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Old 10-05-2021, 08:44 PM   #11 (permalink)
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With typical lack of respect for chronology (I did this originally in order but this time I'm flying by the seat, as it were) we're now jumping from almost the beginning of their career to the last album released with Phil Collins, and still really kind of the one I consider the end of the entire story for Genesis.

After three relatively substandard albums that owed more to the world of pop than that of rock, particularly progressive rock, the three amigos came back with an album that almost - almost - took us back ten years, while yet retaining a modern sensibility about it. It was, very nearly, their version of So.

We Can't Dance (1991)

You would almost think there was a joke hidden in there somewhere, when a band like Genesis, famed for long, complicated, adventurous progressive rock epics suddenly found their songs being played at discos and clubs, and attracting no doubt a younger and more female audience on the strength of their newer material. Whether or which, I don't know, but this album was their fifth consecutive number one in the UK, a top four placing in the USA, and though critics widely panned it, I consider it really the last truly great Genesis album. If there's a successor to A Trick of the Tail and Duke, then I believe this is it.

Again, they're looking more at real-world situations, with the opener, “No Son of Mine”, concerning the relationship between a man and his father, after the former leaves the family home, and how he finds it hard, even impossible to be accepted back. With a ticking drumbeat and a sort of growling synth, the song is a slow to mid-paced one, with a very honest vocal from Collins, even though it seems unlikely this is drawn from any of the band's actual experiences. Banks sets up the synth soundscape, building layer on layer until it all comes to a great crescendo for the chorus, the drums thumping hard and steady, like a judgement on the unhappy man of the title. It's a dark, bitter song, and the mood changes drastically then for “Jesus He Knows Me”, where the guys poke fun at TV evangelists, the tune uptempo and boppy, riding on a bubbling synth with lines like ”Just do as I say/ Don't do as I do” and ”You don't need to believe in the hereafter/ Just believe in me!” Of course, this is nothing new: Fish did the same thing on “Big Wedge” and The Hooters on “Satellite”, and no doubt there are many many others; the insincerity of these people is common fodder for rock and pop music, but Genesis do add their own little humorous slant here which makes the song something you can't help but like.

Again though, I hear the ghost of “Illegal Alien”, especially in the bridge, but I suppose you have to admire their courage, risking alienating a large section of their fanbase possibly. “Driving the Last Spike” looks at the courage of the men who built Britain's railways, and the conditions under which they worked. It's one of the two epics on the album, which oddly enough are almost exactly the same length, with only a difference of eight seconds between them. Running for just over ten minutes, this one opens with a reflective, lonely guitar from Rutherford, as Collins depicts the story of a man who is ”Leaving my family behind me/ Not knowing what lay ahead” and a sorrowful synth line underpins this necessary step into the unknown. Unlike the previous song, there's a great sense of sincerity and honesty running through this, and an attempt to honour these men, many possibly buried in unmarked graves, who worked and died to make Britain the mighty empire it became. The midsection features a powerful guitar solo and a warbling keyboard passage from Banks which brings it essentially into the second part of the song, as guitar drives it along, the tempo increasing slightly as the unnamed worker sighs ”There has to be a better life!”

There's definitely pride in being British, and respect paid to the men when Collins sings ”They'll never see the likes of us again!” That takes us to the title track, as such. It's actually called “I Can't Dance”, and is a kind of funky shuffle, very much driven on Rutherford's guitar, with some interesting percussion effects. It's a fun track but there's really nothing in it. Still won an award, though I think that was more for the video. The first of the fillers comes with “Never a Time”, which is basically every love song you've ever heard, and robs from the ending of “It's Gonna Get Better” from the Genesis album. This could be on a Collins solo album too and you wouldn't notice much difference.

We get back on track though with the excellent “Dreaming While You Sleep”, with its Gabrielesque drums, honking synth and creeping guitar. The story of a man tortured by having been involved in a hit-and-run, he finds he can't sleep and wonders how his victim is. There's a real sense of tension and drama building, mostly in the rather simplistic arrangement of the song. It bursts out on heavy pounding drumming and hard guitar as he tries to rationalise what he has done, and fails - ”All my life you'll lie silently there/ All my life, in a world so unfair/ And only I'll know why!” - hoping against hope that the woman in a coma will wake up. It's quite a selfish lyric really: the guy isn't so much bothered about the woman he ran down, so much as he is eaten alive by guilt, and if she were to wake up and survive then that guilt would, for him, be assuaged. Would he admit it was him? Sounds unlikely, as he talks about taking his secret to the grave.

“Tell Me Why” is another pointless little nod to the evils of the world without actually advancing any solution, almost as poor as his “Heat On the Street” from ... But Seriously. It's an okay pop song, with some nice parts, but ultimately it's empty. Phil rants about how heartless politicians are, but you know, some of that fortune, Phil, could be put to good use. This is why I have a problem with rich rock or pop stars crying their eyes out about poverty. If I had your money, I'd fucking do something to help! But no: we'll just write a song about it and let others sort it out. Sigh. This line really hits it on the head: ”You say there's nothing you can do/ One rule for them, one for you.” Indeed. I don't like “Living Forever” either. It has elements of 1983 Genesis about it, mixed in with some Duke-era stuff, and it's just a little confused. Every time I hear this song I forget what it's like, it just has that little effect on me. The backing vocals are drony and boring and there's a sort of nursery rhyme thrown in too for no good reason.

