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Old 04-01-2022, 03:59 PM   #61 (permalink)
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Captain Sensible once said it was the only good Genesis album, real joker that guy.

It's ok for what it is, but it's just run of the mill baroque pop without the strong melodies or hooks of better works in that genre, also the production sounds like mud.
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Old 04-01-2022, 06:20 PM   #62 (permalink)
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All good things...

Nothing lasts forever. Footballers retire, film stars realise the party is over and it's time to go, and authors write their last book. So too with bands. No band will ever stay on the road or in the studio till they die. At some point they realise that the moment has arrived to call time and wind things up. Sometimes this is a conscious, unanimous decision, as in the examples of REM and a-ha - going out, as the former noted on their final live farewell album, on a high note, and sometimes it's circumstances making it impossible for the band to continue, whether through the passing of members, such as Queen and Lizzy (don't talk to me about Paul Rodgers!) or a general dissatisfaction among the band, a point where they just decide that's it, time to go.

Often this can lead to some pretty startling revelations, if you know where to look, both in the studio and onstage, as years or even decades of being together and perhaps putting up with one another's foibles and idiosyncrasies come to a head, tempers fray and barriers long erected and solid come crashing down. In the last moments before they metaphorically or literally leave the stage, a whole lot can be read into the final product of a band who have been together for a long time.



And so we come to the end of a mostly glittering and successful career for a band who mostly imploded under the weight of solo projects, personality clashes, and the desire for hit singles. In many ways, this is the Genesis album that should never have been made. As I noted in my review of their penultimate offering, We Can't Dance, that album was set up for their swan song, even containing as its last track a poignant farewell to the fans (if you read between the lines) with the last word being "remember".

I would much rather have remembered Genesis by that album, which for all its faults kicks the **** out of this one, but no, for some reason after Phil left, Tony and Mike decided they would go on, and would recruit a new vocalist. The last time - the only time - Genesis had changed singers was in 1975, more than twenty years ago, so this had to be seen as a bad idea.

It was.

And so, instead of the sublime (at least by comparison) album the original members could all have bowed out on, holding their heads relatively high, we're left with this bastardised monster, a kind of hodge-podge of ideas and tunes, the odd good track, a decent singer who undertook a worse challenge than Blaze Bayley trying to step into Bruce Dickinson's shoes in Iron Maiden. They were shoes he could never fill, that probably nobody could, or should. By 1990 Genesis were effectively dead, and I believe should have been left to rest in peace.

But dark shadows crept among the tombstones one dark night in 1997, whispering to each other, spades clanking as they... well, you get the idea. This was, to me, the worst way Genesis could go out. Even Floyd desperately grabbing for a last stack of cash as they exited on The Endless River could be said to have left us with a little more integrity, though not much.

This, however, was all but blasphemy, and it would be the very end.

Calling All Stations (1997)


The album that spelled the end for Genesis, introducing a new frontman and vocalist. But was it too little too late? After Phil Collins' departure the previous year, the remaining two members of the band auditioned many replacements for his job as vocalist. There seemed little or no possibility that either of them would take up those duties themselves, as Collins had on the exit of Peter Gabriel in the mid-seventies. Neither Tony Banks nor Mike Rutherford had ever sang on any Genesis albums, other than backup, and even with solo careers each of them had opted to draft in vocalists to interpret their music, so whether it is just that they have terrible or unsuited singing voices, or they don't wish to be front and centre, neither of these legends wished to be the new Genesis singer. So they ended up settling on ex-Stiltskin man Ray Wilson. Perhaps an odd choice: though Stiltskin had had a number one hit single nobody outside of their genre would have really been aware of them, and certainly nobody within the progressive rock circle. But perhaps it was time for a fresh approach? Genesis had after all been accused of turning stale and safe, though their last album had been in my opinion anything but. Nevertheless it is a fact that they had strayed far from their signature sound and were, like pretenders to their throne Marillion, moving further away from the progressive rock that had made their name and into more commercial, soft-rock territory. Perhaps an angry young man could change all that?

