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Old 02-02-2022, 11:39 AM   #51 (permalink)
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And speaking of that 1983 album...

I have, as those who have read my writings before are aware, a bugbear about bands who title any album other than their first with their name. I understand the idea behind self-titling your debut: you want to get your name out there, you want the album to reflect who you are, or maybe you just can't think up a cool title. That's okay. You can even call your other albums [Insert band name here] II, III, IV etc. No problem with that. But when you've released eleven albums, with creative titles like Wind and Wuthering, Nursery Cryme and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, you're surely not stuck for ideas. So maybe the album title was conceived in a last-ditch attempt to show people that the Genesis on Abacab was not the real Genesis, that here they were getting back to basics?

Well, that's a fine idea, but the trouble is that the twelfth album did nothing of the sort. While I was glad to hear the mellotron back in service after so long away, and the album does have one epic, fairly progressive-ish song, generally it's a continuation of the previous outing, with pop songs and a lot of humour too, some of it perhaps very misplaced, as I shall explain later. This, after all, was the album that Kerrang! Called “A Genesis album for people who hate Genesis.” Not good. Not good at all.


Genesis (1983)

Nevertheless, despite or perhaps even because of that, they scored another number one with the album and their highest ever single chart placing, when “Mama”, the opening track, went to number four in the UK. Even in the hard-to-crack US market, it hit number nine. So maybe they made the right decision. Well, commercially they had of course, but I'm sure they began shedding fans by the cartload with the onslaught begun by Abacab, continued here and with the next album almost banging in the final nails in what was Genesis's progressive rock coffin. Naturally, millions stayed true to them, but for diehard Genesis fans who had grown up on the seventies material, well, if they wanted slick pop songs there was hundreds of bands they could listen to, and they must have wondered, as did I at the time, where their band had gone?

It is however an encouraging start, as “Mama” opens with breathy, determined drumming from Collins and then that familiar wailing keyboard from Tony Banks opens the song, although I see from the lineup that the drumming was done by a machine, operated by Rutherford! Says it all, really. The most signature sound to this album, almost, and it's not even the drummer making, or even operating the machine that's making it. The vocal contains a harsh, almost mocking laugh from Collins, followed by a sort of groan, which became the hook in the song, because to be honest it's not that super a track otherwise. It's interesting, and it sold, as I say, taking it to the fourth position in the charts in the UK, the highest Genesis had ever been in their career, but at its heart it's a song about a man wanting to visit a hooker, and let's be honest here, that's not the sort of subject matter we've been used to hearing Genesis sing about. They had left the airy-fairy castles, as I think Gabriel referred to their earlier lyrics, behind with the earthy honesty of The Lamb, but sort of returned to them for the first two albums without him, whereas with ... And Then There Were Three..., Duke and Abacab they had returned slightly there, with songs like “The Lady Lies”, “Cul de sac” and “Dodo”, among others, but here they were taking a stab at being a sort of “urban” band, without the real street cred to do so.

The song is also too long at nearly seven minutes, though it does work well. Generally speaking however, it is pretty much the same melody running through it, and very much the verse/verse/chorus/verse structure they had so actively tried to keep away from in the early days. If that wasn't bad enough, the next track, another single, bops along like some latter-day Beatles pop song (written in fact by Collins in tribute to the Fab Four; that's fine, but why didn't he keep it for his solo albums?) and “That's All” demonstrates the ordinary, chart-pleasing direction in which most if not all of Genesis's music was heading at this point. It's okay; I like the song, but there's no way anyone would recognise it as a Genesis song. Driven on a bouncy bass and jangly guitar with Banks relegated to some honky-tonk piano, it's not quite “The Fountain of Salmacis”, now is it? It didn't do as well as “Mama” here (though it reached number six in Ireland, shame on us!) but oddly performed much better across the great shining sea, where the Americans lapped up its easy pop sensibilities and pushed it to number six. Sigh.

The only real relief then comes in the form of the only song on the album that could really be called progressive rock, a two-part semi-suite (sorry Tom!) in which the first, shorter part is called “Home By the Sea” and is vocal, the second, far longer one being an instrumental, almost, up until the point Collins comes in with a reprise of the lyric from the first part, and it's called, ingeniously, “Second Home By the Sea”. It's still my favourite on the album by miles, with its hard-edged guitar riff opening it, Banks then coming in with the familiar lush keyboards we've missed so much, a bouncy vocal from Collins reminding me in ways of “Robbery, Assault and Battery”. I think it's about a haunted place, but I really don't know. As Collins sings ”Help us someone! Let us out of here!/ We're living here so long undisturbed/ Dreaming of a time we were free” you get the idea of people being trapped here, unable to leave and relating their story to new arrivals, who perhaps then get trapped too.

