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"Can you tell me where my country lies?"

Class B

Main Category: Prog Rock
Also applicable: Lush Pop, Synth Pop
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day




Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Genesis fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Genesis fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Geez, I am reviewing Genesis... boy, am I reviewing Genesis. Who'd ever had thought I'd be reviewing Genesis... nah, let's get serious. We really need to sort things out here.

Genesis were a fine little British prog rock band, with a unique style of their own (whose main point was not just in ripping of the progressive sound of Yes and King Crimson, contrary to what Wilson & Alroy would have you believe), which suffered from one terrible misfortune: that misfortune was arriving on the scene a bit later than all the other classic prog rock bands. Of course, people usually forget that they made their first album in mid-1969, before the milestones set by King Crimson and Yes - but they were just little kids at that time and they couldn't pull out a decent tune to save their lives, that's what the critics say. Dammit, they're mighty wrong. At their best, Genesis were the epitome of a great progressive rock band, the very best, the cream of the cream of what that genre brought about - serious and substantial enough to claim equality with such mammoths as Yes and King Crimson, but also lightweight and humorous enough not to take themselves way too seriously.

Actually, main songwriter/lyricsman/flute player/stage wiz Peter Gabriel did have a lot of talent throughout most of his Genesis career (not to mention afterwards). The problem was with putting that talent on record. And this is where the trouble lies: one thing the band always lacked in its incessant competition with the other prog giants was virtuoso musicianship. For one thing, the band never had anything like a good guitar sound: the early guitarists do not count, and Steve Hackett, cute little guy with loads of talent though he might be, really had a rare chance to squeeze a note onto the album (which might just as well be the main reason for his quitting in 1977, after which the band didn't even have a guitar player). And as for the keyboards, well, this is where I'm gonna hit the big time. When people say nasty things about Genesis, they usually either hit at Gabriel for blurting out pompous lyrics and wearing idiotic masks onstage, or at Phil Collins for turning the band into a synchronized drum/synth machine for the consumer's taste. There may be a grain of truth in both of these remarks. But the real bug that always kept naggin' at Genesis seems to be keyboard player Tony Banks. He's professional and educated, of course, even though, put next to Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman, he'd probably look like a six-year old tapping at the piano with his dad's slippers. But that's not the main thing. The main thing is that his instruments are always at the center of the band's sound, and this is more often bad than good. It's not Phil Collins that's the problem with the band, I tell you - it's Anthony Banks. It isn't Phil Collins who's responsible for driving Steve Hackett to quitting the band. It's not Phil Collins who's responsible for turning an otherwise decent album like Wind And Wuthering into an almost unlistenable synthfest.

Peter Gabriel, on the other hand, was a really talented guy. I've grown meself a deeply intimate feeling for the kind of things he'd produced - and I've gone so far as to even review his solo career, a thing I wouldn't really have the guts to do about any average prog rocker. Check it out on his own solo page - even if it has, in fact, little to do with the Genesis legacy. Peter is responsible for the things that really make Genesis unique: his lyrics, theatrical wit and blissful imagery resulted in the creation of a specific 'progressive dreamworld' which was far more complicated and less banal than that of Rush, for instance, but far more understandable and alive than the ugly artificial constructs of Yes. Combining funny bits and patches of contemporary British imagery inherited from the Kinks, Gabriel also ventured deep out into medieval and sci-fi fantasies, and always managed to come up with winners - even if he did sometimes get carried too far away, like on The Lamb. But I suppose that's forgivable, as it's an unalienable flaw of just about every serious 'progger' in existence.

And as for Phil Collins, I bet you know everything about this gentleman already. Let me just tell you that, whatever else you may think of him, Phil's drumming is largely underrated. In his prime, he might have been the equal of Bill Bruford, which is saying a lot (Bill Bruford actually substituted him on the 1976 tour, thus obtaining the honour to perform for three great prog rock bands during his only lifetime). Listen to his mighty, but oh-so-clever bashing on songs like 'I Know What I Like' and you'll know what I'm talking 'bout.

Whew, that was loooong. Let's get on to the lineup: the main founding members were Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute, but he's no Ian Anderson, bass drum, stage antics), Michael Rutherford (bass, acoustic guitar) and the above-mentioned Tony Banks (all kinds of corny keyboards and cornier synths). Rutherford's acoustic, in fact, is very much essential to Genesis sound as well, and it kinda saves you from the often vomit-inducing Banksynth parts. The other two members were Anthony Phillips (lead guitar) and Chris Stewart (drums). This lineup was formed somewhere around 1967 when the boys were still going to school. Stewart quit in 1968, being replaced by John Silver (and no, Peter Gabriel is no Captain Flint). While still at school, they recorded their first flop album for Decca, after which Silver quit, being replaced by John Mayhew (1969). Mayhew and Phillips both quit after the second album, being replaced by Steve Hackett (guitar) and Phil Collins (drums). This was the 'classic Genesis' line-up.

Gabriel quit in 1975 to pursue solo career, after which Collins took over the vocals (not the songwriting, though: contrary to popular belief, he didn't really begin to seriously write for Genesis until 1978). Hackett quit in 1977, reducing the band to a trio - the famous 'pop brand' of Genesis. The trio stayed together until 1996 (well, not that they stayed together all the time), when Collins quit officially and was replaced by junior Ray Wilson. The band then proceeded to record another album called Calling All The Stations (1998) which I was foolish enough to buy - see for one of the biggest album-bashing reviews of all time below. Tony Banks should have called it a day long, long before...



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

At least a dozen times better than everyone says it is.

Best song: THAT'S ME

Track listing: 1) In The Beginning; 2) Fireside Song; 3) The Serpent; 4) Am I Very Wrong?; 5) In The Wilderness; 6) The Conqueror; 7) In Hiding; 8) One Day; 9) Window; 10) In Limbo; 11) A Place To Call My Own; [BONUS TRACKS:] 12) The Silent Sun; 13) That's Me; 14) Where The Sour Turns To Sweet; 15) A Winter's Tale; 16) One Eyed Hound.

Their only album for Decca - their early manager Jonathan King managed to procure them this little contract when they were still schoolboys, but it's no wonder that after the record's release Decca as only too happy to severe all contacts. It sold less copies than Santa Claus' recent autobiography and not only made them lose the contract, but also made them the laughing stock of every critic alive (among those who actually managed to hear the record, that is). What's even more pathetic, even now it is usually still looked on as something to be really ashamed of - like some silly childhood scribblings of a notorious poet that he'd forgotten to send down the drain and then they had suddenly been unearthed and made public. Even the band's fans usually shake their heads and say: 'Well, man, they were young. Even the gods make mistakes sometimes'.

Well, sure enough that they do. It's easy to see what this album suffers from. The music is highly derivative - there's not even a single truly creative, original idea to be found when it comes to actual genre innovation. The orchestration that runs wild and free through most of the tracks had already been pioneered and patented by the Moody Blues and Procol Harum and suchlike. The balladeering style had already been refined by the Bee Gees and, well, er, the Beatles, for that matter. The sound effects are generic: reverb, fuzz, phasing - by 1969, that was your usual kit. And, finally, the concept, suggested to the band by King, is certainly overblown to such an extent that it makes the album look grotesque: what, do you really expect a bunch of eighteen-year old kids to put the description of God's creation of the world to rock music with enough authenticity? (Not to mention that the odd title of the record made many record stores place it into the 'gospel' bin, which was yet another heavy blow to sales).

But hey! This is exactly where all the fun starts! For once, I feel no bad feelings towards Gabriel and company for the puffed-up subject matter. See, the subject matter is so pretentious, pompous and totally deprived of any sense of humour that it's... an awful lot of fun - just an awful lot of fun! Yes, they were young and naive, but that's just the thing that redeems them; it's nothing but a charming piece of youthful romanticism. Not to mention that this isn't really prog rock: the subject matter is totally transparent, and Gabriel's lyrics can be called all but nonsensical: naive, yes, cliched, yes, but already betraying signs of deep talent.

Now when we start speaking about the tunes themselves, this is where a big smile comes to rest on my face. Call me crazy, but I love most of these ditties - and there's quite a few of them. Whatever you say, they are pretty, funny and catchy. They might be derivative for all I care, but they're good. 'Where The Sour Turns To Sweet' sets the pace with its moody keyboards and Gabriel's inviting singing, then 'In The Beginning' really recreates the atmosphere of 'the beginning', with Peter croaning his 'you're in the hands of destiny' line to a steady, solemn beat, and from then on, almost every tune has at least something to offer in the line of hooks. Most often, it's the pretty pop refrains ('Fireside Song'; 'In The Wilderness'; 'One Day'), but sometimes it's the whole song that's intriguing ('The Serpent'). There are brilliant melodic resolutions all over the place - the vocal melodies of 'Am I Very Wrong' and 'Fireside Song' are among the most grappling, perfectly constructed ones I've ever heard. Pure pop perfection. Yes, the weak production and the conventional instrumentation do show that this is a naive, clumsy effort - the tunes don't vary too much and aren't that memorable. But the talent is there, man. You can't deny it's there. Too bad the world didn't accept this album back then and won't accept it now. Too bad.

I'm not sure whether anybody would be in agreement with me over this one. But what I'll say is this: this isn't really a pretentious album. This is just a bunch of clean-cut, intelligent, artsy kids having some restricted fun in the studio. Unexperienced, but highly talented kids. It's not a cash-in, and it's not a crass product of some marketing scheme. It's an innocent, fresh and funny piece of music. Bear that in mind and put that record on with a smile.

Oh, and by the way: the original album is usually available under at least a couple thousand titles, because the band's original manager Jonathan King is still trying to make as much money out of it as possible. So he comes up with a new title and a new album cover (and, probably, a new track running order) each year. I, for one, have the album under the title Where The Sour Turns To Sweet. It's good in that it also includes two of their earlier flop singles. The A-sides are rather generic, although listenable and even enjoyable, flower power ditties ('The Silent Sun'; 'A Winter's Tale'). The B-sides are incredible, though, probably being the best tracks on the whole album: 'That's Me' is a terrific misanthropic/egotistic anthem, punctuated by Gabriel's alternating between low grumbling vocals and an almost falsetto shrieking, while 'One-Eyed Hound' is, I think, a gothic horror tale set to an appropriate melody. My advice is: if you've decided to get the album, wait until you've found the version with these bonuses.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Progressive, long-winded and too often - boring. But, as they say, it "points the way to the future".

Best song: THE KNIFE

Track listing: 1) Looking For Someone; 2) White Mountain; 3) Visions Of Angels; 4) Stagnation; 5) Dusk; 6) The Knife.

Well, this looks like the familiar 'Genesis' wagon already. Even though only a year had passed since FGTR, Peter Gabriel already sounds like he's undergone a fifty-years spiritual training course in Tibet or, at the least, in Oxford's Department of Philosophy. What's the news, you say? Well, it's like those charming, blue-eyed kids that stared at you from the last album's cover with white innocence never existed. They are not represented on the Trespass cover at all, by the way. (For that matter, no Genesis album pictured the band members until 1978, and even then it was rather an exception - in the finest traditions of prog).

The lyrics have gotten 'off the deep end', one would say. This time, they're either paranoid ('Looking For Someone'), or schizofrenic ('Stagnation'), or visionary ('Visions Of Angels'). At times Peter Gabriel seems to have been reading too much Machiavelli ('The Knife'), and at times - too much Jack London ('White Mountain'; or was it Rudyard Kipling that inspired him for this story of two wolves battling for a mystical crown?). It's obvious that he is in a transitional state: his poetry isn't as childishly naive as on FGTR, but it hasn't yet become acquainted with the curious and fascinating Brit-tingled imagery he'd start to develop soon afterwards. It's just... on the brink. Note, however, that Peter wasn't the only lyricist around - some of the lyrics should be credited to Tony and some to Anthony Philips, so I'm not responsible. In general, one must say that the lyrics are still way too pretentious and snubby, with 'White Mountain' crowning it all in puffed-up stupidity. But not always.

The songs are getting longer, too. Much longer. And this is really what makes this record a relative downer. As long as Gabriel sings, everything seems to be OK: the melodies are existent, the song structures are terrifyingly complex (another Genesis trademark) but discernible, and standouts such as 'The Knife' even get your blood flowing. However, there are too many instrumental breaks, and, like I already mentioned in the intro, soloing is just not a Genesis forte. So most of these breaks are boring to the extreme - in fact, it wouldn't be until Selling England By The Pound that the band would have finally learned how to fill in the breaks with creative ideas, and even then only for a short time. For the most part, they serve to demonstrate us the ample talents of Mr Banks (there are almost no guitar solos), and, like I said, Mr Banks is not a very talented keyboard player. At least, there's little or nothing in his backpack to make me interested. And this results in my usual longing to fast forward the instrumental parts. BUT - if you exclude the instrumental parts, you'll be left with only half the running time (if not less), so the main flaw of the album is obvious.

Considering the band's relatively low instrumental skills, this isn't too surprising. This is actually what happens when you set out to become a prog band without having spent enough time at your instrument. To compensate for the lack of flashiness, the band goes for atmosphere: solemn Mellotron noodling, one-note bass passages, simplistic, repetitive acoustic passages, and lots of insipid musical phrases played so quietly you don't even notice. Even when Peter picks up the flute on occasion you can't help but laugh: he plays it so carefully and tenderly, but it's just because he can't play any complex passages, so he has to breathe everything he can into one single note. About the only fascinating musical passage I can remember is the eyebrow-raising Mellotron solo in the first part of 'Stagnation' (if that's a Mellotron, of course). It sounds so friggin' weird and otherworldly, especially with these 'bends' at the beginning of the third minute. Just sooo spaced out and trippy that it really makes you wonder.

Apart from that problem, fine melodies. 'The Knife' is the best on here - the first timeless Genesis classic concerning Peter's reflexations on revolution and violence in general; it was also the only number from the album to make it onto the regular stage set. It's also the most (and the only) hard-rockin' piece on here, actually, it might be the heaviest song ever recorded by Genesis if I'm not mistaken, and for those who have been previously lulled to sleep, it's a natural way to get thrown out of the comatose state into a world of chaos, distortion, stormy organ solos and poisonous, sneering vocals. Not coincidentally, for many people this is the only song on the entire album worth mentioning, just because it's so seriously different from every other song on here - a great dynamic, psychotic ending for an otherwise calm, solemn, slow-paced, wintery kind of record.

But then again, the solitary, secluded-atmosphere-style 'Looking For Someone' is kinda awesome too, with Peter at his most desperate; and 'Visions Of Angels' is quite in the FGTR style, if you get my drift. It's got a catchy pop chorus, after all. And I actually came around to liking the sung parts in 'Stagnation' - that section where Peter goes 'ah-ah-ah- AH - ah-ah- AH - ah- said - I wanna sit down!' moves me to tears, and I'm almost ready to rush out and offer Gabriel the drink he's longing for so much, 'to take all the dust and the dirt from my throat'. In all, the vocal melodies and Gabriel's talent are so much evident here that it makes me forgive all the lengthy, pointless instrumental noodlings; if not for the utterly moronic 'White Mountain', perhaps the biggest artistic misstep of the entire Gabriel period, I'd have given it an even bigger rating.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

The boredom is still there, but, truthfully, there's lots of pure entertainment on this record.


Track listing: 1) The Musical Box; 2) For Absent Friends; 3) The Return Of The Giant Hogweed; 4) Seven Stones; 5) Harold The Barrel; 6) Harlequin; 7) The Fountain Of Salmacis.

This is where the 'classic Genesis formula' finally falls into place, together with the acquisition of new guitarist Steve Hackett and new drummer Phil Collins - the cute little bald chappie with probably the most unpredictable career in the whole history of rock/pop. Back then, though, he did have all of his hair firmly in place and rarely ventured onto the steep path of singing, much less songwriting... oh man, those were the days. Not that I have any hard feelings towards Phil (except for ruining Clapton's career in the mid-Eighties, that is), but somehow he always looks more favourable on photos dating back to, say, nineteen seventy-three, than any time in the present. But let's get on with reviewing, shall we?

The new guys do contribute a lot of interesting stuff to the band's sound, from Phil's mature prog-rolls to Hackett's professional soloing (that is, when he does get a chance to do some soloing, which isn't that often, and even then he managed to procure himself an elaborate pedal which makes his guitar sound just like it was another of Tony's synths). But it's neither Collins nor Hackett that manage to beef up the rating for the record. Rather it is Gabriel's lyrics, which have finally matured to the point of being able to successfully compete with the lyrical brand of such cultural heroes as Pete Sinfield, Keith Reid or Jon Anderson, and, I'm not afraid to say it, to beat them at it.

The material is divided here into two groups: the three lengthy, pretentious marathons ('Musical Box', 'Return Of The Giant Hogweed', 'Fountain Of Salmacis'), balanced by a handful of shorter, not-so-pretentious ballads and suchlike. Those of you who hate lengthy pretentious prog rock, however, won't get much of the shorter numbers. See, at some point Gabriel obviously decided that the simple pop tunes he proved himself master of on FGTR were way too obsolete and dated (hey! that's what everybody else says about it, isn't it? but not me!), so he eliminated them and preferred to concentrate himself on weird verse structures and chord progressions that are so complicated it kinda makes you sorry about what you thought of that last Beach Boys album... What I'm trying to tell you, actually, is that these shorter numbers might sound nice, but none of them are memorable in the least - no matter how you try to get into them, all you'll be left in the end is some crazy background noise. While you're in, though, you might just as well enjoy it.

'Harlequin', while not possessing any distinct melody or distinct hooks, is at least pretty, in the Genesis vibe, and 'Harold The Barrel' is just a fantastic tune, sounding slightly like a medieval Brit folk song, but only slightly: it almost looks like it was built on a "cut-and-paste" principle, with several different melodies cut in little pieces and slapped one over another in a fashion that seems ugly and strained at first, but turns out to be brilliantly executed in the end. Of course, all this contributes to the tune's utter unmemorability, but the individual mini-pieces are all perfectly written and joined together. I kinda enjoy the actual story, too, though I admit it's a little hard to understand why Harold the Barrel was going to jump out of the window... 'For Absent Friends' and 'Seven Stones' kinda suck, though, both the melodies and the lyrics. Can't really enjoy them. Somewhat sloppy, if you ask me. Somewhat senseless, if you ask me, too. Come on now, what is 'Seven Stones' about, with its unclear images with unclear purposes? Sounds like a Trespass outtake to me. Oh, and for the record 'For Absent Friends' features the first ever apparition of Phil Collins in the role of lead singer, but that hardly improves the song.