Luckily, the album rallies again at the end, with four fine tracks to close it out. The first, which I think is the first real ballad, is truly beautiful. “Hold On My Heart” has a tumbling drum intro and beautiful lush keys backing Phil's voice, which for once doesn't sound annoying to me. It's a simple song, but then so are the best ballads really. It's also one of caution, as Collins warns his heart to try to take things slowly --- ”Don't rush in this time/ Don't show her how you feel”. There's some lovely understated guitar work from Rutherford, which works really well, and the whole song is really well constructed. I could see this on Duke or ...And Then There Were Three..., though of course it does betray links with Collins's solo work. The next one has received a lot of bad press and criticism, and “Way of the World”, does, in fairness, take a very shrugged shoulders attitude to the injustices we live with every day, spreading the hands and saying “Sure what can you do?” But unlike “Tell Me Why”, which kind of treads the same lyrical territory, this is saved by its melody and beat, which you really can't help but tap your fingers to. It's like a kind of swing blues or something, rocking along in a midtempo vein. Lyrically it's pretty empty, but it gets a pass due to the melody, and I'm sure it went down well onstage. There's a kind of semi-reggae feel to it also, and since I don't care for reggae, the fact that I still really like this song says a lot. There's a great hook in the chorus, and I remember when I first played the album I began brightening up after the last few tracks, thinking maybe this is going to end well. I wasn't wrong.

I always thought “Since I Lost You” was a sad love song, but in fact it appears it's written by Phil Collins for Eric Clapton, in sympathy at the death of his young son which the singer/songwriter commemorated himself in his “Tears in Heaven”. It's a heartbreakingly open song, and Collins sings it with every ounce of emotion he can squeeze into his voice. It rides on a slow blues beat, Tony Banks's strong but supportive piano keeping the line as Collins sings ”It seems in a moment/ Your whole life can shatter” and asks the unanswerable question ”Oh how can life/ Ever be the same?” One of the sincerest songs of sympathy I've ever heard. I loved it before I knew the circumstances behind its lyric, and I love it even more now.

Whether Collins realised his time with Genesis was coming to an end, that he would soon leave the band and concentrate on his solo career and other adventures, I don't know, but the closing “Fading Lights” paints a sad but bittersweet picture of a man saying goodbye to his friends after so many good times. Every member of the band outdoes themselves here, and it's the other epic track, just over ten minutes again. When Collins sings ”Like a story that we wish was never ending/ We know sometime/ We must reach the final page/ Still we carry on just pretending/ That there'll always be/ One more day to go” it's touching, and it's perfectly executed. From the tiny taps of the drum machine which recall Phil's big success songs, to the impassioned keyboard solo from Tony Banks in the midsection that runs for so long it almost turns the song into an instrumental at the end, this is the perfect swansong for Genesis.

The vocal is quiet yet strong, wistful but determined, the voice of a man who really doesn't want to leave but knows he has reached that crossroad where he must make one of the hardest decisions of his life. When he sings ”We know that these are the days of our lives/ We will remember.” And if there are to be final memories of Genesis for Phil Collins, then this is probably the best they could fashion. It's well one of my favourites on the album, and pushes into the background the less than stellar tracks that blight the album. It's almost the Genesis of old meeting the Genesis of now in not so much an uneasy truce as a hearty handshake and a wry smile. The solo begins in the fourth minute and continues, more or less uninterrupted, through to the eighth, possibly Tony Banks's own personal farewell to his longtime friend and bandmate, while Mike Rutherford keeps up with him all the way, and Phil bashes out the drums, quite possibly with the hint of a tear in his eye.

And in the end, it fades away like its title, the final word left to the departing singer, with the last words of Phil Collins ever on a studio Genesis album, ”Remember...”

TRACK LISTING

No Son of Mine
Jesus He Knows Me
Driving the Last Spike
I Can't Dance
Never a Time
Dreaming While You Sleep
Tell Me Why
Living Forever
Hold On My Heart
Way of the World
Since I Lost You
Fading Lights

While it's certainly not the perfect Genesis album, I believe We Can't Dance is miles ahead of anything they had done since 1980, and would have been a fitting end for the band. Yes, there are duff tracks on it, but luckily the good ones are more than good enough to compensate for the few fillers. As a farewell to the fans, and to his bandmates, I don't think Phil Collins could have done better, and personally (though who am I to say?) I think they should have left it at that. However, they wanted to continue and so, for the second time in their forty-plus year career, Genesis went in search of a new vocalist. They found one, but he only lasted for the one album before Mike and Tony decided the magic wasn't really there anymore, and called it a day.

Note: The following was written as the ending of the original discography project, and is a little out of place here I know, but I really didn't want to cut it.

Since then, Collins has partially returned to Genesis, playing live with them on tours, but as yet rumours of a new album featuring the trio have not come to pass. Maybe they never will, and maybe it's better that way. As they say, and as Peter Gabriel seems to believe, you can't go back, and to try to recapture what you had ten, twenty, thirty years ago is like chasing a rainbow. So maybe they're better leaving well alone. If so, then this is where the Genesis story ends. It's been a long, at times rocky ride, starting out as a group of unsure teenagers writing music they didn't really want to write, to end up with a fully-blown rock opera which imploded the band and then set them on a course straight for superstardom.

