that would be prevalent on Duke, which would not be released for another four years.

The somewhat irreverent, fun theme continues then in another Tony Banks composition, the wonderful “All In a Mouse's Night”, which tells of the adventures of a mouse as he searches the house for cheese, gets chased by a cat and is saved by fate. The song is more or less broken into three parts, the first called “The Lovers' Story” concerns two people making love and disturbed by a mouse. Almost out the door of the bedroom, the mouse is discovered by the wife/girlfriend who screams and exhorts her husband/boyfriend to get rid of it. As the door is opened the mouse escapes and has the run of the house. The music is sort of fast-waltzy, mostly keyboard based as Collins moves into the second part of the song, “The Mouse's Story”, where the mouse is accosted by a cat, who tries to kill him but knocks a vase down on his head, and so the mouse escapes. Left to explain this to his compatriots, the cat invents a story of a ten-foot mouse ”With teeth and claws to match!” in “The Cat's Story”, so as not to let it be known he was outsmarted by a mouse. The final part, the cat's story, is led by heavy Hammond organ, with a great outro on keys and guitar. Great song, and great fun.

But the fun ends there, as “Blood On the Rooftops” is an acoustic led ballad decrying the loss of identity and self to the goggle box, with such shows as The Streets of San Francisco and The Wednesday Play namechecked, as the singer, an old man tells his young visitor it was ”Better in my day/ When we got bored/ We'd have a world war/ Happy but poor” and declares that he finds ”Arabs and Jews/ Too much for me”. There's a lovely acoustic guitar opening by Steve Hackett, to rival his star turn in “Horizons” on Foxtrot in 1972, and a gorgeous little piece on autoharp. The song gets heavier about halfway in, as the old man's frustration boils over and he snaps ”The rain at Lord's stopped play/ Seems Helen of Troy/ Has found a new face again.”

Two instrumentals then, well, one really but broken into two parts, reference the second part of the album's title, taken from the Emily Bronte classics. “Unquiet Slumbers For the Sleepers...” is the first part, carried on whistling keys and light guitar with almost no percussion, just a few drumrolls following the tune and ushering in the second part “... In That Quiet Earth”, much more uptempo and again quite Duke-ish, with heavier guitar and mellotron, Collins' drums coming much more to the fore now, with what sounds like some backwards masking on some of the synth parts. It breaks into a heavier, rock-almost-reggae beat as it enters the last minute, Hackett and Rutherford breaking out the electric guitars and going at it, Banks keeping the main melody going on the keys. It speeds up just at the end, and segues directly into the closer.

A staple at just about every Genesis concert, “Afterglow” is a great finale to a great album. A slow, measured ballad carried on a jangly guitar line and ending on a droning keyboard melody, it's a powerful vehicle for Collins' voice, with great choral vocals which I believe are made on a Moog synth. It ends on a long instrumental part on the Moog which fades out the track, and closes the album.

They definitely don't make them like this any more. Wind and Wuthering is important to the Genesis canon for many reasons, some already mentioned. It was the last album to feature Steve Hackett, and the one on which Phil Collins really came of age as a vocalist and frontman. It gave them their first minor US hit single, and it features more instrumentals than any other Genesis album before or since. It also features one of their longest tracks; at ten minutes long it's only beaten by a handful of other tracks down the years, (other than the seminal "Supper's Ready", of course) and it's only the second album to feature solo compositions from the band, with three songs written by Tony and one by Mike: by this I mean the one person wrote both lyric and music. Mike did write other songs on the album but only the lyric; he collaborated with Steve and Tony on the music.

This was one of the albums which, along with Seconds Out and A Trick of the Tail, started off my love affair with Genesis, and so it's definitely worthy of the slot here. It was also the only other place I ever heard the word wuthering, outside of the novel. It has two messiahs for the price of one, a song about TV and a cat being beaten by a mouse! What more could you ask for, really?

TRACK LISTING

1. Eleventh Earl of Mar
2. One For the Vine
3. Your own special way
4. Wot Gorilla?
5. All in a Mouse's Night
6. Blood On the Rooftops
7. Unquiet Slumbers For the Sleepers...
8. … In That Quiet Earth
9. Afterglow

Rating: 9.8/10
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