Now, about the three lengthy marathons. These will take a really long time to get into, but you might do that, and once you do, you'll be happy about it. The lyrics are mostly swell - Lewis Carroll rip-offs with elements of black humour and gothic mystery on 'Musical Box', a fantazmo sci-fi horror tale on 'Giant Hogweed', and a lovely Greek myth about the Hermaphrodite set to music on 'Salmacis'. Out of these, 'Hogweed' is my favourite: the way that Gabriel recreates the atmosphere of panic created by the onslaught of the 'giant hogweed' against the planet is purely intoxicating, with the screams of 'turn and run! stamp them out! waste no time! strike by night!' being the most groovy part. Even the synths feel right in their place here, and the guitar/synth duet in the intro is amazing - an ultra-complex riff played at lightning speed in complete unison. And the main melody is, well, it kinda resembles something in between a music-hall tune and a martial rhythm. Very complex, yet very solid and memorable in the end.

But I also respect 'Musical Box' (a long-time fan favourite) for its beauty and, in part, even Pink Floyd-ian moments (the alternation of quiet and loud in the line 'and I see... and I feel... and I touch... THE WALL!' are certainly Wall-ish). And, finally, 'Salmacis' is just slick, with really talented and meaningful lyrics (after all, this is nothing but a retelling of an old Greek myth) and decent music. But, as you can see, my bet is on Gabriel more than anyone else. Only his singing can make these tunes come to life. So, when the instrumental parts (and they're not that short, I tell you) take over, you'll be bored, I tell you, unless it's a rare case of an expert Steve Hackett solo (he's especially demonic on 'Musical Box'). You - will - be - bored. Why? Because Gabriel and Hackett are the only real virtuosos in the band, that's why. And let me tell you that, as much as I respect (or don't respect) Phil Collins, he absolutely was not the perfect choice for a vocalist. Sure, his voice does sound a lot like Gabriel's, but he's got a lot less of a range, and he can never make a record come alive just by the sheer abilities of his vocal cords, as Gabriel often does. Oh, but that comes on later. Sorry.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

The focus of the band's legend, it is all that good - but you have to strain yourself for it.


Track listing: 1) Watcher Of The Skies; 2) Time Table; 3) Get 'Em Out By Friday; 4) Can-Utility And The Coastliners; 5) Horizons; 6) Supper's Ready.

More of the same formula: lengthy marathons with boring instrumental passages, increasingly complicated prog lyrics and Gabriel's fantastic singing skills. But even better this time around; the instrumental passages are generally less boring because they tend to be shorter and more multi-part, the lyrics are getting interestinger and interestinger, and Gabriel's singing skills are on the rise again, as he goes deeper and deeper into his amazing brand of "rock theater".

Just like in Cryme, there are three lengthy marathons, but one of them is really long. You know, of course, what I'm talking about: the famous side-long 'Supper's Ready'. While you'll see quite a few reader comments condemning me for my initial rejection of the most part of the suite below, time has certainly improved my feelings towards it. Obviously, the suite was written mostly with the aim of "not falling behind" the other prog bands like ELP, Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and particularly Jethro Tull, all of which had already released side-long pieces by the time - and some of them had done pretty well on the charts. But fortunately for us, Peter Gabriel was such a talented fella that the effort eventually turned out to be much more than an obligatory tribute to his predecessors.

'Supper's Ready' is basically Gabriel's take on the Apocalypse (actually, one of the parts is subtitled 'Apocalypse In 9/8') - I will not go into details on the song's 'spiritual essence' and the meaning of all of its individual sections, because all such things are rather debatable. There are lengthy resources for the explanation of 'Supper' on the Net, together with resources annotating The Lamb; check 'em out for yourselves. Here, it must be noted that most of the parts are supposed to have actual meaning, and the suite flows quite well. Kudos to the band, in particular, for actually providing us with quite a few melodies: the twenty-plus minute length is fully compensated by the multiple themes, ranging from soft and subtly ominous to gritty and openly aggressive. With all their pretentions and ambitions, they could have easily pumped out the Close To The Edge formula (a few good melodies diluted by tons of acquired-taste atmosphere), but instead they're in for some real musical meat. And thus, after a few listens that are needed to get used to the tune in general, it only sags in a couple of places: some instrumental breaks are, as usual, lengthier than they should be, and a couple sections like 'How Dare I Be So Beautiful' and the already mentioned 'Apocalypse In 9/8' are, well, overshadowed by the better moments. But when said moment is better, it's usually topnotch. 'Lover's Leap', with its tale of two lovers merging as one, is sad and romantic, driven forth by a gorgeous medieval guitar line; 'The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man' is climactic, with loads of wonderful atmosphere; and 'Ikhnaton And Itsacon And Their Band Of Merry Men' is a stomping piece of battle fury with Hackett at his very very best. The fun comes on 'Willow Farm', where Gabriel is the main and only star: it's one of his most impressive theatrical British deliveries ever. And 'As Sure As Eggs Are Eggs' brings us back to the climactic moments of the second part, culminating in the triumphant coming of the Lord 'to lead his children home, to take them to the new Jerusalem'.

Throughout, the band pulls out nearly everything out of their sleeves: Tony's playing is moderate and restrained, resulting in quite a few blistering organ and Mellotron passages, Rutherford is supplying pretty acoustic guitar, Hackett stays in the shadows but the presence of his guitar in the background is always noticeable, Phil is Phil, and Gabriel... no, his starry hour had yet to come with the next record, but his singing on 'Willow Farm' definitely puts him in the league of Supermen. If you haven't yet seen that video of the Genesis History, rent it if only with the aim of witnessing Mr Gabriel hop around the stage in his flower outfit while doing the 'Willow Farm' bit. An unforgettable experience. So screw the meaning - Apocalypse or not, this is simply a hodge-podge of enthralling musical ideas and inspired vocal and instrumental performances.

For me, however, side A hardly refuses to match Gabriel's interpretation of the Apocalypse on side B. Not all, of course: 'Can-Utility And The Coasters' is classic Genesis filler, it doesn't do a single thing for me. Some people seem to like it, but I don't see how it is better than, say, 'Harlequin' on the previous record. Genesis are essentially a power band: they very rarely get on by soft melodies alone, it's the contrast between soft and hard (I mean, upbeat and majestic) that makes their songs work. There is hardly any power in 'Can-Utility', just a lot of atmospheric acoustic guitar and a few more Mellotron notes that don't seem to achieve any positive effect.

But the fan favourite 'Watcher Of The Skies' is certainly a great song, even with all those corny Mellotrons that predict the much later murky Wind And Wuthering synth stylizations: the melody manages to be memorable while not being very simple (as usual), and the lyrics, pretentious as they might be, are at least funny (I don't know, I for one find a lot of fun in the lines 'maybe the lizard shedded it's tail/This is the end of man's long union with Earth'). It also manages to go from stately and calm to raging and rocking with the transition effectuated smoother than most prog rock bands could ever manage such subtle changes - courtesy of Mr Hackett, whose guitar technique is even more impressive than before.

Same goes for the more obscure 'Time Table', with Gabriel at his most 'universally-important' tone - the gorgeous chorus of the song is, well, gorgeous, and Tony's tinkling electric piano solo is utterly cute; why didn't the man stick to non-electronic devices more often in his life is way beyond me. But my absolute favourite on the album is the sadly ignored ingenious sci-fi tale of 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' in which the corporation of Genetic Control buys up all the housing on the planet and then reduces humanity to half its size so that they could make more money by putting twice as many inhabitants in each house. What a bummer, eh? Why hasn't Ray Davies come up with a rock opera like this? (Which, by the way, is no idle question: there's much more in common between Ray Davies and Peter Gabriel than you might imagine). 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' is a worthy inheritor to 'Hogweed', with an even more complicated, but an even more funny and entertaining structure and Gabriel taking pure delight in impersonating both the 'innocent lambs' and the 'big bad wolves' of the story. While the song is nowhere near as 'all-encompassing' as 'Supper's Ready', it manages to enthrall me even more successfully: after all, it's like an entire play stuffed in eight and a half minutes, not to mention the tons of cool melodies the band throws on here without any serious effort. Finally, Rutherford's two-minute classic guitar showcase on 'Horizons' is at least a brief relief after all those nauseating Banksynths. So you see, there's enough to make this record stand out even without the silly supper that's finally ready.

Whatever I might say, though, there may be no doubt that this is Peter Gabriel's peak as a lyricist. His exaggerated 'Britishness' shines through on all the corners, but it seems to be not the kind of 'conservative Britishness' that characterizes the Kinks, or the kind of 'medieval-minstrelian Britishness' that characterizes Jethro Tull. I'd call it 'fairy tale Britishness': in his imagery Gabriel relies on Germanic and Celtic mythology and old folk tales and pagan practices rather than on 'social Britain'. So, at least in this respect, we might say that Genesis certainly delved itself a unique niche in British prog rock. Let it stay there for all its worth. And move on to their glorious culmination!



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

Mostly by-the-book renditions of standards. But what standards!


Track listing: 1) Watcher Of The Skies; 2) Get 'Em Out By Friday; 3) The Return Of The Giant Hogweed; 4) The Musical Box; 5) The Knife.

A cash-in, but it's really really strange that this is a single album. A single live album? When Yes were releasing a triple live set? Come on, Peter, what were you thinking about? Especially since the band's fans admit there were plans for a double live album, with 'Supper's Ready' and some other good shit (or bad shit). Anyway, there's no point of wailing for that now. I'd expect they beef up the new re-mastered version, but nope. No such thing - just the standard five tracks and not even a single stage story from Pete which he was so famous for. (Genesis fans don't need to bother, though: once you've picked up the boxset Archives, you'll discover everything you need and more). Pity. But let's talk about them, still.

This is a treat for the serious Genesis lover: no shorter filler stuff here, just the lengthy wankathons. Two of them from the recent Foxtrot ('Watcher Of The Skies', 'Get 'Em Out By Friday'), two from Cryme ('Musical Box', 'The Return Of The Giant Hogweed'), and one from the far-away Collins/Hacketless epoch ('The Knife'). All of these are amazingly great songs, no doubt, and treated with honour with fine performances, too. That's why I give this album a 9, even if it isn't quite fair: after all, it suspiciously resembles a 'greatest hits live' compilation, and I shouldn't rate compilations. On the other hand, it ain't a compilation. So scram it.

Despite the performances' solidity, they practically add nothing to the originals. The only more or less significant rearranging is provided for 'The Knife', probably due to the new band members' participation: in particular, Hackett's wild solos on the song completely wipe out the weak former playing of Anthony Philips, and so far seem to be one of his most noticeable and virtuoso performances on a Genesis number. Banks also adds a couple dull keyboard solos in some places, but, apart from that, Gabriel and the boys mostly stick to the old versions note by note. I must say that I am impressed anyway: out of all the prog bands, Genesis' studio sound was probably the most polished, with not a note out of place - even the lengthy instrumental sections never relied much on messy improvisations, being carefully planned, programmed and pre-rehearsed beforehand. It should have taken them a lot of practice to carry that sound from the studio onto their live show without losing any of the components, and the utmost in musicianship. They do pull it off: my worst complaint about the sound lies in the quality of the recording equipment, especially in the mix sphere - Gabriel's voice is often overshadowed (although that might have been Peter's own problem: with all those costumes, it was probably hard to keep the mike at short distance all the time). But the instruments are mixed in with enough care, and every song preserves its essence: the atmospheric Mellotron swirls on 'Watcher', the medieval solemnity of 'Musical Box', the.amusing theatricality of 'Get 'Em Out', the ominous feeling of catastrophe on 'Hogweed', and the apocalyptic madness of 'Knife', everything is here.

Gabriel, however, still manages to outshine all the others - his is the 'live note' on the album, as he is able to shift his vocals from one style to another, changing the expression at whichever point he wishes, while the others are completely tied down by the complexity of the music. Thus, 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' sounds even more theatrical here than it does on the origial, with Pete overdoing the stage pronunciation bit and obviously getting a lot of fun from himself. And although he misses making the expected "wild scream" on the 'turn and run!' section of 'Hogweed', he fully redeems himself on the later sections, at times aided by Collins from behind his drumset (not to mention the amusing 'scrapings' that Hackett inserts from time to time to illustrate the 'botanical creature stirs' passage).

However, in the general sense all of these minor distinctions do not make up for the album's expendable character. It is really difficult to realize why a non-diehard should take his time and money to go out and buy the record. Still, if you do treat it as a compilation, and if your stomach is strong enough to endure five non-stop (but brilliant) wankfests in a row, you might get a blast of it. I know I do, and, after all, it's interesting to see how these guys managed to cope with their, let's admit it, rather complex material onstage. They did manage.

Unfortunately, what the record refuses to present us with totally are the excitement and theatricality of Genesis' stage show (I mean, the songs are theatrical enough, but I mean the whole package). Apart from the front cover featuring Gabriel in one of his endless mascherades and one of his stories written in text form in the liner notes, there's nothing on here to suggest that this was a band with one of the most famous stage performances of the era. And the booklet itself is a real joke, with just a couple of muddy photos and only the most essential liner notes. Really. The re-mastering guys could have made a better job. Aww, never mind, the music on here still rules. Hell, I'd even say I like 'Musical Box' better when it's here than when it's on the studio record. Why? No reason. Just had to think of something encouraging about this album. And I still give it an eight if only out of sheer respect for such an excellent song selection.



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 14

One of the most diverse, funny, pathetic, bombastic, mystic, and beautiful prog-rock albums ever.


Track listing: 1) Dancing With The Moonlight Knight; 2) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); 3) Firth Of Fifth; 4) More Fool Me; 5) The Battle Of Epping Forest; 6) After The Ordeal; 7) The Cinema Show; 8) Aisle Of Plenty.

Yup, either this or Genesis' only reason for existence. Truly, if this one were not my first Genesis album, I doubt that I would ever think of getting deeper into the band. Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot might have been okay, but you have to work really hard in order to appreciate even some of the material, and a lot of it I still treat as absolute filler. Not so with this truly timeless effort. For once, the band seem to have resolved all of their problems. For once, the instrumental passages are suddenly not so boring or even not boring at all - and, quite often, they are downright beautiful. For once, Steve Hackett gets quite a lot of chances to make good use of his instrument (even though he's still exploiting that silly pedal of all things). For once, Tony Banks neglects his synths to play some fresh, exciting piano. For once, Gabriel puts a little bit of everything into his lyrics - from plain, good old-fashioned humour to ultra-bombastic, but still clever lyrics. And, for the first time, Phil Collins gets to shine with a self-penned song, and it doesn't suck! Now that's what I call an album.

Okay now, if we prefer to refer to exact track names, then this is what I'd say. The album opener, 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight', is my current bet for best Genesis song ever. To my mind, the hidden potential of Gabriel's voice didn't come to light until the opening, almost accappella lines, in which majesty alternates with irony and sarcasm with lamentation. The instrumental break is superb, with the synths propelling everything to a fast, butt-kicking groove and Hackett's guitar catching up with the keyboards with gusto. And the closing section, with Mike Rutherford endlessly repeating the same acoustic four notes over and over with synth noises in the background, is simply beautiful, though it might be about thirty or forty seconds overlong. Then comes another favourite - their 'hit single' (which I put in quotes because it wasn't really a hit single, but it was the only thing close to a hit single in Gabriel's epoch) 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)'. It demonstrates one thing: that Gabriel has finally become able to come up with short, but still thoroughly enjoyable pop tunes. But the lyrics? 'But I remember a voice from the past/Gambling only plays when you're winning/Had to thank old Miss Mort for schooling a failure'. Groovy. I love this song, too. It has it all: complex, but catchy verses, a bombastic refrain, and, above all, Phil's ingenious drumming (just listen to those rolls all over the place). Classic!

Next? 'Firth Of Fifth', yet another fan favourite. I expected to hate it because it was so pompous and self-indulgent, with lyrics ranking among the band's most pretentious (I wasn't even a bit surprised when I learned their author was Tony Banks and not Peter), but I can't deny the melody. And the instrumental part strikes me as being one of the most intelligently written pieces of music I've ever heard among prog rock tunes. The way that the tearful flute part, the sorrowful piano part, the upbeat synth part and the lamenting guitar part all mesh with each other and participate in creating a complete 'wall of tension'... wow, and then this 'wall of tension' suddenly comes crashing down with a 'consolation' synth part. Wow, now that's really clever. I can imagine that hearing this live might result in a catharsys. Classic, too. And then, after all this bombast, we suddenly go on into a three minute acoustic folkish ditty that introduces us to the songwriting and singing talents of Mr Phil Collins. Clever guy: actually, he can write a good song and knows how to sing it, too! Some might find 'More Fool Me' a bit too saccharin-ee for their tastes, but me, I'm just alright. I do agree that he was banally ripping off the Beatles, though, because sometimes it sounds like something John Lennon might have taped around as a demo, then thrown into the wastebin. That's a compliment to Phil Collins, in case you haven't understood.