Over the decades they helped give birth to progressive rock, made enemies and friends, explored whole new avenues of their talent, and for some, like me, created the soundtrack of their lives. For that, I will always be grateful to them. But rather than follow the words of “Please Don't Ask” and asking “Maybe we can try, maybe it would work this time”, I think it's best if the Lamb lies down for good this time, and let the three of them retire in peace and contentment to their homes by the sea.

Rating: 7.8/10
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Old 10-12-2021, 10:43 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Perhaps appropriately, perhaps inevitably, this review has to be broken up into two parts, it's so long - overrunning the maximum character allowance for one post - and it stands as Genesis's first, and only, double studio album. It also remains to this day their most controversial and debated one, and provides the swan song for their leader and founder, main man, vocalist and principle lyricist, as he departs these shores, perhaps with a manic sense of satisfaction that he has left behind him a conundrum as impossible to unravel as the Gordian Knot.

There has been endless debate as to what this album's concept is about, and even its writer will not come clean, if he even knows. Very much the baby of Peter Gabriel, it was he who wrote all the lyrics, he who created the concept and he who kept extremely tight control over what would turn out to be the last Genesis album he would work on, the controversy over which rages even to this day among Genesis fans. In the seventies, concept albums were cool. Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull and David Bowie had all released concept albums, some of which had gone on to become classics. With their love of storytelling, their passion for long, epic, multi-part suites and their education in the classics, Genesis seemed the perfect band to follow, or even redefine, this practice.

But there's a problem. Most concept albums have a story or plot you can follow, or try to piece together. This one, frankly, still bewilders me. Which is not to say that it's not a great album, because it is, but when you write a concept, it's a good idea I feel to let the listeners and fans in on your thought processes, even a little. As far as I can see, Gabriel played his cards so close to his chest here that he virtually excluded his fanbase, and left a lot of people wondering what the hell was that all about?

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

It's a rippling piano that opens the album with the title track, and you definitely get a sense of a movie or a theatre production as the music swells and bursts into the boppy melody, in which we're introduced to the protagonist, a Puerto Rican street punk who goes by the name of Rael (an anagram for real? Like just about everything about this album, I don't know but it's possible) as he emerges from some vandalism in the local subway - ”Rael, imperial aerosol kid/ Exits into daylight, spraygun hid” and witnesses the very odd phenomenon of a lamb appearing and lying down before him. On, you know, Broadway. This song rides on a hard guitar line from Steve Hackett but in the middle it falls to Banks to take the sprinkling, shimmering melody as Gabriel tries to put into words what Rael sees. With a group vocal singing ”On Broadway”, Gabriel purloins The Drifters' “On Broadway” for the ending of the song, and things, already a little weird, go completely off the rails.

“Fly On a Windshield” (the use of the Americanised word, whereas we would say windscreen, lending some credence to the fact that Genesis were trying to appeal to an American audience, but then after all, this does all take place in New York City so, you know, when in Rome. Or on Broadway...) comes in on a soft piano and choral vocals on the Pro Soloist with acoustic guitar, very ethereal and almost spiritual, as a cloud forms around Rael and moves towards him, he being apparently the only one who can see it, and filching from the midsection of “Harold the Barrel” Hackett softens the mood even more before hitting with an unexpected punch as the verse ends. A big, booming, driving drumbeat now takes the tune, stomping along as the cloud envelops Rael and crashing musically at least into the “Broadway Melody of 1974”. Still thumping along, there are many references to the old movie stars, like Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce and other figures of the time such as Howard Hughes and even the Ku Klux Klan. It's a confused and confusing song, deftly written yes, and I'm sure there's some sense in it but I can't make any out.

To be fair, the guy who writes the Wiki page for this album makes a good stab (whether correct or not I have no idea) at understanding/explaining it, and his take is that while Rael is enveloped in the mysterious cloud that only he can see, these images play out across the moviescreen-sized viewer in front of him. Hey, it's as good an explanation as any, and better than any I could come up with! A short, sweet and laidback guitar etude, presumably meant to represent Rael falling asleep, takes us then into “Cuckoo Cocoon”, where he awakes to find himself encased in a chrysalis, deep underground. A truly gorgeous piece of guitar from Hackett opens the song, a short one at only two minutes and change, but it runs then into one of the standouts on the album, “In the Cage”, where everything changes and the music takes on a much more manic, frenetic tone, semi-carnival with a real underlying element of horror. With a slow bassline resembling a heartbeat and swirling keys, its starts gently enough, but Banks's Mellotron soon begins the carnivale and dark voices issue from the Pro Soloist, as things begin to take shape. Trapped in his odd cage, Rael looks beyond its bars and sees others imprisoned like him, then beyond them, he catches sight of the figure of his brother, John. He entreats him to help him, but John just looks at him and runs away, leaving Rael to his fate.

The sense of panic woven by the music here is a credit to Genesis, who really create an almost claustrophobic atmosphere, with keyboard flurries by Banks almost taunting Rael with their power to run free and do as they please. As the music slows into a grand almost waltz, dark and doomy, Rael realises that the cage is dissolving, but he himself is now beginning to spin, as the music resumes the carnival tempo, fast, energetic, crazy, spiralling, spinning; unable to do anything, he staggers and faints. When he comes to, he finds himself in a factory, where he watches “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”, human bodies being packaged up as product. This is I believe the first and possibly only time Genesis invited another performer onto their album, and here it is Brian Eno, whose weird soundscapes (he or they call them Enossifications) really paint a vivid picture of the weird assembly line. Gabriel's voice is distorted by Eno to make him sound quite alien, and the music trips along on a sort of shuffle, only short of finger-clicks, building towards something as Rael watches the odd spectacle of ”People stocked in every shade/ Must be doing well with trade/ Stamped, addressed in odd fatality/ That evens out their personality” and for the first time in a while Gabriel gets to unleash the manic side of his voice.