The second part of the song, as I say, “Second Home By the Sea”, runs for over six minutes --- actually there's not the huge difference between the two that I thought: one is 4:46 and the other 6:22 --- and slips easily in from the first part, driven on powerful drumming and a trumpeting keyboard, with some fine and even funky guitar licks from Mike Rutherford, and it's a small echo of the Genesis I used to know until it fades almost away, to be replaced by this new “pop” band who call themselves Genesis. It's interesting when the vocal comes back in at the end; you've more or less expected this will be an instrumental all the way, then, like “Duke's Travels” the vocal just slides in, and it's quite effective.

The rest of the album is garbage. That's not fair, but in all fairness, it struggles to recover from the execrable “Illegal Alien”, where Genesis go out of their way to mock Mexicans, and come very close to racism, all in the name of humour. That's all very well, but when you say things in the lyric like ”Over the border there/ Lies the promised land/ Where everything comes easy/ You just hold out your hand” and ”I've got a sister who'll/ Be willing to oblige/ She will do anything now/ To help me get to the outside” you can't help but think they're denigrating a whole country and their attempts to carve out a new life for themselves in the USA. And they're not even American! The video for the single (yes, it was released as a single, and flopped badly, especially in America) doesn't help, with the guys dressed as Mexicans and affecting the accent, demonstrating every Mexican stereotype you can think of. It's a poppy, boppy song which introduces for I think the first time trumpet on a Genesis album, played by Phil Collins (Oh no I'm wrong aren't I? They had a whole damn horn section on Abacab) just to give it that “authentic” Mexican flavour. Madre de dos dios!* I really have a problem with this song. If they had even engaged some Mexican musicians to help on it, it might have given it a bit more credibility, but as it stands it just seems like one of the nastiest, most racist songs written in the eighties, all under the guise of “comedy” or “satire”. Yeah, I know: it's all in good fun. But is it?

It's a poor crop after that. Almost as if there is a dark spirit hovering over the album, nothing can really lift the feeling of anger and disgust that lingers after “Illegal Alien”, and while “Taking it All Too Hard” might be the band's unconscious attempts to say “Look man, it was just a joke!” it doesn't work. Collins ditches the false moustache and sombrero, and the terrible accent, and knuckles down to what is essentially a ballad, the first on the album, but the sentiments don't ring true and it just sounds to me like a half-hearted attempt at a not-really-sincere apology. Nice bright keys from Banks, a soft sort of laidback feel to the song, but the opening verse, when Collins sings ”I know you'll never admit/ You were ever really to blame/ Everything's a game to you” sound like the response of the fans (or ex-fans) south of the border. The lines ”I cannot help you/ It's much too late” seem to say it all.

Then again, it could be deeper and perhaps darker than that. I realise I'm making my own interpretation of the lyric here, and could be totally wrong (wouldn't be the first time) but when I think about it now, this almost seems more like Genesis castigating the fans who won't get on board with the new sound. When Collins sings "Oh no, not the same mistakes again/ You're taking it all too hard" he could be venting exasperation at the "old" fans, while this almost seems to be backed up by "The old days are gone/ And they're better left alone/ I cannot help you/ It's much too late" which really seems to be a smack in the teeth for the older fans. Mind you, there is a line which looks to be a sort of possible regret, when Collins mutters, almost ashamedly, "But I still miss you/ I keep it to myself."

If I may digress slightly here (who am I talking to? Nobody's reading this!) one of the things that really annoys me about prog rock bands is their eventual need to distance themselves from the label. Marillion are the same, and though I love them, it's hard to hear that your idols are now essentially denigrating their past work. I mean, when Genesis were churning out top prog albums like Trespass and Foxtrot they didn't have a problem being called progressive rock. They even gloried in it to an extent. But now, suddenly, in the space of five years, they're turning their back on their roots and their old fans. Talk about ungrateful. They're not the only ones, but it hurts, coming from a band I've followed pretty much all my life.