Another epic - 'The Battle Of Epping Forest' - well, it might not be a fan favourite, but I've slowly grown addicted to it. For me, this is one fine damn jolly amusing song, with Gabriel just having lots of fun in the studio as well as, once again, demonstrating the unlimited capacity of his voice. Overlong? Hell, anything that's eleven minutes long is overlong. But it rarely becomes boring, that's for sure. There's a lot of catchy hooks all over the place, melodical as well as lyrical, and the part about the 'reverend' falling into the jaws of sin is downright hilarious, even if it really has nothing to do with the 'battle of Epping Forest' by itself. Unfortunately, this is where the album slowly starts to give in, because the final two songs (the instrumental 'After The Ordeal' and another lengthy suite, 'The Cinema Show') just don't thrill me that much. Not that they're bad: were they placed on, say, Nursery Cryme, they could have become the highlights there. On here, they just sound a little weak: 'After The Ordeal' is, let's face it, hardly necessary with the far superior instrumental arrangements on 'Firth Of Fifth', while 'The Cinema Show' borrows its melody from the first parts of 'Supper's Ready' and, even with that, displays very little energy. Because Selling England is, in its essence, an energetic album - the one that keeps your blood flowing most of the time. 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight' shakes you, 'I Know What I Like' kicks you, 'Firth Of Fifth' simply moves you and 'Epping Forest' plainly confuses you. 'The Cinema Show' is more like 'Musical Box': it might thrill you, but it sure don't inspire you or rouse you. Not that everything needs to rouse you, of course, but still... but still, shucks! there's five great songs in a row, resulting in thirty-five minutes worth of great music, plus two good songs. Not to mention that the last minute and a half of 'Cinema Show' is really an independent ditty called 'Aisle Of Plenty' which is actually a reprise of the best part on 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight'. Good lads! If you dig intelligent British prog rock at all, you can't live without this record. It's great to the point of being my favourite prog rock album of the year. Which year? Why, this year, of course! What other year I'd be living in?



Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Rather like 'The Mind Dies Down On The Way', if you get my drift - but this is sure a long and exciting way.


Track listing: 1) The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway; 2) Fly On A Windshield; 3) Broadway Melody Of 1974; 4) Cuckoo Cocoon; 5) In The Cage; 6) The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging; 7) Back In N.Y.C.; 8) Hairless Heart; 9) Counting Out Time; 10) Carpet Crawlers; 11) The Chamber Of 32 Doors; 12) Lilywhite Lilith; 13) The Waiting Room; 14) Anyway; 15) Here Comes The Supernatural Anaesthetist; 16) The Lamia; 17) Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats; 18) The Colony Of Slipperman; 19) Ravine; 20) The Light Dies Down On Broadway; 21) Riding The Scree; 22) In The Rapids; 23) It.

Whee, this is one mightily frigged out record. My guess is that Peter Gabriel thought people were still taking him less seriously than necessary, due to all the fox dresses, willow farms and Harold the Barrels. So, one thing he hadn't still come up with was an extended, pretentious rock opera. As you might have guessed, this is a double album - a double-length rock opera. But ohmigosh, what a rock opera this is. Apparently, after a lot of squibbling one comes to the conclusion that it does have a plot: it's based on the lifestory and hallucinogenous experiences of a Puerto Rican tramp called Rael, in order to impersonate whom Gabriel even sacrificed his long hair and trippy stage costumes (some of them, of course - over the duration of the live Lamb show Peter still used to change quite a few outfits, including some gigantic monstruous "pods" and other different stuff; but normally, he just put on a ripped T-shirt and that was it). However, not even a supertalented scientist, heck, not even a 'supernatural anaesthesist' can decipher what the hell is really going on, be it in reality or in Rael's stoned mind.

This time Gabriel apparently didn't leave any modesty in his lyrics. You'll find everything here, it's like a 'Genesis encyclopaedia': tramps, anaesthesists, hairless hearts, deep caverns and imaginary (and real) cages, colonies of slippermen, obscure Greek mythology outtakes, quotes from hundreds of poets, writers and composers, and, of course, all of the band's clever and not-so-clever musical tricks. All of this makes for a really terrible first listening experience, you may believe me. Sitting through the entire album was originally a task worthy of a true Hercules. And even after repeated listenings, when one gets used to the music, lyrics and general atmosphere, there is still a nagging thought that pursues me - what's the meaning of this whole thing. Taken individually, the imagery of certain of these songs is working quite all right; but as a whole, the album is just one gigantic question mark. What's the sense of Rael pursued by a black cloud over Broadway, waking up in a cage, meeting the "carpet crawlers" and the Slippermen? What's the sense of him being castrated, and why insert all that scene where his brother John is falling over imaginary rapids and Rael chases after him in order to save him? What's the "It" that concludes the album? Don't even try to answer. It's a put-on. If it weren't for the form in which Gabriel and Co. dresses all that putrid stuffing, I'd probably leave my former rating of six as it was. Fortunately, on a pure musical level it certainly deserves better - after all, it's no worse than The Wall.

The main point and accent of the imagery has certainly changed (in fact, the album might be considered an all-out Americano anti-reaction to the purely British Selling England), but the band's sound is still for the most part the same, although they are slowly moving into the dubious "post-Gabriel progressive" territory, with Banksynths now playing a more prominent role (the main synth riff of 'It', for instance, while good in itself, almost coincides with the one used on 'Robbery, Assault And Battery' two years later). The sound is also quite energetic, roarin' and tearin', but... it doesn't always work.

Now look here, I'll be the first to admit that the album does feature a lot of interesting and sometimes even thrilling ideas (I'll be listing the best of these in a moment), but there's really too much filler. Sometimes a song starts out just fine and turns into a banal screamfest or into a particularly nasty Banksynth fiesta soon after. Like 'In A Cage', for example, the first verse of which is wonderful and the rest of which is... well, decent, although I used to hate it, but still, it's just a normal rocker, that never lives up to the glorious introduction ('I got sunshine in my stomach/Like I just rocked my baby to sleep...').

Among the best stuff on here I'd certainly have to point out the title track which is a golden classic and deservedly so. It really starts the album on a high note, with, once again, Gabriel's vocal performance (and Tony's tinkling piano - dump those synths, Tony!) making it stand out. And, like you know, the first disc is not really bad at all. Once again, I draw on comparisons with The Wall: Disc 1 is near-amazing, fresh, exciting, full of good melodies and rich with subtle, "light" atmosphere, but it's on Disc 2 where hell's bells finally strike and you have to hack through its jungles with a battleaxe.

Indeed. 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'? Roaring and tearing, kicks the album off with an energy never matched afterwards. 'Fly On A Windshield'? Excellent atmospherics (gives a great feel of the black cloud slowly and rhythmically advancing on Rael), until suddenly the drums kick in and Tony and Steve play up a thunderstorm while Phil pounds like a mule. 'Cuckoo Cocoon'? Silly, refreshing "nursery" interlude. 'In The Cage'? See above. 'The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging'? Incredibly catchy chorus. 'Hairless Heart'? Beautiful, beautiful instrumental, one of the most emotional, climactic melodies on here. 'Counting Out Time'? Ah, there's a real masterpiece - in between all these heavy progressive epics is etched a jovial pop number, devoted to Rael's memories of his early days, reading sex manuals before his first date and finding out all the 'hot spots' on pages so-and-so. Unfortunately, the manual lets him down in the end. (Here's another argument in favour of my hypothesis about Pete's deep sexual complexes, but I guess everybody already knows about that). 'Carpet Crawlers'? Another beautiful ballad, quiet, melancholic and with a philosophy of its own, not to mention the timeless Gabriel falsetto on 'you gotta get in... to get OOOOO-UUT!' 'The Chamber Of 32 Doors'? How could one forget the immortal lines about 'I'd better trust a man who works with his hands...'.

In the end I only left out 'Back In New York City' which is kinda ugly. But when it comes to Disc 2, I humbly lower my hands and turn off my head. BITS, yes, BITS and PIECES of songs on there are enjoyable, but in general it's just too plot-heavy and Gabriel is too busy proving his being well-educated and well-read for it to be consistently enjoyable. I don't want to say that these melodies really suck, but they really go overboard with their complexity, not to mention that musically, you get all the most necessary ideas on Disc 1, while Disc 2 just keeps repeating and recycling the same stylistics over and over until you're just sick. Besides, it features such minuses as 'The Waiting Room' - a load of stupid atonal noises that never trigger any nerve. The only three songs on that disc that I enjoy in their entirety are 'The Colony Of Slippermen' (more because of its intriguing theatricality than anything else), 'The Light Dies Down On Broadway' (because it's a reprise of the title track, as you understand) and the closing 'It'.

That said, I still raise my former rating to an eight (well, I promised it would almost definitely grow), because... well, because this is still a unique and highly intriguing album. I like the general style, too, although my main complaint is that I can hardly hear Mr Hackett at all: he was put very much in the background by Tony, and it becomes very noticeable if you put Lamb on immediately after Selling England. Poor Steve. Nevertheless, like I said, Tony rarely goes overboard with his synth stylings on here, and there's still quite a lot of piano and different instrumentation to spice up the pie. And out of all double-length progressive albums, Lamb after all these years still turns out to be the most accessible.

Of course, as everybody knows, right after the tour Peter quit Genesis, never to rejoin again except for a single charity concert; as he himself explained it, he was far too afraid to get trapped in a band whose popularity was steadily on the rise and become just your average artificial rock star. Well, supposedly he should have stayed around until 1981 or so - because Genesis didn't actually become a mass audience icon until the early Eighties. But to each his own ways, and after all, Peter's solo career easily beat out Genesis' together career.



Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

The best in songwriting and the most mediocre in song arrangement. Tony Banks should be guillotined. (On parole!)


Track listing: 1) Dance On A Volcano; 2) Entangled; 3) Squonk; 4) Mad Man Moon; 5) Robbery Assault And Battery; 6) Ripples; 7) A Trick Of The Tail; 8) Los Endos.

What differences are there between the Gabrielled Genesis and the Gabrielless Genesis? Well, first of all, as one might guess, a Gabrielless Genesis features no Peter Gabriel. That meant that somebody had to replace his showman/singing abilities (the songwriting would be quite modestly handled by those old pals, Mr Banks and Mr Rutherford). After trying out dozens, if not hundreds, of potential candidates, they suddenly found out that the answer was right before them all of this time. Our old friend, Phil the Boomer, rose to the challenge and demonstrated his ability to take the place of Peter. And so begins the Odyssey of Phil Collins and his rapid rise from one of the best drummers in progressive rock to one of the crappiest performers on the adult contemporary scene...

One might note, though, that Phil Collins isn't really responsible for the song material on this album (nor is he really responsible for the following two albums, for that matter). The compositions are mostly penned by Banks and/or Rutherford, with an occasional collaboration from Collins or Hackett. The latter seems to have been relegated to purely decorative functions. If one complains about the lack of audible guitar on the 'classic' 1971-74 Genesis albums, he should throw this stuff away even without looking at it. The little bits of guitar that you might discern aren't certainly worth a whole band member (moreover, some of them might just as well be played by Rutherford). Sure, Steve gets in one composition of his own ('Entangled') and is responsible for some of the most beautiful moments on the album (the breathtaking solo on 'Ripples', for instance), but these sound more like a sop hastily thrown to the man by his more ambitious colleagues. This means that Hackett's departure in 1977 really made little influence on Genesis - contrary to what many people believe. Poor Steve, he was virtually squeezed out of the band - what you'll find on here, actually, is a lengthy, 50-minute feast of Banksynth noises. Alas, even when he turns himself to normal pianos, it doesn't always help. The sound is as uniform and monotonous as it might be, and while the actual melodies still stand out, Genesis seem to be heading more and more in the Kansas direction - and may I remind you that Kansas had built their entire early career on ripping off Genesis. Not to mention that they are among the most boring progressive groups to have ever existed. Granted, the sound might still have been fresh in 1976, but now it just sounds dated - pointless studio gimmickry which sure makes the music sound 'modern' (that is, 'modern' for 1976), but it sure doesn't make the music sound entertaining.

Moreover, Phil's singing is highly disappointing after all those Gabriel cookies - to me, at least. Yes, he does sound like Gabriel, but where are these cute little changes in intonation, these spoken passages, these inspired rambling mutterings? Phil delivers his lines in a boring, monotonous way, and even so he's often muddied down by the production. His voice is not bad at all, but he isn't able to model it at all, and just ends up overemoting on each track. From now on, Genesis vocals are crisp and professional, but are no longer a standout.

So... why an eight for this album, then? Well, see, the song material is actually quite strong. Whatever I may hold against Banks, at this point he did know how to turn in a great little tune (on occasion), and, hell, Rutherford was a really talented composer. His beautiful ballad 'Ripples', dedicated to the problems of aging, is one of the definite highlights on the record, romantic and tear-jerking, even though a little bit overlong (as a matter of fact, everything on here is overlong: the band just never knew when to shut up). Still, it does have that great solo thrown in by Steve. Other wonders include the tragic anthem of 'Squonk', with a charming fantasy story about a little animal who dissolved itself into tears when it was cornered, and the thrilling story of 'Robbery, Assault, And Battery' which again plunges us into the world of Genesis-like Britishness (strangely, the lyrical matter evokes the subject of 'Harold The Barrel'). Not that the songs are really that British as the album cover, with its Boz-like illustrations, suggests: in fact, without Gabriel there to deliver the lyrics, Banks often ends up sounding as a lame parody on Pete Sinfield ('Mad Man Moon' - arguably the worst track on here, an overlong sloppy ballad which doesn't hold a candle to 'Ripples' or, well, 'Musical Box', for all my life's worth; it does have a nice atmosphere to it, though, which is more than I could say about its successor on the next album, the dreadful 'One For The Vine'). Still, his best composition on the album (title track) should be considered a classic. On 'A Trick Of The Tail' everything seems to gel perfectly, maybe for the last time on a Genesis album. The lyrics (a story about a devil who, for some unknown reason, came to seek happiness on Earth) are decent, the melody, a nice shuffle with delicate key changes, is invigorating, and even Phil manages to somehow lift up his spirits on this one. Try it, you'll like it.

Plus, the other three compositions are okay. 'Dance On A Volcano' is anthemic, 'Entangled' is, well, entangled, but listenable (watch out for that mighty crescendo at the end - it's pure heaven when the headphones are on), and the closing 'Los Endos' is clever, even if it's nothing more than an average prog-rock instrumental with snippets of some other tracks and a quote from 'Supper's Ready' inserted at the end. In fact, there's little offensive stuff on the record, as far as songwriting is concerned. Just imagine how this might have sounded if they'd bother to substitute some of Banks' tools for, say, a twelve-string? Oh, okay, an extra six-string would easily do, I'm sure.

P.S. Considering one of the reader comments which reflects a widely spread statement, I'd just like to combat one nasty myth: namely, the assertion that after Gabriel's departure Genesis became more "musically-oriented". Genesis always paid most of their attention to the music - 'Supper's Ready' and Selling England might have their theatrical moments, but 99% of their charm stems from the actual music. If anything, Genesis became less "theatre-oriented" after Gabriel's departure, actually, they dropped the 'rock theatre' vibe almost in its entirety. But they didn't 'compensate' for it by paying more attention to the music, simply because they couldn't ever have paid more attention to the music than they did in the Gabriel days. On the contrary, what was so amazing about Gabriel-era Genesis was that they managed to combine 'rock theatre' with perfectly written music. If you complain about your attention being drawn away by Peter's antics, well, it's your problem; I, for one, can concentrate either on Gabriel or on the music, whichever I prefer, and therefore consider the early Gabriel-Genesis experience twice as rewarding as whatever followed. Yes, post-1975 Genesis never wrote such mini-show pieces as 'Get 'Em Out By Friday', but the main charm of these pieces stems from the fact that they are all highly melodic and incorporate blistering musical performances; the music in there is in no way overshadowed by Peter's delivery. So much for the illusionary "theatrical/musical" Genesis opposition.



Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 3
Overall rating = 7

Sorry, but Banks totally slaughters this one for me. I agree there are some strong songs, though.


Track listing: 1) Eleventh Earl Of Mar; 2) One For The Vine; 3) Your Own Special Way; 4) Wot Gorilla?; 5) All In A Mouse's Night; 6) Blood On The Rooftops; 7) Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers; 8) In That Quiet Earth; 9) Afterglow.

Oops, I blew it. I said something good about Tony Banks in that last review, haven't I? Well, screw it. Forget it. From the opening notes of this album and down to the last second, it's a nauseating synthfest. These electronic sounds seem to infiltrate you, spoil the very air you're breathing, poison the cup of tea you're sipping at while trying to get through to the melodies. And remember: I'm not against synthesizers as long as they're used in the correct way. You can put out a killer synth riff, something like Gentle Giant's 'Alucard'. You can use the synth to create outstanding fantasy-world or just outstanding spiritual musical textures, like Brian Eno. You can at least demonstrate your vast instrumental prowess by playing a technically immaculate, warp-speed solo - something in the style of Keith Emerson; I admit that some would hate that last style, calling it self-indulgent etc., but it's at least motivated. But when you engage in series of pointless, draggy instrumental passages that do neither of these three things, the reasonable question is: WHY? Why did Tony Banks clutter this huge, fifty-minute album with LOADS of these routine, boring, monotonous synth passages that do nothing besides just sit there and fart around? Okay, the tone he gets on this album and the general 'atmospherics' of his playing is basically not the worst thing in the world. But it's absolutely the same tone and absolutely the same atmospherics he used on the previous album, and he doesn't change AT ALL throughout all of these fifty minutes! Just noodle noodle noodle noodle... until I really can't tell one song from another, apart from a couple relative highlights I'll be mentioning shortly.

My guess is that Tony desperately wanted a serious album, plus he wanted to establish a clear monopoly on the new Genesis sound. But in doing so, he managed to successfully forget about everything that made earlier Genesis so great - awesome melodies, light-hearted lyrics, diverse instrumentation and stylistics, and above all, the irresistable playfulness of Gabriel's style which made the music complex and serious, on one side, and easily accessible and delightful, on the other one. This is still Genesis, for sure, but it's a formal, lifeless, clumsy Genesis that completely misses the Genesis essence of old. Where such bands as Kansas were once faithfully copying Genesis in form, but not essence, Genesis now seem to be copying Kansas themselves. Yyyyuck.