What this is about, of course, I have no idea, although it could be a clever comment on the wasting of human resources, or how people are treated like commodities. “Back in NYC” is new wave ten years before it hit, with a burbling synth from Banks leading the line, and Gabriel screaming the vocal, which seems to look back to Rael's start as a street gang member. Interesting possible irony when he snarls ”Your progressive hypocrites hand out the trash/ But it was mine in the first place/ So I'll burn it to ash!” This is indeed suddenly a very different Genesis, and it's obvious to see that Gabriel was, through his bandmates, trying out ideas that would surface on his own solo albums, as this in particular reminds me of the main melody from “On the air” off his second one. It's also clear from the lyric here that Rael is not anyone's hero; in fact, if anything he's an anti-hero, as he spits ”I don't care who I hurt/ I don't care who I do wrong!”

It's also worth noting that this is an album that uses the word “rape”, and although music uses that liberally now, in 1974 this was surely a big culture shock, especially from a band who had, up to that time, not been known for their abrasive lyrics. To put it simply, through Gabriel's acerbic lyrics Genesis had got angry all of a sudden. It's very raw, very in-your-face; for a band more used to gentle acoustic interludes and songs about nymphs and wolves, this is a major change for Genesis, which may be one of the reasons why it didn't sit too well with the other bandmembers. At least there's a guitar instrumental in “Hairless Heart” before Gabriel pushes the envelope further with a wickedly tongue-in-cheek but risque song about sexual practices in “Counting Out Time”, with a real rocking beat and a sly grin and a twist of the lip in a devil-may-care vocal from Gabriel.

”Erogenous zones I love you!” he exults. ”Without you, what would a poor boy do?” And those who have been brought up on albums like Selling England by the Pound, Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme shake their heads and wonder what the world is coming to when a band like Genesis can sing about teenage sex? Genesis! Is nothing sacred? It's got a very poppy, almost David Cassidy style about it, which jars violently with the OTT lyric and the unexpectedly harsh guitar that punches through, reminding us this is a rock song, dammit, not pop! Something like a kazoo leaves us wondering though. We may also wonder where the story has gone at this point, and don't ask me because I really have no idea, but this attempts to get it somewhat back on track, with the return of that soft, rippling piano from the opener and another standout, “The Carpet Crawl”.

A gentle vocal from Gabriel tells us that Rael has found himself in a chamber, along the floor of which people crawl, trying to reach the door, which is at the top of stairs they cannot climb. Opinions differ wildly about what the chamber is, but I like the idea that it is the womb, where fertilised eggs struggle towards the light to be born. Or maybe not. In any case, it's driven, once it gets going, on a lovely guitar melody, and paraphrases Hawkwind's Choose Your Masques when he sings “We've got to get in to get out” as its main chorus motif. It really is a beautiful song, the first ballad on the album and a fine example of Steve Hackett's unbridled talent. There's a slight increase in intensity as the song progresses, perhaps to reflect the anxiety of the carpet crawlers as they try to reach the faraway door, but basically it keeps the same melody throughout until it fades out at the end. I should also mention there is some truly stunning backing vocalwork here from the others, notably Collins.

Rael, of course, not having to crawl, is easily able to reach the portal and walking through it finds himself in “The Chamber of 32 Doors”, unsure which one to exit via. Around him, people rush to and fro, trying different doors, trying to find the right one. A metaphor for decisions made, perhaps, or the fear in all of us of taking the wrong path at a crucial time in our lives? There's also cold irony in the discovery that those who manage to make it out of the room below only really exchange one prison for another, as they wander here through door after door, returning to the same place every time, trapped in almost a repeating loop. A powerful guitar kicks the melody off, and Rael, just like everyone else, finds that it's hard to pick the right door. Bells peal and choral vocals then give way to a rising, urgent keyboard line and a hopping bassline as Gabriel considers the merits of country folk and workingmen, preferring to trust ”A man who works with his hands” than a businessman, perhaps a shot at their treatment by record companies in the past? Nice piano lines from Banks, and for a six-minute song it goes through many changes. In the end, Rael sinks down, exhausted, as ”Every single door that I walk through/ Brings me back here again” and he prays for ”Someone to believe in/Someone to trust.”