“Just a Job to Do” merges the world of “new” Genesis and Collins's own solo career in a sort of fast, funky number which seems to refer to (allegorically or otherwise) a hitman of some sort, but again aspects of the possible apology for “Illegal Alien” persist as he sings the opening lines ”It's no use saying that it's all right”. Indeed. The shouts of ”Bang! Bang! Bang!/ And down you go!” are a world away from ”Crawlers covered the floor/ In the red and ochre corridor”. The tune itself is okay and there's a great melody to it, but it's so un-Genesis (or what I thought of as Genesis anyway) it just hurts. “Silver Rainbow” is probably one of the weakest tracks on the album, and does nothing for me with its marching beat and semi-sexual innuendo in the lyric; the vocal harmonies are terrible (something Genesis used to be able to do so well) and the obvious theft of some of Gabriel's own solo rhythms for the opening is almost sad. The lyric is terrible: ”If you're sitting there beside her/ And a bear comes in the room” --- uh, what? The chorus is just awful and thrown together.

There's some respite at the end, as the album makes a valiant effort to rally and almost allows the band to pull it out of the fire in the eleventh hour, with a song that perhaps makes a promise, a promise the band failed to keep on the next album. “It's Gonna Get Better” swells up on Banks's swirling Hammond organ and has a really old-style Genesis melody about it, another ballad yes but a good one. It's not good enough though for me to ignore the last four tracks, and I ended the album more on a hopeful note than an expectant one with this ringing in my ears. Had I known what was coming, perhaps I would just have left it at that.

TRACK LISTING

Mama
That's All
Home By the Sea
Second Home By the Sea
Illegal Alien
Taking it All Too Hard
Just a Job to Do
Silver Rainbow
It's Gonna Get Better

It's hard to see why Genesis changed so much over the course of three albums - well, no it isn't. It's all about popularity, money and chart singles of course. Probably on the back of the success both of “Follow You Follow Me” and Collins's solo career taking off, Genesis must have realised this was the way to go, and certainly with a chart-topping single of his own under his belt, Collins was likely to bring more chart-friendly ideas to his songwriting, and the other two would have been possibly influenced by this. Or maybe they were just fed-up being a band who could sell out huge arenas but had had no chart success. Whatever the reason, it seems they actively went after hit singles here, and the closing line on this album, "It's time for a change” left little doubt that they were preparing to, and working towards, leaving behind their roots and becoming just another pop band.

As the next album would unreservedly show.

Rating: 7.2/10

* And yes, I'm acutely aware of the irony of castigating Genesis over stereotyping Mexicans and then using a stereotypical phrase. ! Ay caramba!
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Old 02-02-2022, 06:17 PM   #52 (permalink)
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Honestly I think the first side of Genesis s/t is fantastic and it's the best pop music the trio ever did. Mama deserves it's reputation as the best single to come out of the Phil era, just everything from the atmosphere and production to the way it builds and builds leading into the most intense vocal performance Phil has ever done. That's All may be an easy listening pop song but it's a great easy listening pop song, it's even the song that got me into Genesis in the first place so I have a sentimental attachment to it I admit. And finally Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea is one excellent last jab at that prog rock/new wave sweet spot they found with Duke.

I agree that side B is a huge letdown, I wouldn't say any of the tracks are bad except Illegal Alien which is the most embarrassing "WTF" moment of their entire career and why anyone thought opening up the second side with THAT was a good idea I will never know, there had to be cocaine involved, the rest is decent but nothing special, if the rest of the album was as strong as those first 4 tracks it could have been in the same league as Duke, perhaps even better.

Anyway you have my condolences when the time comes for you to do Calling All Stations.
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Old 02-02-2022, 07:50 PM   #53 (permalink)
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I agree with you on pretty much all counts there, but when I bought that album - particularly as I was still seeing my shrink about the after-effects of Abacab! - I had hoped for and expected more. Yes, the "first side" is a good pop record, but I didn't buy a pop record, or at least I hadn't intended to. I wanted a Genesis album, an album that was, at least somewhat, prog rock. With a more or less steady decline from ATTW3 through Duke (though these are both excellent albums, don't get me wrong, and each holds its own prog credentials, but you could see where they were going) to Abacab they had slowly but surely begun to shed the prog influences. Songs were shorter, more commercial, more radio-friendly. Lyrical matter changed from fantasy and classical literature to love songs and the odd political one, comic songs and just have a good time songs. You could say their music became even more outside-of-Genesis-fandom friendly, or even more out-of-proghead-territory-friendly. I guess I heard "Mama" and thought now that sounds more like Genesis, but it really doesn't; it just sounds so much better than "Abacab", but that wouldn't be hard.

I guess it all started with "Follow You Follow Me" becoming a hit, and the band realising that after a career spanning, at that point, nearly twenty years, and not really having any other hits (other than "I Know What I Like") that they could have them, they could write them, and so they did. "Turn it On Again" was a huge hit from Duke, as was "Misunderstanding", and then we got the A-album. This self-titled (again, why?) helped them continue that trend of hits, culminating in, as already discussed, Invisible Touch, where there were four hits singles and only one track you could call prog-worthy. It might seem hyperbole, but it was for me kind of watching a loved one die.