As for Steve Hackett, he must have played a total of two or three notes on this album (speaking figuratively, of course), which explains why he left shortly after recording the album - the contradictions with Banks were getting irresolvable. Rutherford holds out, though, contributing yet another in a series of his beautiful, classic-influenced ballads ('Your Own Special Way'), and Collins certainly does him a huge favour by stretching himself on it totally. Perversely enough, this is usually the fans' least favourite number on the record, because it's - go figure - too much pop for them. Well, it's not the greatest song ever written, for sure, but at the least, it has a memorable and idiosyncratic chorus, and that's far more than I could say about the rest of the album.

Two more songs manage to garner my attention in the long run. The album opens on a high note - 'Eleventh Earl Of Mar', dedicated to a metaphoric description of an old Scottish upraisal, buzzes along at a suitable pace and does include a couple of those long-lamented synth riffs that make it listenable. I can even disregard the 'deconstructing' of the melody (initiated on tunes like 'Squonk', where, if you remember, the verses got stretched out, twisted and disstructured in the most brutal way imaginable), as well as the fact that a large part of the vocal melody was shamelessly taken over from 'Battle Of Epping Forest' (and some - from 'Squonk' itself); the upbeat tone and the presence of real melodies make it tolerable and even enjoyable. And the Hackett/Collins collaboration 'Blood On The Rooftops' is a nice breather in between all the muck, opening with a pretty acoustic intro and accompanied with a Mellotron rather than a synthesizer all the way through. It's not as well-constructed as 'Entangled' on the previous album, but if anything on this record feels sincere or moving, it is 'Blood On The Rooftops'.

But the album is also cluttered with pointless, meaningless and deadly boring instrumentals ('Wot Gorilla?'; 'Unquiet Slumbers') which make any instrumental passage on a 1970-74 Genesis album sound inspired and brilliant in comparison. "Self-indulgence" is the keyword here: either you make an instrumental memorable by basing it on a good melody, or you just drive the listener breathless with the energy and technical level of the performance, but if you fall somewhere in between, how can you stand the competition? Awful, awful compositions...

...yet not as awful as that ten-minute abomination on the first side. There, Banks reaches an all-time low with a brooding and raving 'epic' ('One For The Vine') which is just such a horrible load of pseudo-intelligent bullshit that I refuse to acknowledge it as a Genesis song. The lyrics are super-pretentious but mean nothing, with overbearing cliches and idiotic preachiness strewn all over the song, and the melody could have been written by Elton John at the age of 10. And this is supposed to be going on for ten minutes? Holy crap! Needless to say, no humour, no playfulness, and not even the percussion-heavy mid-section helps to bring the song out of its grotesque, overbearing, nauseating atmosphere. 'One For The Vibe', it should be called, and 'Zero For The Effort'.

Oh geez, I must have been very offensive here - and I've just remembered that Wind And Wuthering seems to be a fan favourite! Where are we living, Eldorado? Nah, shucks. Were we living in Eldorado, Tony Banks would have been expulsed long ago. All I can say is that if this is a fan favourite, I suggest all you average boozers avoid hardcore Genesis fans. They might bite you.

So overall, this is a rather sad picture the band has drawn of itself. All these instrumentals, ten-minute Banks compositions... sad, very sad. Exhaustion? Stagnation? Overproductivity? Touring excesses? Yes, all that, plus somebody's huge ambitions and vast ego. Nah, no way. Stick to Trick Of The Tail, where the band was still at least partially following in Gabriel's footsteps, with lightweightness preserved in 'A Trick Of The Tail', Britishness preserved in 'Robbery, Assault And Battery', pure beauty preserved in 'Ripples', good riffs preserved in 'Squonk', shimmering guitarwork preserved in 'Entangled', and rocking energy preserved in 'Dance On A Volcano'. How many categories did I mention? Six? Wind & Wuthering doesn't have a quarter of that.

P.S. Did I mention yet that this one has to have one of the weakest Genesis album closers? 'Afterglow' is based on a two-note melody, it seems, and is so pathetic and so monotonous at the same time that it really hurts. It tends to be emotional and spiritual, but is so gruesomely inadequate that I can't stand it at all.



Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Slaughtering the old classics doesn't mean they're no longer good.


Track listing: 1) Squonk; 2) The Carpet Crawl; 3) Robbery, Assault & Battery; 4) Afterglow; 5) Firth Of Fifth; 6) I Know What I Like; 7) The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway; 8) The Musical Box (closing); 9) Supper's Ready; 10) Cinema Show; 11) Dance On A Volcano; 12) Los Endos.

As far as I can think, this is probably the last 'classic' Genesis album, because it still features Steve Hackett and it still relies mostly on the 'old classics'. Diehard prog fans usually don't even want to think of crossing the line between this and what followed. It's live, of course. Therefore it doesn't have Phil on drums; Bill Bruford bashes the kit on a couple tracks, most notably 'Cinema Show', but for most of the rest it's Chester Thompson, the black jazzy player who'd previously scored with none other than Frank Zappa himself. Needless to say he's good - he'd played stuff thrice as complex and witty as Genesis' moderately tricky signatures. As an unpretentious drummer, he rules. Unlike Phil. I'm sorry, but I have to say that, whatever the critics may have raved, he is absolutely not out-Gabrielling Gabriel. But let's deal with this in due time, shall we?

The album is double - late as usual. I mean, all the great artists usually don't care too much about live albums while they're in their prime, either releasing none or releasing a poorly recorded single one, and only when they're past their zenyth do they suddenly turn back and remember: "Hey! We haven't done a double live album, haven't we? What were we thinking about?" And they quickly record it, but it's too late, of course. Just look at this list: the Who's Who's Last, the Stones' Love You Live, Dylan's Before The Flood, Clapton's Just One Night, the Kinks' One For The Road, all of them were double live albums representing artists way after their prime. Like I say, rock music does have its laws...

Seconds Out is no exception. A double album, it concentrates heavily on the 'classics' which the band just didn't get a chance to record (or to release) live while Gabriel was still hanging around. Look at the track listing - 'Firth Of Fifth', 'I Know What I Like', 'The Cinema Show', 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', 'Carpet Crawlers', and, of course, a whole side dedicated to 'Supper's Ready'. There's also a (rather pointless, I must say) short snatchet of 'Musical Box' - I really hate the idea of swiping out a 'most important part' out of a good song, unless they were actually playing it that way (incomplete, that is), in which case they're doubly cursed, and sorry for all the periods - plus some of the newer material: 'Squonk', 'Dance On A Volcano', 'Robbery, Assault And Battery' and 'Los Endos' are all from Trick Of The Tail, and, thank God, there's only one number from Wind And Wuthering ('Afterglow', a bombastic Banks tune which isn't the worse thing about that album, but it's close).

The new material is all performed by-the-book, with Collins and the rest of the band emulating the studio sound to a near-perfect similarity (except for an unreasonable, but short drum solo on 'Volcano'). Occasionally Phil slips a note or two, but that's nothing to get annoyed about. Now the old material is what might cause some eyebrows to be raised. Collins bravely struggles along with old Gabriel material, and he's definitively successful on some of the more bombastic numbers ('Firth Of Fifth' goes off splendidly, and even Banks' synth substitution of Gabriel's beautiful flute part isn't able to spoil the picture), but that doesn't stop him from ruining 'Carpet Crawlers' where he can't really cope with what is the main attraction of the song - the harmonies, nor does it stop him from adding free-form and usually poorly conceived improvisation to 'I Know What I Like' (which is, moreover, transformed into a lengthy stupid jam in the second part, borrowing from 'Stagnation', if I'm not mistaken - now whose idea was that?).

I wouldn't really know about 'Supper's Ready', because a detailed comparison of the two versions is a lengthy procedure which I just wouldn't to get myself involved into; sounds okay to me, though. At least, you know, Phil was actually around when they were recording the song, so he must have felt its spirit well enough to put in a solid performance. (Remember also that a lot of the harmonies and stuff on classic Gabriel-era Genesis albums were sung by Phil as well, so that's not such a problem as may seem). And, anyway, these guys had always been pretty good on stage despite all odds.

So, whatever. If you have nothing against Phil's Gabriel imitations, you might as well grab this one. But be sure to get the original versions first: those are the classics, and this one's a slightly more lame imitation. Nothin' else. There's this kind of record whose existence seems to be justified by simply answering the question "can this be done?". Well, with a little bit o' luck this can be done. But man, does Phil look positively ugly with that beard! And does he look positively stupid on stage when (I saw this in the Genesis history video) he's raising his hands to the sky while singing the pedestrian cliched lyrics to 'Firth Of Fifth', ugh. Yeah right, the great God of Prog is sitting right there and Tony Banks is his only prophet, isn't that so?



Year Of Release: 1978
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

A country-western album full of Banksynths. Don't ask me whether that's possible. I just can't think of any other description.

Best song: SNOWBOUND

Track listing: 1) Down And Out; 2) Undertow; 3) Ballad Of Big; 4) Snowbound; 5) Burning Rope; 6) Deep In The Motherlode; 7) Many Too Many; 8) Scenes From A Night's Dream; 9) Say It's Alright Joe; 10) The Lady Lies; 11) Follow You Follow Me.

Humorous album title that shows us the guys really could take a laugh if they wanted to very hard, but that's not really saying much. (What a shame that Hackett and Gabriel had to go and Banks and Collins had to stay... ah, the calamities of nature). Their first album as a 'power pop trio', with no Steve Hackett for miles around. However, considering the amount of work he did on the preceding three studio albums, this eventually doesn't mean a damn thing. And that's exactly the thing that makes me wonder. The record is commonly described as 'the beginning of a new Genesis', the Collins-dominated, pop-oriented Genesis. It is generally expected that prog rock fans are to despise this record (and all the following), while at the same time they're expected to worship Wind And Wuthering (and all the preceding). To my ears, however, And Then... does not sound at all different from the first two post-Gabriel records. The absence of Hackett doesn't mean a damn thing (I think I already said that a couple of lines above, but repetitio est mater studiorum, you know), because the sound is still dominated by Banksynth and Collins' drum sound, with an occasional acoustic (sometimes even electric!) guitar from Master Mike. The songs are still long - well, not 'Supper's Ready'-long and not even 'The Musical Box'-long, but long nevertheless (and there's quite a lot of 'em, too - yet another album that doesn't really deserve not to fit on one side of a tape). And the lyrics are still as pretentious as hell - preachy and pathetic, that is. This, in fact, is the one really really serious flaw that makes me hate post-Gabriel Genesis - neither Banks nor Rutherford were ever able to capture that groovy Gabriel vibe (and I don't even mention Phil's exercises in lyrics-making).

So in general, as you see, there were almost no changes that could be noticed on this here record. Moreover, there's even one big plus on it. Guess what - the songs are slightly more listenable than on Wind. First of all, there are no pointless instrumentals (maybe that's what they mean when they say that the former was a prog record and this one was a pop record? Hardly a compliment to prog, I say), so you get to be distracted from Banksynths at least by listening to a lot of Phil's singing. Second, there are some really inspired Rutherford compositions - like the generic, but charming ballad 'Snowbound' (about a snowman? huh!), or the Wild West anthem 'Deep In The Motherlode' which sounds a little like a slowed-down version of 'Eleventh Earl Of Mar', and even his minor efforts are interesting ('Say It's Alright Joe', with an ultra-tender Collins vocal).

Meanwhile, our old pal Tony gets yet another of his seven-minute ravings ('Burning Rope'), and, while it's infatuatingly boring, it isn't nasty, at least. It seems to me that he was always hoping to get a personal analog of 'Firth Of Fifth', and this is probably the closest he ever got to a reminiscence of that truly timeless epic. The band even emulates the kind of sound Hackett used for his solo in the middle of 'Firth' (but don't ask me whether it's some more of Tony's wizardry or if it's just Rutherford expropriating Steve's pedal). The lyrics are trite, of course, but the effort is at least respectable. And 'Undertow' even sounds Beatlish in parts - imagine that, a Tony Banks composition sounding Beatlish. What an accomplishment for the old geezer. Yes, these songs all sound basically the same, all of them mid-tempo synth-based wankings, but that's all right by me at the moment. Anything but the pretentions, pomp, overbloatedness, lengthiness and banality of Wind & Wuthering. If you have just developed the most dull and plodding synth tone of your life and prefer to make it the central point of the band's sound, stick to shorter poppier pieces rather than to lengthy progressive 'epics', I say.

Maybe it's just my personal impression, but I'd say this album is better simply because of the fact that, instead of wanking all over the place and piling layer upon layer of pointless synth backgrounds, what they mostly do here is feed on past successes and rip off the early classics. Hey hey, what could they do? 'Scenes From A Night's Dream' reminds me of 'Robbery, Assault And Battery'; the hit 'Follow You Follow Me', quite nice by itself, doesn't remind me of anything particular, but anyway, I've just made a statement and I'm not gonna re-write it. This does sound closer to classic Genesis than Wind & Wuthering does.

However, even with all those compliments I still won't give it more than a 6. For reasons I probably don't need to stress here at all, but still will because nothing pleases me as much as boring the readers to death with trite statements. All these melodies that I singled out are only acceptable as long as... as long as you compare them to the preceding record. This was only the rough beginning of Genesis' final evolution, after all, and as far as I understand, Collins still wasn't that much involved in the songwriting - his influence would only start being seriously incorporated into the band's sound in the early Eighties. It's one of those 'poor' cases of transition when the band has already lost the ability to create something worthwhile in the old style, but hasn't yet acquired the ability to create something in a new style. If you want a more successful 'lightweight' album by a former prog artist from 1978, stick to Gentle Giant's Giant For A Day. Heck, even ELP's Love Beach is more involving (its first side at least). What a pity the album didn't sport the name And Then There Were Two...

It's also very funny that the album often refers to the western themes. Well, at least thrice: 'Deep In The Motherlode' and 'Ballad Of Big' are all drunken cowboy ditties, and hey, have you taken a good look at the album cover? Who are those dudes sitting in the middle of a prairie at sunset? Do they look familiar? Not really, but I wish that guy on the left'd lift his hat a little...



Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

I don't think it's pop. I don't think it's prog. I don't think it's too good, either. Buy it out of curiosity.

Best song: ....... ....... ........ anyway, why do I have to chose best songs all the time? Oh, allright. It must be DUKE'S END

Track listing: 1) Behind The Lines; 2) Duchess; 3) Guide Vocal; 4) Man Of Our Times; 5) Misunderstanding; 6) Heathaze; 7) Turn It On Again; 8) Alone Tonight; 9) Cul-De-Sac; 10) Please Don't Ask; 11) Duke's Travels; 12) Duke's End.

Ah! Now this is already different! They've entered the Eighties, see, and the album really ushered in Eighties synth-pop like a swarm of locusts. You might expect it to be detestable. Strange enough, it isn't, for reasons I'm still not able to determine. I guess it's mainly because Genesis were the forefathers of the genre. And you know how it goes with talented forefathers: even if the idea in general turns out to be moronic, they're still able to make the best of it. Europop is a miserable genre, for instance, but ABBA, who originated it, was a great band. Led Zeppelin generated heavy metal, a genre that's long since stripped itself of most of its redeeming qualities, but them? Them did it good, I say! Same goes for Genesis.

Not that the record is all pure synth pop, mind you. The main technical differences from the preceding record are primarily in that Collins, having solved his marriage problems (and written a lot of songs about his marriage problems), got finally involved into the recording and songwriting process to an extremely important extent. The album even has his first solo writing credit ('Misunderstanding'), and lots of technical work were done purely by the man - including the band's first [ab]use of drum machines. Sweetening up the pill, I might say that Phil's hands do a lot of drumming, too, and it's quite solid. So this is really the first album which we can dub a 'Collins-led' album, albeit with some reservations.

Did it make any real difference? Not too much. They say it's a 'pop' album. Well, the pop element is mostly relegated to a couple hit singles (the album, in fact, was their first huge commercial success), like the above-mentioned 'Misunderstanding' or 'Turn It On Again'. These are bouncy, rhythmic ditties, borrowing heavily from disco rhythms (specially the second one), with rather straightforward lyrics (specially the first one - Phil wasn't much known for writing non-love songs). They're not horrid, like certain people claim, but they're certainly pop, no doubt about that, and not superb quality pop, with no bvlistering hooks I can think of. Mind you, though, that these are not the first occurrences of 'pop' on a Genesis record. (See 'I Know What I Like' for further reference.) Some moments in 'Heathaze' or 'Please Don't Ask' could be qualified as 'pop', too, but the songs in general are way too complex and untrivial to follow the standard.

But the other songs? Are they pop? The album is a conceptual one, built around a central character titled 'duke' and seemingly telling us something about his journeys (the instrumental 'Duke's Travels'). Which duke exactly is meant here is beyond me - I must read a book some day. All I know is he's married, 'cause there's a song called 'Duchess', and that he's deceived, 'cause there's a song called 'Duke's End'. Hmm, doesn't that remind you of Phil Collins? Seeing as the main theme of 'Duke's End' is really nothing more but a reprise of the introductory instrumental section of the album opener 'Behind The Lines', one might suggest that the album begins with his birth and ends with his death. That's all right by me. I just hope the caricature of a fat old person dressed in green on the album cover doesn't turn out to be the duke itself. Ehn...

Don't think you'll get to know anything about the duke, of course. The lyrics here are mostly standard Banks hogwash, the likes of which we've come to 'enjoy' on Wind & Wuthering and And Then... And the music? Well, it's still mostly Banksynths, but somehow they aren't as nauseating here. Maybe it's because some of the songs are fast ('Duke's End'). Maybe it's because the record has more guitars on it than any Genesis record since Selling England (no kidding - they really bring on the 12-string in some cases, it seems). Maybe it's because Tony kindly switches to piano from time to time. I dunno. The melodies themselves aren't that interesting, though, relying mostly on the same chords and patterns as the ones on the previous record. And Phil's singing is slowly starting to get on my nerves. Moreover, I'm fairly disappointed with Rutherford: his main solo composition on here ('Man Of Our Times') is every bit as pedestrian as Banks' efforts. It does borrow the bombastic 'heavenly' chorus from 'Your Own Special Way', but who needs it? Not me. Certainly not me. Get on with it. All said, I just wanted to shatter the myth about early Eighties' Genesis being primarily 'pop' music. To me, it seems more like 'prog' disguised as 'pop' - which certainly contributed to the sales. And of course, rhetoric phrases like 'there are really two entirely different bands both named Genesis' are totally meaningless. You don't go about saying 'there were two entirely different bands both named The Beatles', now do you? (Come to think of it, if we do say that there were two Geneses, I can't even imagine how many Beatles we'd have to postulate!)