This brings to an end the first disc, and rather appropriately too, as we leave Rael confused and alone, desperate, not knowing which door to choose, literally at a crossroads in his life, trying to find the path that will take him away from this eternal loop of time.
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Old 10-12-2021, 10:58 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Help is at hand though in “Lilywhite Lilith”, which opens disc two and introduces us to the strange blind woman who asks for help, is aided by Rael and who guides him by feeling the breeze and determining which is the correct door. It's a big powerful rocker, driven on guitar and pounding drums, with Lilith leaving Rael in a cold stone chamber with the chilling remark ”They're coming for you/ Now don't be afraid”. The piece slows down as something approaches, light floods the room and we're into “The Waiting Room”, where strange, eerie sounds (Eno again) fill the air --- tinkling, crashing, ringing, very expressionist, with what may be violins making a kind of dark laughter, creaking doors, thumps and steps and many other weird and alien sounds, all serving to unnerve the listener and put them on their guard, wondering what is going to happen. This strange passage of sound goes on for over five minutes, nodding to effects from Floyd's “On the Run” and “Welcome to the Machine”, leading into “Anyway”, a beautiful piano run from Banks against which Rael, believing he is dying or dead, reflects on the nature of life, God and Heaven and Hell, asking ”Does Earth plug a hole in Heaven/ Or Heaven plug a hole in Earth?” and then in “Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist” Rael meets Death.

On a strummed guitar, it's pretty much an instrumental, with barely four lines of lyric and evidence of melodies Hackett would use on the next album. It then leads to yet another standout track, as we reach the second ballad and Rael meets “The Lamia”. These are strange, exotic, erotic snakelike females who seduce him, tasting of his blood but then dying as they do so. It's driven on beautiful classical piano and flute which softly undulates like the very snake-creatures who give it its title. A tale of beauty never lasting, it's a beautiful tragedy, so well written, and when Gabriel sings ”With the first drops of my blood in their veins/ Their faces are convulsed in mortal pain/ The fairest cries “We all have loved you, Rael” you really feel the tragedy unfolding. The hero is suffused by a dreadful sorrow as the corpses of the Lamia now float on the water beside him, love changed so quickly and so horribly to death. Aghast, horrified, lost, Rael consumes the flesh of the Lamia (why?) and leaves the pool, the saddest instrumental Genesis have I think ever written following him as “Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats” brings this chapter to a shuddering, heart-rending close. It's again mostly Banks, making sounds with his synth like the honking of ships, sad sounds of sorrow and grief, and it fades in like a slow classical concerto on trombone, with attendant choral voices from the Pro Soloist, rising to a pitch of sorrow that brings tears, and then slowly fading back out, the two songs (which originally ended side three of the four-side double vinyl album) making this one of the most moving sections on the entire record.

Everything changes then for “The Colony of Slippermen”, which is divided into three sections, the first, “Arrival”, opening on a weird little instrumental that would not be out of place on a Tom Waits album, then bouncing into the song itself, wherein Rael meets the grotesque Slippermen, who are all deformed, and is informed that they too have tasted the flesh of the Lamia, and this fate awaits him also. In addition, he is reunited with his brother, John, who has undergone the same transformation. On a crazy, trippy, madcap beat the song rides along, almost like some children's nursery rhyme or game, Bank's bubbling mellotron pulling everything along, some great vocal harmonies and typically odd vocalisations from Gabriel as he takes on the persona of a Slipperman. Rael and John are advised that the only cure for what they have is to have their penises removed (yeah) and to this end they go to visit Doktor Dyper, in “A Visit to the Doktor”, as the same basic tune, increasing in urgency and coming quite close, if I'm honest, to elements that would surface six years later on the Duke album, carrying the song.

However, once the deed has been performed, a raven swoops down and grabs the tube into which Rael's pride and joy has been put, and flies off with it. The romping keyboard run that forms most of “Raven” has become ever since enshrined in the medley Genesis play onstage and so is very recognisable to concert-goers. Rael asks John to help him chase the raven, but just as he did from outside of the cage, his brother refuses and walks away. Rael pursues the bird until it finally drops the tube into a stream, and Rael watches in despair as it floats away. Again, eerie sounds on the synth create the ambience here in “Ravine” and then we come almost full circle with “The Light Dies Down On Broadway”: as Rael walks disconsolately along the riverbank he suddenly sees a screen in front of him in the air (the same cloud that brought him here?) showing images of New York and his past life, and he feels homesick.

Reprising the melody from the title track as well as “The Lamia”, it's a clever reminder of what has gone before and serves to link the two halves of the album, but before he can move towards the cloud, Rael hears shouting and sees that his brother is struggling in the rapids, and has to make the decision: does he go forward and find his way home, abandoning the brother who twice left him to fend for himself, or does he turn his back on his escape route and save John? With a despairing look as the window begins to close, he turns away and goes to help his ungrateful brother. “Riding the Scree” has a real funk about it, peppered all over with Banks's keyboard parts from “Supper's ready” and a sonorous organ. To be perfectly honest, it doesn't conjure up an image of the title to me, and I hear elements again that would be used in Duke, years later, but it ends on a big powerful synth run and soft keys into “In the Rapids”, in which Rael manages to rescue his brother, holding on tight but seeing his face change to ... his own?

There's quite a lonely melody attending this, which is unexpected, as you would expect a big, frenetic, exciting denoument, but it's very low key. Some really nice guitar work, soft percussion and piano, almost a ballad in effect, then at the end it ramps up as it rises into the final track, the enigmatic “It”. Bouncing along on a fast rocky beat, it's supposed to be I guess the explanation of what has happened, and in essence it seems John and Rael have merged, or were the same person all along, perhaps each being aspects of the one personality, which has now become one. There's a lot of wordplay in the lyric, and even time for Gabriel to tip a sly wink to his listeners when he claims ”If you think that it's pretentious/ You've been taken for a ride!” This closing section also survived into Genesis's live set, usually merged with a truncated “Watcher of the Skies”. At the end, Gabriel even paraphrases Jagger as he fades out on ”It's only knock and knowall/ But I like it.” He could be saying here that those who think they know it all (music critics?) love to knock Genesis's music, or even that he's the know-it-all, knocking on the doors of consciousness and perception, carrying on Jim Morrison's stated aim with the Doors. Or it could be just gibberish, who knows?