I had my doubts, like everyone. It wasn't too much of a stretch when Collins took over - after all, he had already been part of the band. But this was a newcomer, and more, someone I didn't know. Ray who? But even at that, it was a new Genesis album, after six years of waiting and wondering and hoping, so I was prepared to give it a chance. I was one of those, after all, who accepted Steve Hogarth into Marillion after Fish left, and John Payne into Asia. Never prejudge, say I, till you've at least given the guy a chance. Maybe this would turn out to be just what Genesis needed, and Wilson could lead them if not back to the glory days then at least on to better things? Maybe it was, after all, time to shake things up in a band who had seen no major changes since 1977, when Steve Hackett left to pursue his own solo career?

And you know, it starts off very promising, with a big snarling guitar from Mike Rutherford, thumping drums and then the familiar low keys of Tony Banks, and a few moments later we get to hear the voice of the "new boy". To my mind, Ray Wilson reminded me of Paul Carrack on the Mike and the Mechanics albums, which was not a bad thing. It's a slowburner, the title track, with a lot of drama and a certain ominous flavour to it, and retaining much of the expected Genesis sound. Not a pop song, that's for sure. Very expressive, very effective and Wilson seems to be up to the job without a doubt. Well, maybe this won't be so bad. Little drum-pads like we heard on the big hit "Mama" off the self-titled 1983 album. Great drumwork from Nick D'Virgilio, he of Spock's Beard, and a slick little guitar solo from Mike, just in case we forgot how good he is on the frets.

So I'm starting to think this might work, but then we get "Congo". Oh dear! It's as if Tony and Mike decided to go the Peter Gabriel route, but with nothing of the sensitivity or knowledge of African music that their erstwhile bandmate has. This is like someone just said "Let's write an African-sounding record. How do we do that? Oh, some congo drums, some chants, some marimbas, you know." Yeah, I know. And this is what resulted. Dear god, the difference between this and the opener! I wouldn't even expect to hear this on the fourth or fifth Mike and the Mechanics album, and I had long lost interest in them by then. Terrible: even Rutherford's growling guitar can't pull this back on track. And this was what they chose to release as a single from the album! Hoisted on your own petard, or what? But there's a tantalising sense of the album this could have been, as some of the tracks really up the quality, like "Shipwrecked", up next, with a lovely laidback guitar and soft rolling piano, a real ballad although again I would have to say more in the Mike and the Mechanics mould than what you would expect to hear from Genesis.

It does however get the nasty taste of "Congo" out of the mouth, with its opening effect of a radio being tuned then the acoustic guitar opening before Banks' solid keys join the melody and it drifts along on a nice mid-paced rhythm. Wilson's vocal definitely suits this song, much more than it did the previous in my opinion. This was also a single, and I can understand why, though it would have reinforced in many people's minds the view that Genesis were becoming more AOR than prog rock. Then again, that ship (hah!) had sailed a long time ago. It's miles better than anything else on the album though, which is a sad indictment of the final Genesis recording. Driven mostly on lush keyboards with a nice guitar backing it's an example of what latter-day Genesis could do when they put their minds to it, though of course it's light-years removed from the likes of "One for the Vine" or even "Burning Rope". Those days, I'm afraid, are long gone.

One of the longer tracks is up next, and "Alien Afternoon" has a lingering sense of the ghost of Phil Collins about it somehow, although he doesn't seem to have been involved in the writing. It opens with a swirling, atmospheric synth that puts me in mind of the start of a-ha's "Cry Wolf", then quickly devolves into a kind of "That's All" slowed down, with some sort of attempt at reggae in there somewhere. It's a decent song, not the worst, with some nice deep backing vocals, and Wilson sounding at times like Glen Tilbrook. Yeah, I know. Nice synth passages from Tony Banks, the guitar a lot more restrained than in the previous songs. Strange lyric, don't quite understand it, and it rambles on for nearly eight minutes. Not sure if that's a good idea; it seems a little overstretched. I could see it finishing in six minutes and the rest just seems kind of tacked on. Another ballad is next, one of only three on which Ray Wilson helps out on the songwriting, and to be fair it's not bad, but at this stage in Genesis's career I'm afraid "not bad" is just not acceptable. The fans deserve more, and sad to say on this album they do not get it.