But in any case, the overall rating of nine is mainly given out because on certain good days this works out fine as unharmful background music. There ain't even a single semi-classic on the entire album, which I couldn't say about any other Genesis record; it's just relatively consistent in that nothing makes you puke. No, not even 'Misunderstanding' makes me puke - it's far better than 'One For The Vine', if you axe me...



Year Of Release: 1981
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

This is the kind of 'good music for dancing that one need not be ashamed of'. Not boring, either.

Best song: DODO/LURKER

Track listing: 1) Abacab; 2) No Reply At All; 3) Me And Sarah Jane; 4) Keep It Dark; 5) Dodo/Lurker; 6) Who Dunnit?; 7) Man On The Corner; 8) Like It Or Not; 9) Another Record.

Well, take my words back! This IS pop music! Genesis DID become a pop band after all, didn't they? Maybe my main dissatisfaction with the standard notions about Eighties' Genesis was that they did not take into view the gradual metamorphoses of Genesis. This is presumably the first album where the 'dance pop' element takes over and becomes the dominant on the record, due to Collins falling more and more in love with sequencers and drum machines. The only weak traces of mid-Seventies Genesis can sometimes be found in the lyrics, like in 'Dodo' which is a fair enough reminiscence of 'Squonk'. Actually, the entire lyrics in general are a big step up from Duke: while certainly not the kind of meaningless, but preachy 'confessions' that Banks used to pen in the past four or five years, they are still a far cry from the average love song themes of, say, Fleetwood Mac or anybody else in that epoch.

The music, as one might guess, is mostly based on drum machines and all that other cherished early Eighties electronic sound. But hold your vomiting! Unlike so many less talented bands, Genesis weren't really following the fashion. Instead, they were setting the trends themselves - the album is certainly experimental, and all the guys are trying so hard, attempting to squeeze everything possible from these 'magic' gadgets, that it's really fun to just stop and appreciate their puffing and panting. The drum machines don't really sound annoying, and much of music still has a 'live' feeling to it - more 'live' than, say, Paul McCartney's McCartney II or Jethro Tull's A. Maybe that's just due to the fact that Banks was an old and respected master of the synthesizer, so the reliance on modern technologies doesn't take us so aback in this particular case. But one mustn't forget that there's still quite a lot of guitar sound around, and, what's more important, the record isn't made for the sake of experimentating, like the two records mentioned above: the technologies are only there to enhance the sound, not to replace the melody.

Who wrote these melodies is a serious question: most of the tracks are credited to all three members of the band, and those tracks that are pure solo (each member gets one composition of his own) are usually the worst of the lot regardless of the author (excluding maybe 'Me And Sarah Jane'). Eventually the members realized that themselves, so starting from their next album all the credits are shared equally, returning us to the good old days when everything was just credited to Genesis and that was it, until good old Pete Gabriel insisted that all the lyrics on The Lamb be credited to him and broke the unity. But the current collaborations show that the guys could really produce a good tune when they wanted to, and even their grooves are entertaining.

Take the most controversial song on the whole record, for instance, the one called 'Who Dunnit?' Some view it as an atrocious example of pre-techno beat set to idiotic, mindless lyrics ('was it you or was it me/was it he or was it she/was it A or was it B/or was it X or Z/who dunnit?' and the following endless, repetitive 'we know we know we know we know we know we know...') Others, however, regard it as a little technohumor while grooving in the studio. Guess what camp I am in. Of course, I don't really enjoy the song (only a computer descendant could enjoy it), but at least I can listen to it with interest now and then. Maybe just as a historical curiosity. Maybe for some other reason I can't identify. But it has something cool and hilarious about it.

Actually, the first two thirds of the album are mostly cool. The title track bounces and bops around so that you can't help being involved somehow, and the melody is strong, whatever you may say about the arrangements; the band even takes the time to jam a bit at the end, with atmospheric 'robotic' synth patterns and wailing guitar solos that are more energetic than anything since Steve Hackett's guitar parts on Selling England. 'No Reply At All' is a dang strange tune, with alternating happy and sad lines; the dance-pop horns borrowed from Phil Collins' solo albums slightly mar it, but it's at least memorable. And 'Me And Sarah Jane' is the first Banks solo composition in a totally pop style and probably one of his best known (but man, are the lyrics stupid on that one!) The good news is that Tony actually lets his fantasy run through several different melodies - unlike most of his lengthy epics on post-Gabriel 'prog' records, the song doesn't just hammer on and on and on in a monotonous way, but nicely shifts moods, tempos and keys all the time.

My favourite, though, is the seven-minute 'Dodo/Lurker', the closest thing to a 'prog' number, although this is primarily due to the lyrics: like I said, they strongly remind me of 'Squonk' (with the difference that 'Squonk' is a mythical animal and 'Dodo', er, a half-mythical one. If it's the Lewis Carroll Dodo Bird they mean, of course). You could even argue that the melody is slightly remkiniscent of 'Squonk', at least it's the same powerful desperate approach - 'too big to fly, dodo ugly so dodo must die'. And what would you say of lyrical lines like 'Fish he got a hook in his throat/Fish he got problems?'. It's not even understandable if we should cry or we should laugh - the lyrical subject is obviously eco-related, but the melodies themselves are rather lightweight, and when 'Lurker' comes in with that cheerful synthesizer riff at the end, any kind of "powerful impression" is immediately dissipated. But is that a bad thing? Not at all.

Unfortunately, the record ends on a rather dull note, with two or three unmemorable numbers (including Phil's boring philosophical pastiche 'Man On The Corner' and Rutherford's unmemorable ballad 'Like It Or Not'); but 'Another Record' at least provides a decent nostalgic final note, and the small amount of filler shouldn't detract you from the fact that this is a record really worth having. First, it has a lot of historical importance - for pop music in general and Genesis in particular. Second, the songs are more often enjoyable than not. Third, cool post-impressionistic album cover! Fourth, good singing from Phil, he tries out more styles than ever before. Fifth, if you've already bought Wind And Wuthering, you have no excuse for not buying this one cuz it's better.



Year Of Release: 1982
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

Live. Imagine that.


Track listing: 1) Turn It On Again; 2) Dodo; 3) Abacab; 4) Behind The Lines; 5) Duchess; 6) Me & Sarah Jane; 7) Follow You Follow Me; 8) Misunderstanding; 9) In The Cage; 10) Afterglow; 11) One For The Vine; 12) Fountain Of Salmacis; 13) It/Watcher Of The Skies.

This has gotta be the world's most deceptive album title - double deceptive, actually. Originally, Three Sides Live in its American issue was just as it billed itself - three sides of the album were recorded live on the band's 1981 tour, and the fourth side was comprised of five contemporary studio cuts. I've never heard these, although Genesis fans usually don't think much of them, except for the single 'Paperlate'. However, the British version of the album had all four sides live, with the fourth side dumping the studio cuts and replacing them with some more 'archive' live recordings, taken from the band's performance at Knebworth in 1978 and at a gig recorded as early as 1976 (which means you have Steve Hackett on one cut!!). Since then we stepped into the CD age, and it was the British release that made it onto the CD. Now we have a double deception, heh heh: not only are there four sides live, there aren't even any sides. They should have renamed it Two Discs Live! Next time, choose your album title more carefully and with regards to the future, guys.

[Sidenote: I still don't quite understand why it wasn't possible, given the CD format, to put both the American and the British side onto the re-issue. Even if the band themselves thinks that the studio cuts were crappy, completists would still want 'em. Why give the bootleggers a chance? Sheez.]

Anyway, onwards to the music. Three Sides Live clearly can't be anywhere near as disappointing as Seconds Out, as by now the band had stepped firmly into their synth-pop era and what with all the material from their last three albums piling up behind them, Phil wasn't forced any more to sing as much old Gabriel material as he used to. While that might have seriously disappointed the fans (there are, in fact, hilarious tales about Phil being nearly booed off stage several times for singing 'pop crap', when he bravely confronted the audience telling 'em to fuck off if they didn't like the new material), this certainly guarantees you a safe and sound listening process. No clenched fists and yells about how you'd like to wring Collins' neck for displacing the 'Rael Imperial Aerosol Kid!' line or for ruining the whole atmosphere of 'I Know What I Like'.

The downside of this is that I seriously doubt if I'll ever get a need to put on the first disc of this package again. The seven songs on there just replay the studio originals note-for-note, with differences so minor that I don't want to even waste my time on comparisons. The only thing I noticed was Phil's stupid near-scat singing on 'Turn It On Again' which finally proved to me that one thing Mr Collins has to always steer away from is improvisation. He's really a humble, insecure, not tremendously expressive bald chap who has enough trouble as it is to sound nice and pleasing on the studio recordings; every time he tries to sing something different in a live setting, he just falls flat. That said, the rest of the song is played perfectly. And the selection ain't at all bad - I could definitely do without the boring 'Duchess', but 'Dodo', 'Abacab', and 'Me & Sarah Jane' are three of the best cuts from Abacab, right? 'Behind The Lines' makes a nice interlude, and 'Follow You Follow Me' brings the album to a nice close. And that's it. You'll never want to listen to these two sides again.

Disc 2 is significantly different, though, and makes the purchase well worth owning. The "Third Side", also comprised of 1981 recordings, gives all of you your favourite pop song ('Misunderstanding', of course! What other pop song are you ready to kill your mother for?) with some more idiotic blubbering from Phil in the end, and your favourite Lump of Emotion in 'Afterglow'. However, it also has an excellent rendition of 'In The Cage', preserving all the tension and all the subtle mood shifts, with a complex and engaging instrumental coda borrowing elements from 'The Cinema Show'.

Finally, the infamous "fourth side" is the grand prize you've all been waiting for. Er... then again, maybe not quite the grand prize - you'll have to sit through the entire ten minutes of 'One For The Vine'. Yep, you'll have to tolerate that one, or maybe just skip through it. But pay some attention to the fast instrumental mid-section: instead of the complex drum pattern found on the studio original, Banks replaces it with cute 'popping' synth-noises that are quite hilarious in their own way. And then comes the really cool stuff: a grand live version of the immortal classic 'Fountain Of Salmacis'. Gabriel or no Gabriel on vocals, this is a beautiful version; actually, don't forget that the original, found on Nursery Cryme, boasted piss-poor production, and if you weren't aware that the song has beautiful vocal and instrumental melodies and some actual hooks, here's the place to prove it.

Finally, the band fizzles out with a 1976 recording of 'It'. Real Hackett on real guitar! Total ecstasy and, like, rock nirvana. You know. 'It is here, it is now...'. And in a fit of geniality, the band merges it with an instrumental section of 'Watcher Of The Skies', as Tony gets on the Mellotron and seamlessly leads the band from the closing glorious chords of 'It' into the ethereal vastness of 'Watcher Of The Skies'. This is grand, and reason enough to own the album if you're not overpaying. As superfluous as Three Sides Live essentially is, there's no question that out of all the Collins-era live albums from Genesis, this is the one to own.

Oh! And what's with the Who/Rory Gallagher reference of the album cover? Not only were these guys befuddling the customers' brains with double releases of the same album, they were also trying to make it look like a bootleg! Probably so that the customers would blame all the confusion on poor innocent bootleggers. Hear, hear. What a cruel scheme to take revenge on a bunch of nice people.



Year Of Release: 1983
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Finally, casting all ambitions aside, our favourite pop group releases a pure pop album, resulting in a minor masterpiece.

Best song: THAT'S ALL

Track listing: 1) Mama; 2) That's All; 3) Home By The Sea; 4) Second Home By The Sea; 5) Illegal Alien; 6) Taking It All Too Hard; 7) Just A Job To Do; 8) Silver Rainbow; 9) It's Gonna Get Better.

Drum machine sound greets you from the very beginning of the album on 'Mama', and you immediately get the uncomfy feeling that this is going to be Abacab vol. 2 - synth/drum machine experimentation over clumsy melodies and not less clumsy singing. Well then, wrong you are (actually, I was wrong too, so that's a self-insult rather than anything else). The album is a huge step up from Abacab. Well, not exactly huge if we judge by the actual song quality, but huge, I'd say, in the mental sphere. This album has no progressive ambitions at all. Sure, the lyrics are still cleverer and more entertaining than Fleetwood Mac, but apart from that, it's all fast, enjoyable, hummable pop.

And you know what? They've finally matured into writing catchy numbers - it took them about fifteen years to do so, but you can't get away from the fact! Oh, I know this ain't serious, but this ain't banal, either, and at least they're not repeating themselves - the melodies are pretty original, and the hooks are there, polished and shining like little gold doorhands. Just a good pop album. Loads of bands were working in the same style by the time, but Genesis were certainly ahead of everybody else simply because they were more experienced. As lifeless as some of these arrangements are in theory, there's enough conviction and energy to convince you that this should work despite all odds; and it does.

Yup, there's practically no audible guitar on this album, and I doubt whether Phil ever really took up a drumstick, but Tony has been tamed enough to refrain from overlong, pointless synth noodlings a la Wind And Wuthering and mostly sticks to playing amusing little passages (except for the nearly-instrumental 'Second Home By The Sea' where the band takes a foolish decision to, er, 'jam' - I guess I should call it a 'jam', even though it certainly ain't one in the real sense of the word); the drum machines aren't annoying (in comparison, the murky sequence on 'Keep It Dark' has always spoiled my feelings towards that song), and the atmosphere is pleasant and inviting, with a slight touch of humour and intelligence.

Out of the songs you probably know the hit 'That's All', and it is indeed the damn funniest and most memorable tune on the album, with one of my favourite Tony Banks organ solos of all time (and that's because he actually follows the insanely endearing catchy rhythmic pattern of the song instead of sprawling all over the place). But I could also name 'Mama', a brilliant love-and-hate song that Phil pulls off in his best, 'screaming' manner, with some frightening 'ha-ha's on the way; the dark, grimy atmosphere of the number swoops you inside, and if there IS a place to truly appreciate Phil's vocal stylizations, it's here. It is somewhat similar to 'In The Air Tonight', one of Phil's best solo compositions, but it's far more piercing and frightening.

Minor highlights include the anti-anti-immigration song 'Illegal Alien' with its almost nursery refrain (and rather biting lyrics, I'd say); the consolative 'Taking It All Too Hard' where they manage to hit those incredible notes (in the refrain) that, combined with Phil's tone, give the song a unique feeling of gentleness and passion (if you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, compare this with the refrain to 'No Reply At All': it's the same impression); the rambunctious Killer Anthem 'Just A Job To Do'; and the gorgeous ballad 'Silver Rainbow' (if you're not able to appreciate the lines where Phil sings 'you won't know where you're coming or you're going...', the only thing I can say is you have a way too hard alergy on synth-pop).

All of these have solid melodies in them, and, like I said, you can't deny the lyrics: even the love songs are really deep and psychological. Maybe it had something to do with Phil's personal traumas and experience (his recent divorce, etc.), but I really don't know much about that period in their lives, so forgive me beforehand.

It has a few downsides, of course: a couple songs are below average, like the closing boggy 'It's Gonna Get Better', typical optimistic filler to close the album with; and the lengthy 'Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea' has never managed to fascinate me. Also, if you suddenly take a foolish decision to put this record on right after (or before) Foxtrot, you'll get a nervous breakdown which is certainly bad for your health and even worse for the development of your musical taste. It's like listening to Bridges To Babylon right after Sticky Fingers. Something like that.

Still, I insist that if you listen to all of Genesis albums in chronological order, you won't even notice the smooth transgression from the 1971-72 level onto what they had metamorphosed into in a decade - all of the changes were occurring so slowly and gradually that each album starting from Selling England and ending with Genesis (and further, too) sounds just a wee bit different from its predecessor, but cannot be said to not possess any tight links with it. And if you try to follow that development, be sure not to get guided entirely by the genre trappings (like, 'this is prog and I like it', 'oh no, this is pop and I hate it', or vice versa, you know), and you might come to regard these early Eighties albums as high as I do.

Good work, boys! This is certainly their best since Trick Of The Tail, and it shows how Phil's songwriting skills have matured at this point.



Year Of Release: 1986
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

Actually, a very visible touch. A touch of drummachinnitis and synthesizeritis.


Track listing: 1) Invisible Touch; 2) Tonight Tonight Tonight; 3) Land Of Confusion; 4) In Too Deep; 5) Anything She Does; 6) Domino; 7) Throwing It All Away; 8) The Brazilian.

Ugh. No doubt about it, this one's is a little too much pop. First off, what happened to the lyrics? Genesis actually doing love songs? Simplistic love songs? Trivial love songs? Accessible love songs? 'Tonight Tonight Tonight'? 'Anything She Does'? Of course, Phil was already used to doing love songs on his solo albums, but couldn't he propose something better to the band that once was famous for telling tales about Hermaphrodites and Salmacis or battles between humans and giant hogweeds? And yeah, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that they began drifting towards love thematics quite a while ago ('Your Own Special Way' on Wind And Wuthering actually started it, didn't it?), but here this is all much too obvious. Also, quite a lot of songs are trite, skeleton-less ditties perfectly fit for the radio but certainly not fit for aging on anybody's shelf. The title track, for instance, could have been done by just anybody in the business, and considering the fact that Phil just isn't a truly great singer, it would certainly be done better by just about anybody else. Almost totally emotionless emotional song. Not very catchy, too.

And 'Land Of Confusion'? There is some kind of desperate vibe in the verses, but it's the chorus that amply demonstrates the song's datedness to us. 'This is the world we live in... O-O-OH... And these are the hands we're given... O-O-OH...' Pop gospel? Gospel pop? Yairs. It's still a highlight on this album (not to mention the groovy video, but that's beyond the subject of the actual review).