TRACK LISTING

DISC ONE

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Fly On a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
Cuckoo Cocoon
In the Cage
The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
Back in NYC
Hairless Heart
Counting Out Time
The Carpet Crawl
The Chamber of 32 Doors

DISC TWO

Lilywhite Lilith
The Waiting Room
Anyway
Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist
The Lamia
Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats
[COLOR="Green"]The Colony of Slippermen
(i) Arrival
(ii) A Visit to the Doktor
(iii) Raven
Ravine
The Light Dies Down On Broadway
Riding the Scree
In the Rapids
It

I'm happy to take the explanation of the plot provided by Wiki guy, and drawn, it would seem, from the book The Annotated Lamb Lies down on Broadway by Jason Finegan, Scott MacMahan and members of Paperlate. It does a good job of deciphering the plot, and makes some conclusions I would agree with or that shed new light on something I had always found difficult to understand. However, as they say themselves, it's a mistake to think this album is “about something,” and is more “something that every listener must decide a personal meaning that satisfies as an explanation.” That's probably true about this album, but it does beg the question, what did Gabriel mean when he wrote this? He did not just sit down and string ideas, concepts, lyrics and meanings together without any overall cohesive vision. He knows what it's about, but like most artistes, he preferred to keep it shrouded in mystery, and still does. It's the age old answer to the question: “Well, what do you think it's about?”

Even if its meaning can't ever be comprehensively and definitively understood, even if it's a code that is so well written that it will never be broken, unless when he passes away Gabriel leaves an actual, clear and unambiguous explanation in his papers (which I believe is very unlikely; the mystery of The Lamb should outlive its creator), The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway remains one of the deepest, most intricate, well thought out and comprehensive works of not only Gabriel or Genesis's careers, but of progressive rock music, and more, of music itself. There are few concept albums that refuse to give up their secrets, but The Lamb is one that jealously guards its mystery, retaining the shroud over its meaning like the very cloud that descended on Times Square and spirited Rael away to this weird underground world.

But you can enjoy it for what it is, a collection of mostly pretty damn fine songs, some gorgeous linking instrumentals, a rollercoaster ride through either one man's descent into, and ascent from insanity, a drug-fuelled trip or dream, or an actual occurrence that can never be explained. It divides Genesis fans, with some thinking it was the pinnacle of their creativity while others believe this was the point were Genesis began eating its own tail, like the serpent of myth, and that had events not unfolded as they had, this could have spelled the end of the band. It's no secret that the tensions evident when making the album, Gabriel's insistence on almost total control and then his unlikely disappearance during its creation to work on a movie that never saw the light of day, all served to place undue strain on a band who were already beginning to fragment as that old chestnut, “musical differences”, hovered on the horizon.

To place him in the actual position of Rael in the real world, Gabriel, staring at the many doors he could walk through, was about to make a decision which would, for many Genesis adherents, lead indeed to silent sorrow in empty boats, and for the first time since they had played their tentative tunes on their debut album under the watchful eye of Jonathan King, the light was beginning to die down on Broadway.

Rating: 8.9/10
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Old 10-12-2021, 03:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'll read your review later in more detail, but for the moment I just want to say that I think Lamb is my favourite Genesis, in the sense that it provides the most satisfying listen. I don't listen to it all that often because of its length and the fact that it just feels totally wrong to listen to bits of it.

It was not always my favourite. When I first heard the first few songs I wondered what I had struck. The previous three studio albums showed a progression, but many of the songs could have been wrapped from one album to another without sounding out of place. The Lamb has a different sound, a difference that's hard to define but is nevertheless there. It's not just that the subject of the lyrics has shifted radically from being quintessentially English, to suddenly embracing American culture. There is something subtly different about the musical sound as well.

Lots of people don't particularly like this album, and if they are the kind of people who tend to listen in snatches then I can understand why, because some of the songs don't hold up that well out of context, but they are essential to the whole.

Is the album just a collage of crazy images and situations, or is there a story, or at least some kind of statement being made? I think there is, but I'll leave that until I have more time to discuss it properly.
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Old 10-16-2021, 03:17 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Although a member of one of the most successful and influential progressive rock bands of the last century, Tony Banks is something of a quiet enigma, certainly compared to his bandmates. Phil Collins, we know, had a very high-profile solo career, and for a while Peter Gabriel was in the charts and doing well. Even now, he's highly regarded and respected as a musician. Mike Rutherford, too, made a name for himself outside of Genesis with his solo project, Mike and the Mechanics. But Tony? Despite being an accomplished keyboard maestro, and an excellent songwriter, and having been in Genesis from the very beginning, he's the one about whom you tend to hear very little, whether inside of or outside of the band. Of course, Genesis are no longer together, but even when they were, Tony would always shy from the spotlight, preferring to noodle away in relative obscurity, unleashing amazing keyboard solos like the one in “One for the Vine”, the heavy organ sound that underpins “The Knife”, and even in more recent times, the thematic “Duke's Travels”, but still little is generally known about his solo work.