"Not About Us" is a nice little acoustic number on which Rutherford gets to shine, and Wilson handles the vocal really well. I feel sorry for him in a way, as he was obviously coming into what must have seemed to him a huge opportunity to raise his profile and really show what he was capable of, and after one album and a lacklustre tour it was all over. The more I listen to this album though the more I hear Mike and the Mechanics, which tells its own story. There's very little to compare this to We Can't Dance or even Invisible Touch. I really like Wilson's voice and it's a pity he didn't get more of a shot at this because I think he was a decent fit for Genesis, but it seems the fans weren't prepared to accept any successor to Collins: if Genesis wanted to make a case for continuing without their longtime member and frontman they needed to produce an album that would blow the fans away and show they could make it without the bald one. This album was not it, and they would only get one chance.

It kind of starts to nosedive from here on in. "If That's What You Need" is another ballad, has a nice keyboard line leading it and a very competent vocal, with some nice little guitar touches from Rutherford, but it's standing with one foot over the precipice at this point and trying very hard not to look down; we all know how that's going to end. "The Dividing Line" gets things rocking again with some nice basswork from I guess Rutherford, and a sprightly keyboard line from Banks, with D'Virgilio bashing the skins with real purpose, but after the introductory instrumental which kinds of harks back to the 1983 album in places the song just fails to live up to its promise. It's almost as if Wilson is driving the band to be tougher, harder, more aggressive and rockier, but they're finding it hard to change. We're back mostly in ballad territory, though with a harder edge than the previous slow songs, for "Uncertain Weather", with perhaps one of Wilson's finest vocal performances, dripping with emotion, but then we get "Small Talk", which is, well, how can I say this without being unkind? I can't. So I'll be unkind. It's crap. Terrible. One of the worst Genesis tracks I've ever heard, and I've sat through the entire Abacab album! God, just get me out of here!

Another dark ballad then in "There Must Be Some Other Way", (perhaps advice too late for the band?) which does retain some of the old Genesis style, and gears up then getting a bit tougher as it goes along. Another faultless vocal from Wilson, edging into Plant territory at times, though I feel the extended keyboard solo near the end is just going over the same ground as "Fading Lights", the closing track from We Can't Dance (how funny is that? When I went to hit the "W" for the album title I hit the £ sign instead! Freudian slip?); the vocal even comes back after it to the fade, just like that song. Running out of ideas? But it's not the closer, that's reserved for the utterly forgettable "One Man's Fool", which after hearing the album several times still slips by me. Not good. The horns are just annoying. It does pick up near the end but then it just kind of fades out quite disappointingly.

TRACK LISTING

1. Calling All Stations
2. Congo
3. Shipwrecked
4. Alien Afternoon
5. Not About Us
6. If That's What You Need
7. The Dividing Line
8. Uncertain Weather
9. Small Talk
10. There Must Be Some Other Way
11. One Man's Fool

And disappointing is the only way I can describe this album. It's not the worst Genesis album ever - Abacab will always hold that dubious honour - but for the final Genesis album it falls far short. It's not that it's a bad album. There are some really good tracks on it, but it's beaten into the ground by We Can't Dance in terms of consistency and considering it was the album on which Genesis were making a very difficult transition from one frontman who had been with them twenty years to another who had just joined, it was surely of vital importance that they made sure it was a stormer. This was their chance to leave behind, in the nicest possible way, the legacy of Phil Collins forever and prove they could make it without him. In that I think they utterly failed.

And it's not down to the singer. They didn't choose the wrong vocalist in Ray Wilson. He's damn good, though to be fair nobody was ever going to replace Collins unless somehow Peter Gabriel had rejoined, and that's about as likely as me getting into free jazz! But he did a very good job. It's just that the songs on this album weren't up to the standard we had come to expect from Genesis over the years, and you can only work with what you've got. They didn't even let him write much - three of the eleven here have his input, although one of them is the abysmal "Small Talk" - so he hadn't any real chance to impact upon the process other than through his voice.

Disappointing sales, reduced demand for concert tickets and, let's be honest, probably embarrassment led to the guys telling Wilson that he was no longer required. They weren't firing him as such, but the band was breaking up. Mind you, the return of Phil Collins with the other two to the stage in 2007 for a one-off tour started the rumour mill going, and while there has been no announcement of a new album this is always a possibility. I think it would be a step backwards personally, but the Wilson idea seems to have had its day and been discarded, though he still tours with his own band performing Genesis songs.

After a career spanning forty-four years, fifteen studio albums and various lineup changes, this has so far been the terminus for the Genesis express. Maybe a new album will be forthcoming, but after now twenty-five years you would have to say hope is fading. Sadly, if this is to be the end of the Genesis story, it's not the triumph that it should have been, and after four and a half decades in the business one of the world's biggest and most successful progressive rock bands go out not with a bang, not quite with a whimper, but with a sort of annoyed little moan.