Now wait, wait a minute, I don't really want to say this album blows it entirely (like Clapton's August that was produced by same Collins same year). There are enough hooks in the songs, and masterful hooks at that, to pull it off and to be able to claim that the album does have substance and isn't all just built around tracks pleasant to dance to and nothing else. Thus, the lengthy 'Tonight Tonight Tonight', though certainly not deserving to be nine minutes long (it's a pop song for Chrissake! What were they trying to do - progressivize pop radio?), is a really clever song that has to be listened to several times in order to be appreciated. 'In Too Deep' is kinda touching, and 'Anything She Does' is at least fast, but not in a techno way or something.

The major point of controversy about the album is the ten-minute epic 'Domino', obviously the album's piece de resistance. Some view it as just another tedious and boring pop song, while others praise it as the only slight glimpse of 'progressivism' due to its length and more or less 'serious', sometimes even apocalyptic, lyrical content. Not to mention that it's multi-part, building from a slow, minor key shuffle to a fast-paced, discoish beaty song featuring all kinds of tricky synth riffs and cool drum parts. Personally, I think it's okay: not as bad as a generic Banks fiesta, but certainly not as good as the average Gabriel marathon. Again, it might just be due to Phil's unimpressive singing, but more probable is the issue of lack of diversity in the arrangements: same old stuff, same old stuff from the boys again. 'Mama' said it all much better and much shorter. Finally, the closing instrumental 'The Brazilian', Banks' showcase, is also viewed by many as a good prog instrumental, and indeed it's not uninteresting, being based on a solid synth riff instead of the usual diffluent sulky chord sequences.

But no matter what kind of good words I might be saying about the material, it is still much too generic to be really enjoyed. If anything, these guys were no longer producing a revolution - when drum machines, poppy synths and power pop itself were still fresh and new, they did sound invigorating and, well, I can fully justify their turning away from progressive style at the time (at least they evaded degenerating into something like Asia, which they were bound to degenerate into otherwise). Genesis marked the peak of that. But here, well, they're mostly recycling older successes, if not worse. I'll be the first to admit that Collins did develop a good songwriting style by the time. But. much as I like hooks and catchy choruses, these things ain't everything - you gotta have substance as well. I see little substance in Invisible Touch, if you don't consider Banksynth noodlings substance, of course.

For the defence - all considered, these points can be blown away with a simple statement: there ain't a single bad song on the album. They're mostly flawed, and they're mostly commercialized, and mostly overlong, and mostly based on solo Collins work and all, but when I look at the track listing, I can associate a certain image in my mind with every name, and that's really something. (In comparison, each time I look at the track listing for Eric Clapton's August, produced by Phil Collins and released the same year, all I get is 'Twink! Pssht!'). The guys worked. The guys had some good ideas, which they mostly slaughtered with stupid production and all, but, after all, a good idea that's been slaughtered is still miles better than a bad idea that's been revived. Heck, why didn't they hire me as producer? Of course, I was only ten years old at the time and didn't know crap about music or anything, but, like, considering that these guys were in their fourties and knew everything about music, wouldn't my position be an advantage?

Oh! Needless to say, the album made them even bigger superstars than they were by the time. Half or more of the compositions were radio favourites, so you probably heard the entire album without buying it. Gee, but time does correct the mistakes, doesn't it?



Year Of Release: 1991
Record rating = 3
Overall rating = 7

More like, you know, a Phil Collins solo album. Why he had to stick the 'Genesis' moniker on it is beyond me.

Best song: I CAN'T DANCE

Track listing: 1) No Son Of Mine; 2) Jesus He Knows Me; 3) Driving The Last Spike; 4) I Can't Dance; 5) Never A Time; 6) Dreaming While You Sleep; 7) Tell Me Why; 8) Living Forever; 9) Hold On My Heart; 10) Way Of The World; 11) Since I Lost You; 12) Fading Lights.

Maybe good old Phil was just lending his old pals Tony and Mike a helping hand to gain some easy bucks? Whatever. After a five year break, when all chances of seeing Genesis on the road again seemed to be more or less equal to chances of John Lennon coming down from the sky and joining forces with, say, Peter Gabriel for instance, Phil suddenly changed his mind and decided he wanted to keep the band after all. The album, as everybody knows, was yet another huge success for the pop Genesis, yielding loads of hit singles, top rank videos and stuff like that. In retrospect, though, the whole affair stinks badly, and, frankly speaking, it's really hard to get into the album, if you haven't taken a Collins-addiction course beforehand.

First of all, since they'd already stepped into the CD age, the album is deadly long - more than seventy minutes, which means that, good or bad the song, it's bound to drag for ages until it sucks your brains out. Needless to say, the worse the song is, the longer it usually drags: the totally faceless pop rocker 'Driving The Last Spike', for instance, drives me so much outa my mind that I don't even notice when it finally ceases to terrorize me, I'm already in a total state of coma. Had they sorted out things and reduced the song lengths and thrown out some of the more annoying filler, this might have been interpreted as a half-decent mainstream pop effort; as such, it is a grotesque, ridiculous brain-annihilating monster to be loathed.

Second, like I said, this is more of a Phil Collins solo album, which means that you'd better forget your love for specific musical instruments; the arrangements are incredibly messy and unentertaining, cuz the only accent is placed on the beat (in the fast songs) and the mood (in the slow ones). I can't even complain about Banksynths on here - they're so in the background, together with the guitars, that you hardly ever notice them. Oh, beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen. Lovers of 'prog Genesis', please pay attention to the closing track: 'Fading Lights'. It's also long like everything else, but this time it's a special progressive length, with some large extended noodlings by Tony and company. If you're the kind of dude who likes Invisible Touch because it has 'Domino' on it, you'll certainly enjoy 'Fading Lights' as well. Funny, isn't it? Even if their last three or four records were anything but progressive, they always made sure to insert one lengthy suite there so that the older fans wouldn't be completely disappointed. Of course, real older fans didn't really give a damn, but quite a lot were probably deceived into buying these records and having to endure stuff like 'Who Dunnit?', 'That's All', 'In Too Deep' and 'I Can't Dance' for the sake of 'Dodo', 'Home By The Sea', 'Domino' and 'Fading Lights'. Hah!

Oh, did I explicitly mention yet that 'Fading Lights' stinks? One of the worst ever put-ons in Genesis' entire career. Pompous wording plus atmospheric Banksynths playing important-sounding, but meaningless notes does not a classic 'progressive tune' make.

Anyway, there are about three or four clever pop songs on this album that I'm able to listen to without falling asleep. Without any regret or remorse or anything I clearly state that I simply love 'I Can't Dance': in fact, this might be the greatest 'pure pop' song the band ever did. The grumbling guitar riff, crystal clear singing and Phil's humorous self-bashing really make this number, and as far as I remember, I even used to love the accompanying video. Note also how well Phil managed to express his life philosophy in one sentence: 'I can't dance, I can't sing, I'm just standing here selling everything'. Pretty much applies to everything he did in the past fifteen or twenty years, ain't it? Okay, okay, joking... then again, he did manage to sell nearly everything possible...

Fine. There's also the catchy 'Jesus He Knows Me', a song with more or less simple lyrics denouncing religious hypocrisy (didn't the video feature Phil as a preacher?) and a 'modern' fast melody that still gets me going. Okay, at least it isn't techno or something. 'No Son Of Mine' is also an interesting pop number. But that's about it. The rest is either horrendous ('highlights' include the ridiculous save-the-poor-rocker 'Tell Me Why', not to be confused with the Beatles song), or, more often, just booorring. Songs like 'Hold On My Heart' seem to be taken directly from some abandoned Collins solo outtakes: sweet adult pop that has nothing to do with good taste or, rather, is an offense to good taste. Indeed, the second part of the album is practically all forgettable (and that's more than half an hour of music), until you arrive at the final 'Fading Lights' to immerse yourself into ten minutes of bad progressive rock which you still view as an escape from the realms of bullshit pop entertainment for mass consumption.

My question is: what was the role of Banks and Rutherford in the making of this album? 'Fading Lights' excluded, I don't really see the possibility of any of them two taking responsibility for anything else on the record. Seems just like Phil walked up to them one day and said, 'look, I got this here dozen of songs and I want 'em to sport the Genesis logo. If you agree, you'll get a load of cash for that, otherwise, you'll end up in the gutter'. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but something inside me tells me that the essence is very similar. And while you're looking for an answer, don't forget to remind you not to buy this album - the best songs can easily be looked up on a compilation. Better still, look for Live: The Way We Walk, the review for which you're gonna be enjoying right away.



Year Of Release: 1992
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

What bugs me about all these washed-up superstar live albums is that they tend to replace greatest hits collections.

Best song: MAMA

Track listing: 1) Land Of Confusion; 2) No Son Of Mine; 3) Jesus He Knows Me; 4) Throwing It All Away; 5) I Can't Dance; 6) Mama; 7) Hold On My Heart; 8) That's All; 9) In Too Deep; 10) Tonight Tonight Tonight; 11) Invisible Touch.

Apparently the success of 'I Can't Dance' got so much to Phil's head that he decided to build the image of the succeeding live album on the concept. Hence the lengthy title and the cover image where the band plus supporting musicians are indeed doing some 'shorts'. Don't really know whether that contributed to the album sales or not, but the tour itself was quite successful - even my father who's not really a great Genesis fan got to see them in Germany and, well, he did appreciate them. Me, unfortunately, I got to appreciate them based entirely on this hour-long audio documentary, and you know what? It's worthy.

In fact, whatever reproaches I may hold towards the studio albums, there's little to scold about the live album. Oh, of course there's the usual complaint - it simply has no reason to exist. While Seconds Out was interesting at least in that it gave us the chance to see Phil playing the part of Peter (whether we liked it or not, that's completely a matter of personal taste), and Genesis Live is nowadays simply a priceless 'document' from the old days long gone by, this album is neither: the days are still young and they're not doing Gabriel material on here. So? So I simply treat it as the equivalent of a hit collection, because the song selection is strong. The material is based exclusively on the last three albums, but it manages to omit most of the dreck and include all of the worthy tunes. With one blatant exception, though. Horrendous exception, and I can only explain its inclusion by Phil's wanting the album to be appreciated by sweetie-slicky pop lovers. Yup, you guessed right, it's the atrocious 'Hold On My Heart' - that candy-romantic schlock that could perfectly fit Santa Barbara, but not your average good taste. It's dreadful, and I ditched the album a whole point for it. Why not 'Illegal Alien' or 'Abacab' instead? Never mind, please stop me from digressing.

The rest is good, anyways. From Genesis, you get 'Mama' that's even better than the original, with Phil obviously delighting in his evil 'HA-HAs'. Maybe I feel that it's the particular standout on the album because it's the only menacing and adrenaline-filled number - but why not? 'Menace' is rarely met in Genesis' catalog and it always makes things more exciting if it's real-soundin' menace. And 'That's All' never stopped ruling as well, although Phil lets the song a little down by singing offkey in particular places. Well, yeah, whatever, bro'r, it's a live setting and you wanna showcase your being a human and all, that's understood, but problem is, 'That's All' is so mechanic in its bounciness it really leaves absolutely no spot for vocal modulation. One step to the left, one step to the right, and you RUIN it. Fortunately, not totally, so I'm still impressed.

From Invisible Touch you get the main bulk: 'Land Of Confusion', the title track, 'Throwing It All Away' (hideous intro! hideous intro! Collins should be shot for even trying to toy with the audience), 'In Too Deep' and an unexplicably abbreviated 'Tonight Tonight Tonight'. In fact, the abbreviation saddens me a little: while the long version did have some abstract 'serious' musical value, here it is just transformed into a crowd-pleaser. What the heck, it still has a cute melody.

Finally, from the last studio album we mostly get the few good cuts (I'm not including 'Hold On My Heart', of course): 'No Son Of Mine', 'Jesus He Knows Me' (preceded by a little funny spoken intro from Phil) and, of course, 'I Can't Dance' which is severely extended. I'll just have to guess that the song formed the climax to their concerts, as Phil was trying to please the newly converted fans, and they all took this funny little walk-cross-the-stage in addition. Stupid question: why is it that the fans sit quiet in the beginning when they do that witty percussion thing and then the crowd breaks into a frenzied roar of approval with the first 'b-doink!' sound on the song, instead of the grumbly guitar riff? Are the 'b-doinks!' the most important thing on here?

Of course, nobody is expected to buy this album nowadays. Still, if you want to save some money, you're well advised to screw both Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance and invest here instead. Why not? The production is fine, the playing is immaculate (how could Phil let his live album be a messy recording?), and, like I said, the song selection is satisfying. If I were the Lord, I would make 'Hold On My Heart' vanish from the list, of course, and replace it with, say, 'Silver Rainbow' for an even more definitive status, but so far I'm just a nasty snub-nosed reviewer who takes pleasure in finding all kinds of minor faults even on good live albums. What good is a live album if you can't find a fault in it, anyway? Not even Live At Leeds is perfect! Oh, yeah, well, you caught me saying this... ssh, don't tell anybody, but I really dislike the first, slow part of 'Fortune Teller'.

So if even Leeds is not perfect, what's to be said of an openly crappy late-period album from a band with a bald drummer, a bearded bassist and an evil-looking keyboardist who can't even dance? Okay, well, it does have the definite live version of 'Mama', now doesn't it?



Year Of Release: 1993
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Still aspiring for progressive heights? No way, bros.

Best song: OLD MEDLEY

Track listing: 1) Old Medley; 2) Driving The Last Spike; 3) Domino; 4) Fading Lights; 5) Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea; 6) Drum Duet.

If there ever was a reason to release this and the previous album packaged separately (and apparently, with several months of delay after the first one), it'd be to make life easier for the two branches of Genesis fans. The pop Genesis lovers could grab the Shorts, and then along would come the serious prog dudes and grab the Longs. And everybody would be happy. (Which makes me seriously wonder about the average quality of audiences at Genesis concerts; is it 'prog fans on the left', 'pop fans on the right', and then Phil sings one song to the left side and the next song to the right side? While ducking the tomatoes and all?).

In any case, this Longs thing is rather pitiful. It's not all that bad, but it's pitiful. It's also offensive to older generation fans, because despite all the pretention, the real progressive stuff is all shoved together into one twenty-minute track called 'Old Medley', after which the band proceeds to do all their lengthy songs starting from 1983. Huh. Imagine Mick Jagger and the boys doing an 'old medley' of, say, 'Satisfaction/Brown Sugar/Sympathy For The Devil/It's Only Rock'n'Roll/Honky Tonk Women/Jumpin' Jack Flash' and then spending the rest of the evening playing all those really hot chestnuts off Undercover, Dirty Work, and Steel Wheels. Including a ten-minute groove on 'It Must Be Hell' and Eddie Vedder guest starring on 'Hold Back'.

Well, all I can say is that the average Genesis audience is pretty forgiving. At least the songs are well performed, or whatever they are. 'Driving The Last Spike' and 'Fading Lights' are done very close to the original versions, but with Phil adding some extra spontaneous energy to the proceedings (of course, the songs still suck, but hey, I can't imagine them doing these things on stage worse than in the studio). 'Domino' and 'Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea' are pretty good, though, and I enjoy them throughout. But really, there's nothing to be said about the songs - Genesis never really bothered with changing their Eighties material on stage. Why should they? The fans want exact recreations!

So let's concentrate on this ridiculous "Old Medley" idea. One could spend hours debating about whether cramming all the 'classics' together really took all the soul out of them or it left at least a little bit, but "soul" is a tricky thing that can't be discussed all too well outside the limits of a Matchbox 20 review. So instead, I'll just say this: the "Old Medley" is no better and no worse than your average Collins-led performance of Gabriel-era material. Actually, the medley starts with a brief excerpt from a post-Gabriel number, 'Dancing On A Volcano'. It's a good excerpt, but WAY too brief. From there it segues into 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', which is good but also brief. Phil does a good job on that one; I personally think that it's easier for him to capture the 'angry Gabriel' vibe than the 'mellow Gabriel' vibe. He also does justice to the closing segment of 'The Musical Box', but oh those poor Invisible Touch fans...

From then on, it kinda goes downhill. They launch into the instrumental part of 'Firth Of Fifth', where Darryl Stuermer gets to play Steve Hackett's part. And I do pity the guy - rock conventions kinda demand of him to play the solo in his own way, but playing that solo in a different way is a nigh impossible thing since it's one of the most meticulously created and calculated solos ever. So, Darryl does his best to 'entwine' his own fills and passages around the main passage, occasionally playing a phrase or two note for note, but then playing some different speedy quasi-hair-metal passage in another place. Eventually you get used to this inescapable bastardization, but at first the feeling is that of total confusion. That's what you get for pushing out talented band members, Mr Banks.

Still, overall, 'Firth Of Fifth' ain't nowhere near as confusing or annoying as 'I Know What I Like' - the worst bastardization occurs on here as usual. (Funny thing - everything I've been accusing the band of on Seconds Out actually works here as well). Save your ad libs and raspy note extensions for the shower, Mr Collins, give us the real thing! I also have no idea why during the last 'jam' portion of the song, Phil feels the necessity to splurt out excerpts from 'That's All', 'Illegal Alien', 'Your Own Special Way' and 'Follow You Follow Me'. Was this a promotion of the upcoming greatest hits compilation or what?

But don't get me wrong - I'm not bashing this album. I'm overall more positive towards it than negative, even if it's only by a thin stretch. Maybe the guys don't have fun playing the 'Medley', I dunno, maybe they're just throwing it in to please the few older fans who occasionally turn up at the shows by mistake thinking they're going to a Yes concert, or the ones suffering from amnesia. But it still sounds good. Heck, this all sounds okay except for 'Driving The Last Spike' and 'Fading Lights' which are a disgrace to the entire prog movement. And the album concludes with a cool 'Drum Duet', when Phil finally occupies his deserved drummer spot and battles with Chester Thompson for six minutes. It doesn't sound too comfortable as a conclusion, but having these two ultra-professional drummers bash the hell out of each other is real fun anyway.