Unlike some of his contemporaries in Genesis, including ex-bandmember Anthony Phillips, who has gone on to have quite the career in classical music, Tony has not put out a slew of albums. In fact, between 1979 and this year he's only had eight in total, and two of them were soundtracks to movies. Two were also released under projects, 1989's Bankstatement and 1995's Strictly Inc., leaving him with basically five actual solo albums, two of which are suites for orchestra, the latest released this year.

A Curious Feeling - Tony Banks -1979)


But though I've not heard everything he's written or played solo, and though Bankstatement was, for me, very hit and miss, with some great tracks and some real letdowns, his debut album, A Curious Feeling, hit all the right spots. Released without fanfare, without a picture of him on the sleeve, and with little or no media attention, it nevertheless quietly climbed into the top twenty album charts and remained there for over a month. It's a concept album, apparently (though I never knew it) based on the novel Flowers for Algernon, which I've never read and so can't confirm or deny it follows the storyline. What it does have, however, is no bad tracks and some really stunning ones. At a time when Mike Rutherford had yet to release any solo material, nor indeed Phil Collins, and while Peter Gabriel was just getting to grips with his second solo album, with Genesis about to hit the big time again with Duke the following year, A Curious Feeling is a gem of an album, showing effortless, natural talent without any big hubbub or ego.

But then, that's Anthony George “Tony” Banks for you.

It opens with a piano instrumental, as perhaps you might expect, but if you think this is going to be largely an album of piano and keyboard instrumentals and themes, you're off centre there. Originally intended to be the intro to Genesis's “Undertow” from the ...And Then There Were Three album, it's a powerful yet laidback tune with synths backing up the piano, really to be honest sounding more like something off Duke to me, especially “Heathaze”. It only lasts two and three quarter minutes, but serves as a delicious little entree to this feast of an album, followed by “Lucky Me”, an uptempo pop-sounding song which really looks forward, if unintentionally, to Genesis's later material on Invisible Touch, and the first vocal track with the late Kim Beacon taking the mike, as he does for the entire album, Tony content to hide behind the keyboard, where he's always been most comfortable.

“Lucky Me” displays many Genesis moments, but this will not be typical of the album, as it strikes out on its own, heading it its own direction. The voice of String Driven Thing's Beacon fits the material like a glove, and his vocal is clear, strong and passionate without ever taking over from the music, which is the lynchpin around which the album turns. Toiling quietly in the background, Tony paints a lavish soundscape with his keyboards, also taking guitar and bass duties, and some percussion, though most of this is delegated to Genesis on-the-road drummer Chester Thompson. “The Lie” is a very Duke-sounding piece, uptempo and boppy with a great piano melody racing it along, heavy synths keeping the background as the guitars chop it up and snarl away in quite a rocky tune. It falls into a sort of slow semi-reggae beat halfway in, with choral voices coming in to join the melody, and Kim sounding almost Colin Blunstone. Then Tony takes us back to 1974 with a keyboard line right out of The Lamb, before it all ramps back up again to head towards its boppy end. Not, I have to admit, one of my favourite tracks on the album, but then, that only shows how good the ones I rate are!

“After the Lie” is a much slower, moodier piece, with Beacon's voice low and almost echoing, Banks' piano taking centre stage, then supplemented by Alan Parsons-style marching keyboards and drums, as the vocal gets stronger and more insistent. There are some lovely little Banks moments in this song: piano runs, keyboard arpeggios, little glissandos, lovely stuff. A deep, humming choral synth keeps pace as the song heads into its third minute, then some spacey synth and light piano as everything slows down even further in almost Vangelis style, Beacon's vocal coming back in as the tempo begins to increase with the song moving into its denouement with some superb trumpeting keys from Tony taking the tune home in an almost brassy way.

The title track comes in on a shout and a big, happy keyboard sound, and is an uptempo, poppy song which could have made quite a decent single, had it been released. Beacon is on fine form here, singing his heart out, with Tony trying out all sorts of little tricks on the synth and making it sound like a whole band. It's a very uplifting song, and it leads into only the second instrumental on the album, but one of my favourite tracks. “Forever Morning” kind of revisits the theme of “From the Undertow”, with a heavy piano opening, then sliding into soft synth and arpeggiated keys, with a nice midsection where it goes all pastoral for a minute or two, nice soft piano passage with attendant bright keyboards, then a big finish as it crescendos up to the climax of the piece, first running off a sort of false ending before coming back with the triumphant finish.

Opening as a much slower, moodier song, “You” begins on jangly, expressive guitar with minimal synth backing and some nice vocal harmonies, percussion coming in almost unnoticed around the second minute before it kicks into life as it moves into the third, with a big crazy keyboard run again harking back to the best of The Lamb, flowing arpeggios and smooth synth runs everywhere as Banks takes over the melody, then it slows down in very Genesis fashion with a sonorous, deep booming choral synth, taking off again with trumpeting keyboard flourishes before it all fades down on light synth and piano to the end.

One of my very favorites, in fact I think I would put it as the standout, is up next, and “Somebody Else's Dream” comes in on a thumping, rolling drumbeat and squealy synth before a nice little piano line breaks in, and Beacon's vocal can be described as one of the very best on this album. It's a sombre, moody, tense piece with a lot of drama and urgency about it, with the intensity building as the song goes on, dropping back in the middle as the melody takes a little breather, a nice gentle piano line soon giving way to more urgent and heavy synthwork, and Beacon comes back for his final vocal lines in the song. The longest on the album at just under eight minutes, the last two minutes are totally instrumental as Banks really lets himself go on the keys in an almost operatic display of energy and drama.