No of course it wasn't: that is hyperbole, but it was like watching my own youth slip away maybe. These guys had been with me from the start: in my old original journal the first album I review is Seconds Out, and I note it was both the first time I heard Genesis and the first time I became aware of prog rock. I was 17 at the time, so now that I'm 58 that means they were with me all my life and part of my growing up, and it was hard to see them go, to see them change, and to see them really no longer be a band I was that bothered about.
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Old 02-02-2022, 08:16 PM   #54 (permalink)
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Well I got into Genesis in the mid-00s when I started getting into prog rock as a whole, Prog Archives was like this magical gateway to a whole world of music I previously knew nothing about because it wasn't what was getting played on classic rock radio.

I got into prog Genesis first and I knew how much the prog community hated Genesis's later stuff but I gave it a chance anyway, I never understood the hate for 80s Genesis and now that I'm an unapologetic fan of overproduced 80s pop music as a whole I still don't, but I hadn't grown up with the band when they were current, I'm sure it hit different for people who grew up with them and saw them transform into a completely different band in real time.

As a newcomer I already knew there were two drastically different eras and that one was much more beloved by fans than another, I knew the 80s stuff was polarizing going in so I set my expectations accordingly, which I think allowed me to appreciate it for what it was.
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Old 03-02-2022, 09:07 PM   #55 (permalink)
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Okay, well it seems in terms of Genesis the band - leaving aside any solo efforts I might look into later - we have three albums left. By a staggering coincidence, two of them are the debut and their final album, so this discography can be bookended by those two, which will finish it up nicely with a sort of before and after (though not really showcasing, with either album, the best of this fascinating band).

That leaves us with this, which kind of becomes a bridge between "old", Hackett-esque Genesis and the slowly emerging pop sound to be championed by Collins, though in fairness he can't be made to shoulder all the blame.

Just most of it.

During the recording sessions for Wind and Wuthering, Steve Hackett had been more than annoyed to find that most of the suggestions he put forward for songs to be included on the album were rejected, in favour of compositions written by mostly Tony Banks, whose work is all over that album. Added to this, the fact that he was getting burned out by touring (1976/77 had seen Genesis undergo not one but two extensive tours, supporting both albums) and had already made inroads into a solo career, he decided to quit the band in 1977, leaving Genesis as a trio composed of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. They would remain this way until their very last album.

...And Then There Were Three... (1978)

Although this would become something of a seachange for Genesis, as they ditched entirely the longer songs, moved away from the more progressive rock direction of previous albums (especially Wind and Wuthering) and towards a more standard rock/pop format, it starts off as you would expect a Genesis album to, with lonely, almost keening keyboards rising into the tune, but as the guitar snarls in (yeah, it does, sort of) the percussion takes a weird kind of syncopated rhythm and we discover that “Down and Out” is one of the many songs on this album to move away from fantasy or historical themes, in somewhat the same way as its predecessor did, and more into the real world. As we listen, it's the tale of a man being fired by his boss, who seems to take pleasure in delivering the news personally. It's got a real punch to it, with Rutherford really stepping up as now the main and only guitarist, and Collins well settled in his role as the band's vocalist and revelling in it.

”Don't hedge your bets” suggests he, ”We can make a deal.” Perhaps appealing to the departing/departed Hackett? It's an interesting parallel to their own careers as he sings ”You can't go on like this forever/ So it's with regret I tell you now/ That from this moment on/ You're on your own!” Some great guitar work from Mike, with Tony's keyboards somewhat in the background but still fighting for their place, and Phil's drumming running the whole thing. “Undertow” is a more relaxed song, mostly a ballad, exhorting us to live every day as if it were our last. It's a Banks solo, one of four on the album, on which the songwriting duties are pretty evenly shared between the guitarist and the keysman, with Rutherford writing three solo, and Collins only involved on four, and none solo. A lovely soft piano opens “Undertow” with a gentle vocal from Collins, the lyric almost reflecting the album cover as he sings ”Some there are; cold/ They prepare for a sleepless night/ Maybe this will be their last fight.”