And the album cover is cool, too! Mike Rutherford is gay!! Tony Banks is a concealed Lesbian!! As for the sexual orientations of the others, I don't even know what to suggest. Looks pretty kinky to me.



Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 0 [sorry]

Overall rating = 4

What the hell is THIS SHIT? Horrendous zero-tone music serving as cosmic rock lullabies?

Best song: CONGO, but it's actually horrible...

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.

When Phil Collins announced he was quitting the band for good (a rather strange move, since nobody ever prevented him from preserving the band and getting on with his own solo career as well), he probably thought Mike and Tony would disband the unhappy, violated group and just get on with their solo careers. He was dead wrong, and if he were able to preview the ensuing catastrophe, he'd probably have changed his mind. Because Tony and Mike thought they still weren't done with the band. Unfortunately. Instead, they recruited ex-Stiltskin member Ray Wilson, proclaimed him to be the next Peter Gabriel and decided to get artsy again. They didn't, however, take into account the fact that none of the two really remembered how to write good art rock music, since, quite naturally, they hadn't really done that for about twenty years now. The result is this album sucks. Not just sucks - it's abominable. It's the kind of music that I've been consciously (or, well, at least subconsciously) trying to get away all my life - pseudo-prog rock, full of monotonous mechanic beats, dull, dead-sounding synth backgrounds, and an ultra-pretentious feel from guys who really don't know what they're doing or where they're going but pretend to think that they do. It's murder, and after sitting through this record the appropriate three times (which actually took a week - listening to three songs off this album in a row puts you in a coma) I'm so sick that I doubt I'll ever put on a Gabriel-less Genesis record again...

On with the show, though. First of all, if Ray Wilson's voice is really close to Peter Gabriel's, as Banks rashly proclaimed, then count me as the next Maria Callas. Somebody with a sharp mind on the Net remarked that Wilson actually sounds like George Michael in a drug-induced coma, and I wholeheartedly agree. As much as I resent Collins' voice, it's simply incomparable in richness, variety and expressivity. Ray just whines all the way through the album as if he was totally and exclusively computer-processed. Add to this the tired, monotonous sound of drums going in four-four all over the record, some generic hard guitar riffs from Mike (Mike & The Mechanics days, no doubt, and the worst elements of Banksynths, and you get yourself an album about as memorable and diverse as an hour-long roaring of a subway train. And yes, you heard right - the album is more than an hour long. What a perfect torture for the Nazis. The album should have come out in Germany around 1939 or so!

What puzzles me so much, actually, is that they seemed to really care about the album! Most of the tracks are written with enough care so as not to lose their 'pop' audiences, at the same time attracting older 'prog' fans. That is, while the 'prog' fans should be attracted to the album due to Banksynths, its generic 'cosmic rock' feel and Wilson's pathetic and universalist singing, the 'pop' fans were probably deemed to be pleased with the 'catchy' refrains on songs like 'Congo' or 'If That's What You Need'. But both sides are eventually just a big, big, big put-on - and nothing else. Oooooh. 'Congo', with its samba beat, is actually the closest thing to a decent song on the album, but the arrangement is so horrendous that it's only possible to call this an embryonic good song.

All the other songs are totally predictable, so predictable they're not at all worth discussing individually. All are taken at the same tempo, all are played with the same limited bunch of instruments, and all are filled with Wilson's unstructured whinings. There's not even a halfway decent guitar or synthesizer solo anywhere in sight. I could have written a song as good as the title track in definitely no time, because this one isn't actually a song. How can you call a 'song' something that has no melody? Okay, so 'Congo', 'Shipwrecked' and probably 'Alien Afternoon' could have been elaborated into something better than this actual tripe, given some proper and diverse arrangements, but they weren't. Instead, everything is just reduced to the same boring generic 'cosmic rock' formula - didn't the word 'variety' ever occur to Tony and the ever-worsening Mike? And by the way, if they pretend this to be a return to form, where's the guitar? The acoustic intro to 'Not About Us' certainly doesn't satisfy me at all.

Oh, forget it, it's useless even to accuse this album of something particular, it deserves nothing less than a death sentence.

Hate, hate, hate this album. It's a vile parody on the real Genesis, and of course it has nothing to do with Peter Gabriel or anything. Peter Gabriel used to take you different places and put you in the midst of beautiful fairy tales; this 'anti-Genesis' sticks you out in the orbit and just whines about the world's ugliness like millions of less and more talented musicians before them. Boycott this album, it's an insult to the Genesis legacy. And shouldn't we disqualify Tony Banks forever?

For objectivity reasons, though, I should state that some fans actually like this album. With all due respect, I don't even see why it is necessary to go out of one's way and make such a vicious effort to overcome one's psychics - I mean, if Calling All Stations were at least an innovative record, unlistenable in its pioneering experimental status or something, but no, it's just an ordinary generic synth-pop bore. And I'm certainly not lulled over by the 'oh it's so atmospheric and moody and heavily depressive' stuff. An 'atmospheric' album released in, say, 1967, is one thing, but an 'atmospheric' album released thirty years later should actually EARN the right to be called 'atmospheric', what with the word having been so dreadfully misused and cliched. It takes talent and skill to build up atmosphere, not just a bunch of monotonous synths, generic metal riffs and a whiny so-called 'singer' on top.


ARCHIVE 1967-75

Year Of Release: 1998
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

You sure they couldn't have made this boxset just a lil' more valuable than it actually is?

Best song: pretty much all of Disc 3

Track listing: CD I & II: see the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tracklist;

CD III: 1) Dancing With The Moonlit Knight; 2) Firth Of Fifth; 3) More Fool Me; 4) Supper's Ready; 5) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); 6) Stagnation; 7) Twilight Alehouse; 8) Happy The Man; 9) Watcher Of The Skies;

CD IV: 1) In The Wilderness; 2) Shepherd; 3) Pacify; 4) Let Us Now Make Love; 5) Going Out To Get You; 6) Dusk; 7) Build Me A Mountain; 8) Image Blown Out; 9) One Day; 10) Where The Sour Turns To Sweet; 11) In The Beginning; 12) The Magic Of Time; 13) Hey!; 14) Hidden In The World Of Dawn; 15) Sea Bee; 16) The Mystery Of The Flannan Isle Lighthouse; 17) Hair On The Arms And Legs; 18) She Is Beautiful; 19) Try A Little Sadness; 20) Patricia.

Biggie biggie. Genesis solidify their claim to being the best prog-rock band of all time by releasing the best prog boxset of all time. Well, okay, this time around by "best" I solely mean "least redundant". You can probably get some sort of rarities and stuff with boxsets that ELP, Yes, and the like are putting out, but with this (as well as the second archive volume) you get stuff that you are unlikely to get anywhere else until you're really into the bootleg thing.

That means - up one for Genesis! The bad news is that they don't seem to really have a lot of stuff in the vaults. And what they do have is actually not tremendously impressive. Even so, they did a hell of a job with the boxset, and I'm actually throwing on a point merely because this is how boxsets are supposed to be done. Great design, too - the format is tremendously classy.

Now the liner notes state that the demos and outtakes on the fourth CD are more or less going "backwards" in time, from the later to the earlier ones, but in reality, the same can be said about all four CDs in general. Discs 1 and 2 are a complete live performance of The Lamb, recorded at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in January '75; disc 3 is a set of live recordings, mostly drawn from the Rainbow Theatre performances in 1973, plus a couple single tracks from same period; finally, disc 4 are the demos and outtakes from various early recording sessions and BBC gigs.

Since the live and studio material are so vividly opposed, let's discuss the studio recordings first. Frankly speaking, the fourth disc is not all that classy. God knows I like FGTR as much as the next guy (actually, much more than the next guy, come to think of it), and the demo versions of such minor gems as 'In The Wilderness', 'In The Beginning', 'One Day', and 'The Serpent' (here called 'She Is Beautiful' and featuring a completely different - and far more pre-pubescent! - set of lyrics) are just as good as the ones captured in more "professional" arrangements on the band's unfortunate debut; although I would definitely like to state that the production values of FGTR are nowhere near as melody-ruining as some claim they are.

However, the rest of the songs are... uhh... well, at best, not too memorable, should we say? Apparently, all these outtakes weren't rejected for nothing - unlike the better songs that did make it, stuff like 'The Mystery Of The Flannan Isle Lighthouse' or 'The Magic Of Time' just don't seem to feature any hooks at all. They really sound like work-in-progress versions - Banks absent-mindedly hammering at his keys, Rutherford (or Ant Philips, whoever) absent-mindedly plunking the guitar, and Peter singing something really emotional and pretentious but without seeming to understand his purpose very clearly. It actually gets worse with the murky BBC recordings from 1970 (who let the guys in the studio?) - they're stepping into the Trespass era, when the goal is to make the songs even longer and even more pretentious, but the goal is not yet to try and create any epochal melodies. Stuff like 'Shepherd' and 'Pacidy' just seems to go on forever without getting anywhere - ugh! A piano virtuoso could probably help here, but this stuff is where Mr Banks' limitations are to be seen in all their obviousness.

In the end, I kinda took a liking to the stately - and vaguely memorable - hippiesque charm of 'Let Us Now Make Love', as well as to the mildly apocalyptic sheen of 'Going Out To Get You', a bit similar to 'One-Eyed Hound' in mood. But in general, the songs are disappointing, although I can't really put that up against them: outtakes are outtakes, and the boxset is primarily aimed at fanatics anyway. But no, no eye-opening discoveries here.

Much better news are the two studio recordings on Disc 3 (the third one is the abridged single version of 'Watcher Of The Skies'). The flop single 'Happy The Man', which actually as much as inspired a whole new third-generation prog-band for the choice of their name, is somewhat of a 'Lucky Man' for the band - a light little acoustic ballad, somewhat confused, I'd say, but prettier and funnier than most of the short stuff on Nursery Cryme (bar 'Harold The Barrel', of course). But the major discovery is the B-side to 'I Know What I Like', called 'Twilight Alehouse'. In fact, I dare say that if the band cut 'Epping Forest' by about three minutes, cut 'The Cinema Show' by about four minutes, and inserted the song in there, Selling England would have been much more perfect than it actually is. (At the very least, they could have made it a permanent bonus track on the CD issue - hell, why not?). The weird "boppy", almost danceable, rhythmic structure of the verse is a total anomaly for early Genesis, but it works - and works even better when pinned against the general darkness and pessimism of the song. And towards the end, the song starts to rock, with Steve playing some ferocious passages, and then it has a blistering 'Knife'-style coda with mind-blowing "astral" sound passages. Perfect. Too bad you have to purchase the box nowadays if you wanna hear it.

But apart from 'Alehouse', it is of course the live stuff that keeps the box afloat. The Lamb performance has often been put down because of the infamous vocal overdubs that Peter did on much, if not most, of the tracks, fearing that the actual sound quality was below subpar (and subsequently Hackett re-recorded some of his guitar parts as well). I would certainly have preferred to hear the original, even in bad quality; but the essential thing here is still to hear the music the way it was done on stage. And pretty often, it was done better on stage - for instance, 'Back In N.Y.C.' sounds nowhere near as ugly as it does in the original version, and also Hackett gets more of a chance to shine (unless, of course, it's the re-recorded solos I'm talking about... sigh...). Plus, you get to hear Peter's short little "explaining" passages before some of the songs - maybe it'll help you to "get" the story. Oh, and since the tapes for the show ran out towards the end (I can't believe these stories every time I hear them - what, aren't they supposed to predict how long the show is going to take?), the band has specially re-recorded 'It' for this particular occasion. Still a great song, of course.

The best live stuff is still on Disc 3, which should from now on act as a perfect companion to Genesis Live - it repeats none of the songs captured on there, instead concentrating on the Selling England material and throwing in a Gabriel-led version of 'Supper's Ready' (score!). The Selling England performances have to be heard to be believed - awesome sound quality and awesome musicianship, although personally, I dislike the fact that onstage Tony substitutes his piano parts for synth parts; this probably leads to the fact that 'Firth Of Fifth' never has its magnificent piano intro played live, and when in the instrumental part, the keyboards arrive after the flute part, it's muddy mushy watery synth again, and it sounds cranky. Still, everything else rules. Phil gets to do his little solo spot on 'More Fool Me', and Gabriel tells the classic two-and-a-half-minute story about Henry and the worms (together with a belated 'sorry man, I'm really sorry, I wasn't paying attention to what you were doing' excuse from Phil when he misses his cue) before launching into 'Supper's Ready'. There's also an early live performance of 'Stagnation', and oh yeah, the live version of 'I Know What I Like' is ten times as good as any of the versions of the song in the Collins era.

And there you have it - lotsa goodies for the seasoned fan (not really important for the novice, though), a book full of different people's takes on the essence of Genesis and cool photos, and overall, I don't think they could have done better. Prob'ly not.


ARCHIVE 1976-1992

Year Of Release: 2000
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Much maligned, mayhaps, but odd enough, there may be more pure creativity captured here than on the previous volume.

Best song: uh... no.

Track listing: CD I: 1) On The Shoreline; 2) Hearts On Fire; 3) You Might Recall; 4) Paperlate; 5) Evidence Of Autumn; 6) Do The Neurotic; 7) I'd Rather Be You; 8) Naminanu; 9) Inside And Out; 10) Feeding The Fire; 11) I Can't Dance 12"; 12) Submarine;

CD II: 1) Illegal Alien; 2) Dreaming While You Sleep; 3) It's Gonna Get Better; 4) Deep In The Motherlode; 5) Ripples; 6) The Brazilian; 7) Your Own Special Way; 8) Burning Rope; 9) Entangled; 10) Duke's Travels;

CD III: 1) Invisible Touch 12"; 2) Land Of Confusion 12"; 3) Tonight Tonight Tonight 12"; 4) No Reply At All; 5) Man On The Corner; 6) The Lady Lies; 7) Open Door; 8) The Day The Light Went Out; 9) Vancouver; 10) Pigeons; 11) It's Yourself; 12) Mama.

No kidding - I think this second (and hopefully last; surely they're not going to do an Archive 1997-1998 volume with three CDs worth of live performances and... ehh... studio outtakes from the Ray Wilson era?) installation in the Archive series is just as good, if not marginally better, as the first one. Naturally, most reviewers and fans of the good old days praised the first archive and panned, or at least, seriously rebuked the second one, seeing as how the first volume embraces the "glory days" and the second represents the "sellout era". I didn't expect much of it either, but...

...repeated listens did the trick. Oh sure. Now see, I have a lil' theory here. In the Gabriel days, the band was adventurous and experimental, and never feared to put all their adventurousness and experimentation on record - in fact, they pretty much put everything they did on record so that there was pretty little to scoop out for the Archive; slim pickings indeed. In the Collins era, the primary word was S-E-L-L; the band thought they had already gone as far as they could with brave inaccessible experimentation, and they had to earn a living somehow. Thus, the more adventurous and experimental material that they might have had could have occasionally been shelved as 'uncommercial'. And some of it could surface here!

It ain't a general rule, of course, but it's a fact that there are some mighty fine lost gems on these three CDs. Where the second volume undeniably loses to the first one is in the live material; simply put, "Classic Genesis" is Gabriel-era Genesis, and "Next To Classic Genesis" are those live songs from the Collins era that had already been released in one version or other on live albums such as Seconds Out, Three Sides Live, and the Way We Walk series. In this way, while the decision to only include live renditions of songs previously unavailable in live versions seems pretty reasonable, this means that you're definitely gonna get some filler on the second CD (entirely dedicated to live performances) and the third one (with three more live tracks).

And indeed - I don't think my life would have been much poorer had I never had the chance to hear live renditions of 'Deep In The Motherlode' (a little bit more energetic than its studio counterpart), 'The Lady Lies', 'Burning Rope' (just as unmemorable as before), 'Duke's Travels' (why do they think this bunch of monotonous synth jamming is supposed to be inspirational?), 'No Reply At All', 'Man On The Corner' (decent treatment of the Abacab material, but not exactly adding anything to the original versions), 'It's Gonna Get Better' (did they ever perform 'Silver Rainbow' live? Now that would be an asset!), and 'Dreaming While You Sleep' (well, at least it ain't 'Hold On My Heart').

On the positive side: 'Illegal Alien' is amazingly lively, with Banks' organ riff crashing through your speakers like a revelation and Phil's crowd-pleasing antics neatly trimmed down; 'Ripples' is breathtaking and almost unbearably "humane", with Phil, for once, sounding like he really cares for the material (how could he not? it's a song about aging, and he was just developing his bald spot!), and tour-guest-guitarist Daryl Stuermer magnificently replicating Hackett's guitar parts during the lengthy instrumental part; 'The Brazilian' has always been stupid fun and still is; 'Your Own Special Way' is pretty; and 'Entangled', while almost identic to the Trick Of The Tail version, is the only live performance on here to actually feature Hackett himself. Too bad, though; I have no idea why they haven't included more Hackett-era live material. Maybe because all the other songs they performed with him had already been released on Seconds Out.

But still, the real meat here is to be found on the first and third CDs. Once you discard the ridiculous choice of including several 12-inch dance mixes of the band's biggest pop hits (yeah, you'll be sitting through eleven more minutes of 'Tonight Tonight Tonight', although I do like the crazy dance remix of 'I Can't Dance', I really do!), most of the "outtakes" are good. Not that they're all 'progressive' or 'experimental'. The very second song, 'Hearts On Fire', is pure dance muzak - kind of a guilty pleasure for me, though. A little reminiscent of Madonna's first album, if you axe me (even if it dates back to We Can't Dance sessions), and quite catchy, too; personally, I can't resist the bassline. Even better is the Invisible Touch outtake 'I'd Rather Be You' - bouncy, boppy, in an almost 'wake me up before you go go' kind of way. Why was it rejected? To be able to double the length of 'Tonight Tonight Tonight'? Sheez...