A nice relaxing instrumental then, just the ticket after all that high-powered, intense playing, and a real respite in a lush little interlude; well, not really as it's over six minutes long, but it does bridge the gap between the energetic and dramatic “Somebody Else's Dream” and the final two tracks, and is the final instrumental on the album. Some rather nice soft guitar on it too, though it's soon supplanted by deep organ and warbly keys, with the piano coming back in to calm things down. Lovely little flutey sounds on the keys add to the sense of tranquility on the piece, but like a storm bubbling under, just held in check, the heavier keyboards and throaty synths are just waiting to be unleashed again, so that the track rises and falls like the tide, with crests and troughs, and is a thoroughly enjoyable ride, and a real testament to the undoubted and yet almost taken for granted prowess of Genesis's quiet keysman.

A mid-tempo ballad helps to close off and bookend the album, as “For a While” breezes along nicely with some bright guitar and some carefree keys, and another fine vocal performance from Kim Beacon, though by comparison it's a short song, just over three minutes, then the coda, or epilogue is a dark but moving little piano piece called “In the Dark”, with some effective flute and whistle sounds on the keys, but otherwise just the piano and Beacon's vocal, with some soft synth joining in with a sort of half-reprise of the theme from “Forever Morning”. A nice gentle and yet appropriate way to finish the album.

It's a pity this isn't better known; despite spending time in the top twenty I doubt many non-Genesis fans could point to it as a solo Genesis album, and yet although it was his debut it comes across to me as completely accomplished and professional, balanced and thoughtful, definitely more a project created by someone who loves music than a crass attempt to cash in on the Genesis name, or make a big splash in the charts. Not saying Gabriel or Collins had that in mind either - well, probably Collins - but it's nice to see that this album, rather like Mike Rutherford's later efforts before forming his band, concentrates more on making the sort of music the artist prefers than what will sell.

An undiscovered gem, without doubt. Go unearth it now.

TRACK LISTING

1. From the Undertow
2. Lucky Me
3. The Lie
4. After the Lie
5. A Curious Feeling
6. Forever Morning
7. You
8. Somebody Else's Dream
9. The Waters of Lethe
10. For a While
11. In the Dark

Rating: 9.4/10
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Old 10-17-2021, 03:37 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I tell anyone who will listen that A Curious Feeling is a terrific album and in some senses is like a lost Genesis album. It's the most Genesis-sounding of Tony's solo efforts, but also has its own unique sound. "Somebody Else's Dream" is my favourite of the vocal tracks; this is where Kim Beacon really cuts loose.

Regarding the story that inspired the album: Flowers For Algernon originally appeared as a short story in a SF anthology. Later it was expanded into a novel, with extra bits added to the plot, but as I feel is so often the case it did not improve on the original short story, which packs all the necessary punch into fewer pages. It was also later made into a movie called "Charlie" or "Charly". My recommendation: read the original.

I found it rather interesting that both Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford released debut solo albums that were both based on novels. Coincidence, or a case of great minds?

Not to jump the gun on you, but I think some of Tony's other albums are also very good, though quite different from the debut. I heartily recommend both Still and Strictly Inc. Bankstatement was a little disappointing to me but has a few pretty good songs.
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Old 10-17-2021, 07:46 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I agree with you about ACF being the kind of "lost Genesis album". It's definitely of the ATTWT/Duke mould more than, say, Bankstatement, which I also agree was quite a weak album. To be honest, I've only heard those two and I think Seven, which is mostly or all classical material, but I imagine Bankstatement is generally seen as one of his weakest albums.

There's a line in "Somebody Else's Dream" which I think encapsulates everything you need to know about Tony - "I like the work and I do it well, and that's enough for me." While Phil was out there changing his sound to get hits, and Peter was experimenting with world music, Tony really didn't care about chart success, but he did and does love his music, and I think it shows in at the very least this album. A criminally ignored classic.
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Old 10-18-2021, 07:16 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post

There's a line in "Somebody Else's Dream" which I think encapsulates everything you need to know about Tony - "I like the work and I do it well, and that's enough for me."
It's actually from "Lucky Me .

Re Tony's classical albums: most of the people who know them seem to say they get better as they go along, with "Seven" being somewhat weaker than "Six" and "Five". I don't have a strong opinion on this, but I thought I would mention.

There is also speculation that his releasing the albums in inverse chronological order was a way for Tony to intentionally flag that the series would terminate at a certain point, since he could not really go beyond "One".
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Old 10-18-2021, 10:31 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Well he could do an Ed (spit) Sheeran couldn't he? "Minus One," "Minus Two"?

Yeah I realised it was the wrong song this morning as I was singing it in my head. Meant to change it, but you beat me to it. D'oh!
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Old 10-18-2021, 12:22 PM   #20 (permalink)
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There is a video clip available of Tony performing "Waters of Lethe".

In interview he said he did not recall making that clip. I'm still not sure whether he was serious or having a little joke, given what the waters of Lethe refer to - a river in Hades that causes you to forget your past life after immersion.


Tony sometimes comes across as "the serious one". In fact he does have a sense of humour, but it's very British and understated.
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