It ramps up then on the drums and into the chorus, which has a fantastic hook, one of the best Genesis have written to date. There's amazing emotion in it, as Collins's voice rises in passion as he sings, the vocal falling then at the end of the chorus and back into the softer, lower tone of the verse. It's no surprise that piano and synth rule this song, being composed by Banks, but the next one is a joint effort and, I have to say, one of the single worst Genesis songs I have ever had the misfortune to have to listen to. A real candidate for skipping over, in my case, if ever there was one. “Ballad of Big” sees the guys trying to cash in on the Country and Western folk tale, as they sing of Big Jim Cooley who tried to drive his cattle through Indian infested country, and ”Died like all good cowboys/ With his boots on/ Next to his men.” Yeah, who the fuck cares? After the two opening tracks, this is a serious comedown and unfortunately a pointer to how the second half of the album will go. Not all of it, but much of it.

It starts off well, with a humming piano and synth line, and Tony's Pro Soloist setting up the choral vocal, then guitar takes over and the whole thing just descends into farce. It's not that it's not played well or has no melody, as it certainly does, but come on: a song about a fucking rancher driving his herd across a pass? On a Genesis album? What's next? A song about Mexicans trying to get into .... oh. Wait.

No, I just hate this damn song. Luckily it's followed by two standouts, the first being a gorgeous little ballad, the first written by Rutherford on his own, and “Snowbound” returns a little to the fantasy imagery on which Genesis built their early reputation, with the story of a traveller who lies down in the snow one night to awake and find he is a living snowman. The snow has covered him up, and now ”Smiling children tear your body to the ground/ Covered red that only we can see”. It's quite gory in its way, certainly for a Genesis song, and driven on some sublime twelve-string with the Pro Soloist backing it up, a gentle vocal from Collins until he reaches the chorus, where the full horror of what is happening is underlined by his powerful voice as he sings ”Pray! Pray for the snowman!”

Again, a perfect hook in the chorus and some lovely shimmering keyswork from Banks, powerful drumming from Collins punctuating the tune. But Banks has another trick up his sleeve, and “Burning Rope” closes out the second side with a triumphant flourish, its rising keyboard line climbing like the very person in the lyric who ”Climbed upon a burning rope/ To escape the mob below” with a real sense of panic and urgency in the music. The piano and synth solo that opens the song is brilliant, one of Banks's best and most jaunty, and ushers it in perfectly. Genesis have certainly acquired here the magic touch, with hooky melodies that should have yielded them several hit singles. Collins is in fine form vocally too, and to mark how much this album changes Genesis, this is the longest song at just over seven minutes.

I have no idea what it's about of course (so they haven't changed that much!) but it seems to nod back to “Undertow” with the idea that we need to live our lives and not let time pass us by and run out on us. When Collins sings ”Don't leave today to tomorrow/ Like you were immortal” the message is clear. Perhaps the burning rope is a representation of our lives, smouldering away, shortening with every passing year, leaving us less and less options? Great guitar solo from Rutherford and a powerful declension into the final verse and chorus and a big bombastic ending.

This is, however, where the album begins to dip, and seriously. The stark ringing guitar that opens “Deep in the motherlode” is effective, but when we find out it's another song of the Old West, with its chorus ”Go West, young man/ On a dollar a day/ Just like your family said” it's to me something of a disappointment. Nevertheless, it's driven by a grinding, bouncing guitar and a thumping bass from Rutherford, and the melody is very engaging. There's a nice sort of low-key midsection, then a great growling chugging guitar from Rutherford before it heads into the final verse. “Many Too Many”, as I have already intimated in the review of Selling England by the Pound is to me just a rewritten “More Fool Me”; it's a simple ballad, open and honest and almost painful it the vulnerability shown through the lyric - ”Thing I find strange is the way you built me up/ To knock me down again” - and runs on a beautiful piano from Banks, but to me it's more an ELO style song than a Genesis one.

Again, it's a Banks solo number, a nice ballad but it just feels a little simple and almost poppy, perhaps indicating the direction the band would soon head, leaving mostly their progressive rock roots far behind them, and shedding fans in the process. Although I like “Scenes from a Night's Dream”, and it gets everything jumping nicely after the ballad, I did think originally it was just about some kid's dreams. Now I find it's actually based on a comic book character, called Little Nemo. Hmm. Well it's boppy enough, with a hard rock guitar and the guys certainly have fun with it; it allows them to look back to their previous lyrical subjects ”Dragons breathing fire, but friendly/ Mushrooms tall as houses” --- while cocking an amused eye at them, as if saying “used we to write that kind of stuff?” Rutherford certainly enjoys himself on the guitar, driving the song along joyfully.