Calling all stations? Puts me more in mind of a song by Chris de Burgh: Transmission ends.
Over. And almost certainly Out.

Rating: 7.0/10
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Old 04-01-2022, 09:51 PM   #63 (permalink)
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I don't think this album is quite as unlistenable as people make it out to be, but 7.0? REALLY? I also vehemently disagree with Abacab being the worst Genesis album, I think it's pretty decent aside from it's bone dry production, their nadir is most definitely this as far as I'm concerned.

I mean it doesn't make my ears bleed or anything, but every song is a painfully dull, repetitive and overlong dirge and Ray Wilson sounding like Bryan Adams with a strep throat doesn't help. It's not the worst album I've ever heard, but it just might be the most boring.

You're gonna hate me for saying it but Congo is the best song on the album simply because it has an honest to god hook with a kinda catchy chorus, I mean it also has Tony's all time worst synth solo, in fact it just might be the lamest synth solo I've ever heard but at least it gives the song a little bit of personality.
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Old 04-02-2022, 01:40 PM   #64 (permalink)
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Yeah well we'll agree to disagree I guess. The problem for me with Abacab was the unexpected-ness of it. Up to then, the boys had been tooling along fine - ATTW3, Duke - I mean, as I've mentioned fumpty times, the days of their prog rock godhood were long gone, but to use a phrase from the TV series Yes Minister, they were doing all right. Then came Abacab. Like they took a giant pop turd right in front of me. Such a shock. It does have its okay points, don't get me wrong - "Me and Sarah Jane", "Like it or Not", "Dodo/Lurker", even the title track, to some extent - but compare it to Duke and you can see how suddenly and alarmingly the quality of the music dipped.

As for this one, well, yes it is bad, but at least we had been "prepared" by the previous few, including Invisible Touch and the self-titled. Let's be honest: we weren't expecting it to be great, were we? Expectations were low. Which is why I can sort of excuse it, at least more than I can Abacab, which just grates on me because it changed their sound so dramatically.

You're definitely wrong about "Congo" though.
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Old 04-20-2022, 08:59 PM   #65 (permalink)
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My father is huge into Genesis. While going on our eight hour drives, he played a ton of Genesis. Seeing them live together was amazing.

I grew up liking much of what he listened to, Genesis included. While it's not up to par with the rest of their work, I like Calling All Stations. The title track and Shipwrecked are decent songs.

I'd say my favourite Genesis album is the self titled one. My father had a live show on cassette. He listened to Home By the Sea/Second Home By the Sea a lot.
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Old 04-21-2022, 05:14 AM   #66 (permalink)
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I could go on at length about Genesis, but I already have done and people are probably bored with it. But thanks for your comments, and I'll just say that yes, those two tracks are probably the best/only good ones on that album, but I feel it's a real disappointment. The 1983 self-titled is all right but it's not a patch on their earlier stuff, even up to Duke. Still, at least it's not Abacab!
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Old 04-21-2022, 01:34 PM   #67 (permalink)
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I don't have a total knowledge of their library. I don't know any of the Peter Gabriel stuff. I've always known him as a solo guy.

Having heard the self titled album so many times, it's become the favourite by default I guess.

I have some listening to do, it would seem!
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Old 04-21-2022, 07:05 PM   #68 (permalink)
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Absolutely. If you read through the reviews here you'll see they started out as a real prog band - heavy on the mythological lyrics, long piano passages, epic songs, twelve-string guitars, flutes etc - and sort of metamorphosed near the end of the 1970s into a more poppy form of prog before succumbing totally to the pop bug around 1981 or so. Gabriel's solo stuff bears no real resemblance to his work with Genesis: for his best in my opinion see 1975's classic The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

You may also be interested in Marillion, the sort of heirs to Genesis's prog crown in the 1980s, who I've begun covering here too.
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Old 04-21-2022, 09:03 PM   #69 (permalink)
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My uncle had to tell me who Steve Hackett was. It goes to show how little I know of their earlier work. I proceeded to get him tickets to one of Hackett's shows. I wish I could have gone!

I saw that name in the thread, Marillion. I'll put them on my "to listen to" list.
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