Things don't improve when we drop right back down again for the moody, almost film noir “Say it's Alright Joe”, a dark, jazzy look at a barfly crying into his drink and telling his problems to his bartender. It's the last solo Rutherford piece, and as he says himself it was to be something of a play on the Dean Martin “Set 'em Up Joe” idea, turning that on its head. It's very morose though, the antithesis of the previous song. Lovely strummed guitar from Mike runs it nicely, backed up by sombre piano from Banks. Fun fact: in the lyric Collins says ”Gonna build myself a tower/ No way in, no way out” and years later he would rob these lines for his second solo album, when on the song “Thru these walls” he would sing ”Ooh I'm feeling like I'm locked in a cage/ No way in, no way out”. It also I guess nods back a little to The Lamb, where the lyric in "The Carpet Crawl" mentions "Gotta get in to get out".

The sudden change to uptempo with almost orchestral keyboard comes as a shock, and I feel doesn't gell well with the dark, bitter tone of the rest of the song. It also doesn't last, and slides quickly back down into the maudlin pit of despair the song has languished in from the start. I suppose I should be fair here: these are not terrible songs, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's just that, given how well and how strongly the album opened, pretty much right up to the end of side one, the last four tracks are quite weak in comparison. Luckily the album rallies at the end, with the bouncy but dark “The Lady Lies”, which warns against rushing in before you check what you're rushing into, as a man is lured into rescuing a lady, who is in fact a demon in disguise, and his fate is sealed. Using her feminine wiles she seduces him, and as Collins declares ”Who can escape what he desires?” Great piano, howling synth and some strong guitar make this another standout, with some of that almost “Enossification” in the voices at the end when the demon reveals itself, grinning ”So glad you could make it/ We've had everything arranged/ So glad you saw fit to pay a call”. Powerful piano ending to fade, and then we're into the closer.

There surely can't be anyone, even those many who hate Genesis, who don't know their most famous and commercially successful single, and “Follow You Follow Me”, while weak and insipid as a closer, hit a chord with general music fans and took them to the number seven slot in the UK charts, and allowed them their first ever break into the US top 40. The album itself got to number three in the UK, their highest ever placing. The song rides on a soft, gentle guitar melody with crooning synth from Banks, and it's the simplest of simple love songs, which may explain why it did so well when other singles down the years bombed. If anything, though it was a clear indication of a change in direction by Genesis to a more commercial, pop-oriented format, this was the first nail, as it were, in the coffin of their progressive rock past. Would the fans then, follow them?

TRACK LISTING

Down and Out
Undertow
Ballad of Big
Snowbound
Burning Rope
Deep in the Motherlode
Many Too Many
Scenes from a Night's Dream
Say it's Alright Joe
The Lady Lies
Follow You Follow Me

Whatever you think of them though, Genesis had proved with this album that not only were they survivors, having lost a longtime member (again), but that they could capitalise on their talents, band together and release an album that would be their most successful ever, and even give them a top ten hit, introducing the band, if only through that song, to those outside of their fanbase and outside of progressive rock, something that had really never happened before. “I Know What I Like” had broken them into the charts but was quickly forgotten after the initial success, and for those outside of the Genesis camp, the band faded away into obscurity. With “Follow You Follow Me”, they had written a lovesong anthem that would never be forgotten, and produced an album that, while pushing them in ever a more standard rock/pop direction, was certainly consolidating their success and making sure that they would survive the death of prog rock as the seventies drew to a close.

Rating: 7.9/10
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Old 03-03-2022, 04:26 AM   #56 (permalink)
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Phil gets way too much of the blame for the band going into a more mainstream direction, they were already on that path before Phil even started contributing his own songs (which started with Duke) and if anything it was was Mike who pushed them in that direction, he was the one who penned Your Own Special Way and Follow You Follow Me and those were the real turning points for the band.

Anyway ATTWT is an underrated one, even the band seems to be ashamed of it and I don't understand why, it's not one of their top tier works by any means but it's hardly a disaster, I really like The Lady Lies in particular.
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Old 03-03-2022, 06:21 AM   #57 (permalink)
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Yeah I agree: a flawed maybe not masterpiece but certainly an opus. I'm quite fond of it (not as fond as I am of Duke though). I guess Phil gets the blame mostly because he was the one who had the successful pop solo career first (you couldn't call Peter's initial albums pop really; more art rock if anything) and then he had to include that bloody jazzy version of "Behind the Lines" on Face Value, which just tied him forever to the change in Genesis.

To be fair, his first two albums were reasonably proggy. Leave out "You Can't Hurry Bloody Love" from Hello I Must Be Going, it's a decently dark album ("Through These Walls", "Do You Know, Do You Care", "It Don't Matter to Me" and so on). It's really only when No Jacket Required hits that Phil goes totally pop, with not a prog vein in that album or really after. It really came home to me when a DJ played I think it was "No Son of Mine" and introduced it as a Phil Collins song!

But yeah, Mike and his Mechanics have a lot to answer for, there's no doubt. Two good semi-prog albums and then, cry Money! and let slip the dogs of pop!
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Old 03-03-2022, 12:15 PM   #58 (permalink)
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I love pop music and 80s pop music in particular so it really isn't a big deal to me, and if making pop music was that easy every prog band that "sold out" would have pulled it off, Genesis and Yes did, ELP however did not.

I know a lot of prog fans hate pop music, I used to have that attitude to an extent and it closed me off from a lot of music I eventually fell in love with. I don't really care how complex or simple a piece of music is as long as it grabs me and for that I'll take Daft Punk over Dream Theater any day of the week.
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Old 03-03-2022, 12:45 PM   #59 (permalink)
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I'm of your mind really. I don't hate pop music, though I find a lot of it very surface (duh) with nothing to say to me. However I do have a problem with a band who essentially helped kickstart the prog rock movement turning into just another pop band. Like you, not a fan of Dream Theater, or any other band who can be fairly accused of what I term "technical wankery", as unfortunately too many prog bands can.
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Old 04-01-2022, 03:38 PM   #60 (permalink)
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Okay then, time to wrap this up, and as I mentioned before, I'm left to bookend the discography with the debut and their final album. Here's the debut. If you've not heard it before, prepare to be....

disappointed.



From Genesis to Revelation (1969)

As I've said many times before, I do not consider the debut Genesis album anywhere near progressive rock. Whether it was the youth of the guys (all nineteen bar Anthony Phillips, who was eighteen; is there any significance to the fact that every member of the original Genesis lineup, bar Phillips, was born in 1950?) which led to a lack of confidence in themselves, or the rigid control exerted by Jonathan King, or even indeed the fact that they were yet maturing as songwriters, From Genesis to Revelation has more in common with a folk record than a prog rock one. It's not even that good: I can pick out a handful of decent tracks, but most of the rest is pretty dire, and there was at that point no real indication of the heights these guys (well, three of them anyway, with a fourth to join later) would scale and the mark they would make on music in general, and progressive rock music in particular.

Genesis believe they owe a great debt to King, who did after all discover them and, though losing interest as they refused to conform to his idea of what the band should be (ie one that would make him money with hit singles) and leaving them to hook up with Tony Stratton-Smith at Charisma Records, it has to be admitted and accepted that without King's patronage and yes, money, Genesis as we know them today would probably never have existed. Stop cheering there, Frownland! Mike Rutherford has pointed out on record that back in those days, just getting into the studio to record was a huge deal, and actually landing a recording contract, especially at their young age and with no background or body of work to look to, was little short of a miracle. However, Genesis would only begin to come into their own the next year, when they released what I, and most fans, see as their first real album.

But back to this one. It opens on a very hippy guitar and keyboard line, with Peter Gabriel's soft, cultured and very English voice exhorting people to ”Come and join us now.” Choral vocals (which I have to assume, back then when synthesisers were really only in their infancy, are made by the boys themselves singing) clash somewhat with an almost Latin kind of rhythm before Tony Banks's piano takes the tune, and though this is 1969 there's still a lot of the hippy flower power ideal in the lyric here, lots of getting back to nature, living with the animals, love and peace, man and so on. Finger-clicking now as the song heads into its conclusion, fading out on a nice bassy piano from Banks, but it's hardly the first salvo in a barrage that looked destined to take on the world!

The Wiki entry mentions that King wanted this album to be a concept one based on the Bible, but other than a title or two here, I really don't see it, and never have. To me, it's just a loose collection of songs with the odd theme running through them, such as nature, innocence, peace and love. Very simple, very dated, very formulaic, even for the time. All that said, “In the Beginning” has quite a dark little bass line and skips along on a nice organ line from Banks, Peter's voice stronger and starting to betray the Hammillisms that it would develop on the next album, the kind of harsh, angry, almost sneering quality he could turn on and off at will. This song has at least got some teeth, whereas the other was just so weak and annoying. We get to see what Rutherford can do on the guitar as he actually rocks out a little, and there's much more energy about this. Nice little bass solo, short but effective, and the song itself is clearly based on the likes of The Beatles and Herman's Hermits, that sort of thing. Maybe the Animals.

One of the standouts comes in the form of “Fireside Song”, which opens on a soft piano line that would later become inextricably linked with Tony Banks and would run such songs as “One for the Vine” and “Please Don't Ask”, but that fades out and acoustic guitar is married to rather lovely strings (arranged by King, and in fairness he knew what he was doing, as they really make the song) as Gabriel reverts to his soft, almost apologetic vocal style, with some really nice vocal harmonies coming in on the chorus. I always find it amusing how English singers are so careful to pronounce every word properly: whereas an American or other singer might sing “Once upon a time there was confusion, disappointment, fear and disillusion”, Gabriel uses proper diction, singing “Once up-on a time there was con-fus-ion, dis-ap-point-ment, fear and (never an) dis-ee-loo-see-on.”Oh yes: every “t” and “d” is perfectly pronounced, not a usage of “while” once it can be “whilst”. Those crazy English, huh? Be that as it may, it's a lovely song and it's well titled, the first time when I initially listened to the album that I felt there might actually be something here. Mind you, then the longest track is “The Serpent”, and it's kind of like listening to someone trying to copy Jim Morrison, but working in entirely the wrong medium. The song even has a faux start with a kind of guitar/bass opening that then just completely fades away and plays no part in the song that follows. And yes, I get the Biblical reference again. I didn't say there weren't Biblical songs on the album, just that I don't see it as a concept based on the Good Book.

The organ plays a very prominent part in this, but really only succeeds in making the Doors comparisons even stronger, while “Am I Very Wrong?” has another lovely soft piano intro and a gentle vocal from Gabriel, with what sounds like flute - I know he plays it, so I wonder is it him? The song then gets a little harder as Banks hits the piano keyboard more forcefully, but it returns to the softer style then. It's probably a good example of how versatile Gabriel's voice would get, not quite changing from soft whisper to unhinged cackle here, but you can tell he was going to be a rare talent in the future. However if there's a real glimpse of what he would become it's in “In the Wilderness”, which is about as close to a song from Trespass as you can get, even invoking memories of the later “Visions of Angels” from that album. Definitely one of my favourites on the album, and again it has that string accompaniment which really makes such a difference. This is actually a song I would prefer to be longer, but it's quite short, with a lovely piano outro too.

This motif is then taken up briefly by Rutherford on the guitar as we head into the hippy-inspired “The Conqueror”, which does little for me. It kind of has elements of early Floyd in it, I feel, and again Gabriel's vocal is strong and powerful, but the song itself is unimaginative and quite repetitive, while “In Hiding” has a lot more of Gabriel's presence in it, even if it does have a kind of too-jangly guitar, which the strings soften well. Naive as it may be lyrically, “One Day” is another standout, and the addition of trumpets works surprisingly well on the chorus. I hear elements of later “Stagnation” here and maybe even “Harlequin”. Lots of that affinity with nature I spoke of earlier in this song, and again very effective backing vocals, something that in fact Genesis would pare back after the next album, leaving Gabriel to drive the songs in his own inimitable way.

A nice kind of jangly piano opening “Window” (hah!) with some more of that flute, though lower register this time, so I have a feeling it's part of the orchestration, maybe clarinet or oboe or something. Another gentle vocal, very hippy/mother nature in the lyric, and yes it's another standout, one of the better tracks, and yet this simplicity in their music would disappear in the face of the much longer and more complicated song structures that the band would pursue from 1970 onwards, though it would resurface in shorter tracks like “More Fool Me” and “For Absent Friends” among others. “In Limbo” is very wishy-washy though, too much of the jazz and touches of soul in it for my tastes, but then the almost classical piano on “Silent Sun” is quite nice, though that's about as much as I can say about it. It's pretty obvious that it was intended as a single. And it was. And failed. Miserably. The album ends then on the shortest track. “A Place to Call My Own” runs for three seconds short of two minutes, and it's a really nice, low-key ending to what is generally a pretty low-key album, and on the face of it, probably exists as something of an embarrassment to a band who went on to find such fame.

TRACK LISTING

Where the Sour Turns to Sweet
In the Beginning
Fireside Song
The Serpent
Am I Very Wrong?
In the Wilderness
The Conqueror
In Hiding
One Day
Window
In Limbo
Silent Sun
A Place to Call My Own

As I said, if you had been listening to Genesis prior to this album and only went backwards later, as I did, to check out the earlier stuff, you might be hard-pressed to believe this was the same band. It's quite incredible really how much and how startlingly they changed in less than a year, and by the release of their second album they had parted company with Jonathan King, cut their first proper progressive rock album, and were on their way to spearheading the first wave of progressive rock in Britain. Of course, they would not achieve fame until much later, but before that happened they would release a slew of classic albums that would make the memory of this third-rate debut a very dim and thankfully forgotten one indeed.

Rating: 5.2/10
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