But then there's other stuff, too. Let's quickly browse through it in chronological order:

a) from the 1976-77 Hackett years you get the cute little music-hallish ditty 'Pigeons', the pretty atmospheric 'It's Yourself' (part of which was later remade into 'Los Endos'), and the magnificent ballad 'Inside And Out' - you just have to wait until the pure atmosphere of the 12-string-laden verses gets transformed into that heavenly chorus, that could have only come out of the Trick Of The Tail era (and don't forget Tony's excellent Emerson-esque synth solo that actually manages to recapture some of the classical majesty of 'Firth Of Fifth'). For the band to be shelving those beauties and releasing pretentious boring crap like 'One For The Vine' instead was nothing short of a crime;

b) from the And Then There Were Three sessions you get one unremarkable ballad, 'Vancouver', and one tremendous rocker, Banks' 'The Day The Light Went Out', with a shattering hook in the chorus that puts to shame the absolute majority of the songs on that album. Outtake my ass;

c) from the Duke sessions, you get an unremarkable Rutherford composition ('Open Door') and a top-notch moody composition called 'Evidence Of Autumn' that certainly matches its title - the guitar, piano, and synth combine in a very vivid "autumnal" kind of way, and then when the band speeds up the tempo and Tony plays that endearing little motive on his keyboard, they're almost in Kinks territory for a second! It's actually better than 'Your Own Special Way', and that certainly says something (both 'Open Door' and 'Evidence' were originally released on the British issue of Three Sides Live);

d) from the Abacab sessions, there's the upbeat, if not particularly hook-filled, pop-rocker 'You Might Recall', as well as 'Paperlate', which might probably borrow its title from a lyrical line from the Gabriel era but actually sounds like prime solo Phil Collins, replete with slick pop-jazz horns and all; again, both songs originally were included on Three Sides Live. Not essential, but kinda fun. Much better are the instrumentals 'Naminanu' (energetic, inventive, with tons o' melodic ideas and all - hey, the band was at the height of their "synth-post-prog" period back then) and the slow, brooding, creepy crescendo of 'Submarine';

e) from the Genesis sessions the only thing we get is a lengthy work-in-progress rendition of 'Mama', with Phil and the boys still working on the essentials of the song (and alas, Phil hadn't yet fully worked out his trademark laugh); not essential, but not bad either;

f) from the Invisible Touch sessions, in addition to 'I'd Rather Be You', you get the excellent instrumental 'Do The Neurotic', which - I'm not joking - should officially get the title of "most energetic Genesis track ever put to tape", narrowly beating out the instrumental passages on 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight'. It's fast, reckless, and again full of great synth and guitar riffs - gee, I never thought Genesis could still be rocking out like this in friggin' 1986. What the HELL made them put all that crap on their records when they had powerful driving tracks like these? That main theme drives me crazy! Oh, and 'Feeding The Fire' is also an excellent track, a convincing, sincere-sounding rocker with a great vocal performance from Phil. Sigh;

g) heck, even the second We Can't Dance outtake, 'On The Shoreline' (which actually opens the compilation), is easily the equal of the best stuff on that album. It rocks, for one thing. There are gritty distorted guitars in the intro, there's a classy swing to the rhythm, and the chorus is as memorable as anything.

So, if you see, I can't qualify a single outtake on here as "bad" - at worst, mediocre and unmemorable, but even these form a minority. The ultimate recomendation here would be - take some time, don't make a hasty judgement. Even if there's only three CDs this time, there's still way too much material to make any hasty conclusions. All of the songs bar none eventually grew on me, so much that I can definitely say: this second volume is not a simple "democratic" gesture on the part of Genesis, so that the Collins-era band would not feel hurt about not having an "archive" all to itself, as many a critic has indirectly hinted. It is definitely more than that - even if Phil, Tony, and Mike did not plan it that way. And yes, it's a must-have for the Genesis fan who hadn't jumped the ship together with Peter. Believe you me, who has so often treated Tony Banks like the Satan of prog-rock: it is a must-have.



All Genesis members, including even such early figures as Anthony Philips, have had lengthy and often prolific solo careers of their own; however, I'm not at all interested in reviewing all of these (review Tony Banks solo albums? I'm not a schizophrenic yet!) Recently I have managed to build up a decent Steve Hackett collection, as his output really ignited my curiosity; while some of his records do seem to be minor pieces of shit, most of them prove to be minor classics, and unlike so many guitar colleagues of his, Steve never lost the experimental and innovative edge through the years; this, taken together with the diversity and enjoyability of his catalog, prompted me to move him to a separate page. And, of course, I have reviewed the entire solo career of Peter Gabriel, the most important member of the band, on a separate page of his own. Thus, the only thing left in this here section turn out to be... yup, you guessed it - Phil Collins solo reviews! Get the gas masks out!


(released by: PHIL COLLINS)

Year Of Release: 1981
Overall rating = 8

An under-produced, bleak collection of adult pop... blah blah blah, you know everything already. But a couple of gems are on here, too!


Track listing: 1) In The Air Tonight; 2) This Must Be Love; 3) Behind The Lines; 4) The Roof Is Leaking; 5) Droned; 6) Hand In Hand; 7) I Missed Again; 8) You Know What I Mean; 9) Thunder And Lightning; 10) I'm Not Leaving; 11) If Leaving Me Is Easy; 12) Tomorrow Never Knows.

I just picked this one up the other day - don't despise me, I actually supposed there might have been a time at which Phil Collins made albums that were something else than just tuneless, slick, predictable 'adult contemporary'. After all, the early Eighties were not that bad a period for Genesis - they were fooling around with all these tricky drum machines and exploiting the new genre of synth-pop to a tee, both the good and bad sides of it. So I thought, hey, maybe Phil was doing something similar on his solo albums at the time.

Whoops. My mistake. Face Values is his first solo effort, and for many people around, his best one. Whatever. Maybe. Dunno. Who cares, anyway. Ninety percent of these songs are just your average synth-based ditties that update the generic Motownish soul and equally generic bubblegum pop for the electronic age. Need translation? This album blows. Far more than Duke. In fact, listening to this makes me think I'm seriously underrating Tony Banks a synthesizer player, even when he completely mainstreamed his sound.

Actually, I'd have gladly given the record a six or something like that, if not for the tracks that bookmark the album. I suppose that everybody knows 'In The Air Tonight'; it's something like a trademark of Phil by now, and quite deservedly so, as there's hardly a better song on any of his solo releases than this hot, tense, passionate statement of love and hate. Apparently, the song was aimed at Phil's ex-wife (a lot of the album is dedicated to this thematics, as he was having his divorce at the time - unfortunately, personal troubles didn't quite make up for another Rumours this time), and the lyrics, replete with metaphors and veiled scorns like 'if you told me you were drowning/I would not lend a hand', are so biting that they served as a basis for a great story, the famous myth about how Phil dedicated the song to a guy who wouldn't save his drowning friend and when he sang it in concert, he sang it 'specially for the guy' who later went home and killed himself. Great myth, although Phil taking over the characteristics of St Peter isn't exactly a pleasant perspective. But whatever the circumstances, 'In The Air Tonight' still is, and will always be, one of the cornerstones and best examples of Eighties synth-pop - the atmosphere, the vocal melody, the hellish drum machines and the heat make it an unforgettable experience.

Likewise, I'm a great fan of Phil's version of the Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows' that ends the album. And what a wise choice - 'Tomorrow Never Knows', in its original version, indeed sounds as if it was destined for the electronic age. Certainly, by 1981 the song was no longer innovative or groundbreaking, and the arrangement is inarguably feebler and less 'overloaded' than the Beatles' one, but it's still a masterful effort, with Phil carefully preserving the powerhouse drumming and adding a thick layer of synthesizer backgrounds that manage to preserve the psychedelic atmosphere of the song while not being really annoying. (But what's that with the short snippet off 'Over The Rainbow' that Phil quietly ad libs at the end?)

But from now on, my angel goes to sleep and my Belzebul wakes up and clears his throat. The rest of the album - all ten tracks of it - range from barely passable to utmost crap. Drat, Phil even manages to ruin 'Behind The Lines', which was quite an acceptable half-prog-half-pop number on Genesis' Duke. Here, he trims away all the extra layers of the sound and just sticks with the carcass of the song, jazzifying it and speeding it up a little so you could dance yourself to exhaustion. No thanks. And the other hit, the Latin-influenced 'I Missed Again', makes me sick sick sick sick sick. Funny how time has finally begun to stand still - I can perfectly envisage a tune like this go up the charts today, what with Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez and all these other suckers ruling in the musical world. Blah. And, of course, there are the 'softer' ballads. Whatever. Run for cover, mister. There's no middle ground here: when Phil begins singing a soft ballad, approximately half of mankind extracts tears from their eyes, while the other half of mankind extracts vomit from their throats. Guess which half I really belong to. 'You Know What I Mean' and 'If Leaving Me Is Easy' suck donkey's ass, and it's not often that you can catch me resorting to that kind of language. Funny, and it's the same kind of guy who did 'More Fool Me' for Selling England By The Pound.

The passable tunes on here include the somewhat more attractive pop-rocker 'Thunder And Lightning' with its annoying, but catchy refrain; the pretty 'The Roof Is Leaking', which is mostly pretty because it's based on the same melody as 'In The Air Tonight', replacing the atmospheric synths with real pianos and even some steel guitar; and a couple of unremarkable, but not too crappy instrumentals. Oh, and 'This Must Be Love', while not a highlight, does borrow a line or two from 'More Fool Me' - notice that he sings the line 'you know I'm never letting go' exactly in the same way he sang 'because you never said goodbye' in the latter.

So, in case you're desperately searching for a record to pass over to your numerous children, I wouldn't recommend this one. No, seriously I would not. 'In The Air Tonight' totally rules, but that's that, don't ask me the impossible. Actually, the most entertaining thing about the album in this case is its back cover where Phil presents you with a close-up of his hairy hindhead - yes, back in 1981 he still had quite a lot of hair. Unfortunately, the album also starts the infamous sequence of pictures aimed for the contest 'Name The Ugliest Mug' (all of Phil's five or more solo albums feature nothing but Phil's face or half-face or profile). On the other hand, if you suddenyl find out that your life is hardly imaginable without at least one generic adult pop album, please buy this one. It's like, you know, a father of the genre. Or a Godfather, at least. In that respect, it might even be considered a classic - pity that the genre itself is so miserable in its essence.



(released by: PHIL COLLINS)

Year Of Release: 1982
Overall rating = 8

For short summary, see above.


Track listing: 1) I Don't Care Anymore; 2) I Cannot Believe It's True; 3) Like China; 4) Do You Know Do You Care?; 5) You Can't Hurry Love; 6) It Don't Matter To Me; 7) Thru These Walls; 8) Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away; 9) The West Side; 10) Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning.

Talk about uniformity. Phil's second album follows exactly the same pattern as his first one, and it's probably more of a complete clone in relation to Face Value as any selected AC/DC record is in relation to any other selected AC/DC record. I should have probably lowered the rating for a complete lack of originality, but this time around, the Phil formula doesn't seem to be exhausted yet: the better stuff is just as interesting as the better stuff on the previous album, and the dreck, well, the dreck isn't any more drecky than before. So let's say this is just a very weak eight as opposed to Face Value's strong eight (i.e. weak mediocrity as opposed to mediocrity epitomised!)

This record's 'In The Air Tonight' is called 'I Don't Care Anymore', and it's also a very distinguished and respectable representative of Eighties' pop; the best element here is probably Phil's maniacal, insane drumming - yeah, I suppose it's drum machines as usual, but he programmed them really well for this one, and the pulsating beats switching from one speaker to speaker are the perfect counterpoint for his angry vocals as he continues to vent his frustration against some or other chick - untrue wife stories again? Funny how the songs seem to be almost equally divided in between angry rants and sappy confessions; you understand, of course, which group is more tolerable...

Songs like 'Do You Know Do You Care', for instance, can only be excused by a genuine feel of being totally pissed-off: if you're in a forgivable mood, the song can easily qualify as a poorboy version of the Genesis classic 'Mama' (which, while we're at it, was written a year later and obviously along the same pattern). Of course, historically it's more like a poorboy version of the Peter Gabriel classic 'Intruder' (which, while we're at it, was written two years earlier and obviously along the same pattern - the drumming, for instance, is very similar). In any case, a pissed-off and angry Phil Collins is at least able to arrange banal lyrics and trivial melodies in credible, solemn clothes of bombastic synth arrangements.

The only other song on here that I could call a relative 'highlight' is 'The West Side', a moody and pleasant instrumental that is quite in the Peter Gabriel mood (as far as I know, Peter is actually credited for 'vocals' on the album, although I don't know what exactly and where he is singing). The song is graced with a majestic sax solo that sounds acceptable to me, and, quite unexpectedly, Phil even introduces some 'tribal' elements with his primal chanting. Not that the song is really featuring any 'world beats' - that was fully Peter's prerogative, and Phil wasn't about to borrow his formula; but at least it goes to show that at this point in his career, Phil was still ready to get it on with a little experimentation; add to this the inventive use of drum machines on much of the tracks, and you'll see that, while both this album and Face Value have turned out to be totally dismissable in retrospect, in the early Eighties they were actually setting a pattern, not just blindly following it.

Of course, the pattern set by songs like 'I Cannot Believe It's True' or 'It Don't Matter To Me' is another matter. Maybe, of course, it's just a matter of taste, but I simply can't STAND these stupid, gross synthesized horns. I mean, Genesis' output in the Eighties could suck for all its worth, but the band practically never stooped to such a ridiculous use of synthesizers. The songs are, as you might have guessed, generic Latin-disco (is that a normal compound form?) dance schlock. Likewise, I totally despise, and hope that you do too, the sap of 'Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away' and 'Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning'. Whereas songs like 'I Don't Care Anymore' can be taken as aimed at the more 'thinking' parts of the audience, with their 'experimental' beats and moods, songs like 'It Don't Matter To Me' are apparently aimed at the brainless guys in night clubs, and songs like 'Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away' are aimed at the brainless chicks on stadiums. In other words, come and get it - Hello I Must Be Going is a pretty democratic album, offering at least a little bit for every possible social group imaginable. No wonder it was so commercially successful. Or maybe it wasn't? No wonder, either: it would leave any category of public at least partially unsatisfied. What use can a brainless chick have of 'The West Side'?

Oh, yeah, besides 'I Don't Care Anymore', the hit here was 'You Can't Hurry Love'. That song sounds like something that Herman's Hermits could have written and left in the drawer for Phil to find it and update for the Eighties (when in reality it's just a hopelessly butchered Supremes tune, as Rich Bunnell points out below). Does it make you cringe? And I have listened to the song three times. Man, I suppose I have to go take a course of medical treatment right now...

The funniest thing about the album is its cover - I love to take the booklet out and spread it on the table so that Phil appears to have two faces. I suppose you cut this out and use it as a shooting target. Oh yeah, and don't forget to tape the three decent songs on here before burning the rest. But I still insist that his use of drum machines on here is friggin' awesome: Phil is the one musician that really gives them a good name. At least, used to give them a good name.



(released by: PHIL COLLINS)

Year Of Release: 1985
Overall rating = 7

They should have entitled that 'No Ears Required (Not To Mention Brains)'. The record that did it for the Eighties, and did in the Eighties.

Best song: TAKE ME HOME

Track listing: 1) Sussudio; 2) Only You Know And I Know; 3) Long Long Way To Go; 4) I Don't Wanna Know; 5) One More Night; 6) Don't Lose My Number; 7) Who Said I Would; 8) Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore; 9) Inside Out; 10) Take Me Home; 11) We Said Hello Goodbye.

Phil's Big Whopper - how could I have bypassed that one? How could I? How could I resist the pleasure of bashing this prototypical example of why the Eighties as a musical decade sucked everything suckable? No, I simply couldn't.

Wanna know a funny thing, though? This album isn't bad. At least - it ain't proverbially bad, I mean bad to the point of throwing a fit and choking on your own vomit. In fact, maybe if only it weren't so damn LONG (and Phil's albums really grew longer as they grew worse), I would even have given it an eight; but the number and length of these songs that all sound so damn alike just gets on my nerves like, totally, around track number seven or eight. So a seven it is. The thing is, by 1985 Phil was unarguably the Grand Master of Soft Adult Contemporary Cheesy Synth Pop, and like it goes with all the Grand Masters, one can't but pay at least a little bit of respect. Here, the bit of respect is expressed in my being amazed at how the man really takes the most miserable musical genre in the world (rap excluded, of course) and proceeds to do at least something vaguely interesting with it - interesting to the point that very few songs on here sound gross or truly embarrassing. I mean, I can easily accuse Phil of many things based on the analysis of the album: monotonousness, lack of original musical ideas, unsophisticated lyrics, complete reliance on drum machines instead of his own magnificent drumming, but there's one thing I can't accuse him of - and that's stupidity. And believe me, this is important: it is absolutely obvious that No Jacket Required is an album written by an intelligent, musically competent person, a thing that was not very often met in the Eighties among generic synth-pop bands. Which, of course, makes the blow all the more painful - who knows which better things this talent and intelligence might have been spent on?

Of course, this impression is mostly got out of the record as a whole: as soon as I start getting into any particular song, I feel like ripping it to shreds is the only solution possible. Let's see, there are eleven songs on here, and how many can get through the filters of quality? First of all, let us dispatch the sappy saccharine filler of the 'Hold On My Heart' kind. That would be the cringe-inducing 'One More Night', and it would also be the somewhat less cringe-inducing 'Long Long Way To Go' which is at least more 'melancholic' than 'sappy'. Not good, either.

Second, it's hardly possible to stand all that synth-jazz-pop crap with silly synthesized horns and unsyncopated beats. Every time I hear 'Sussudio', I want to... man, I don't know what I want to, I just imagine Phil bouncing round the stage to that beat and chanting it, and that makes me reach for an imagined handgun. Whoever calls the song a 'Prince stylization' does the Artist Formerly Known As ******* a somewhat unsuitable favour. It's just your ordinary melodyless dance crap for chicks (pleeeease don't tell me I'm a moron for not noticing the subtle twists of the melodic waves!) The same fate concerns 'Who Said I Would', which seems to have a real saxophone solo, but it doesn't help either. And, of course, the dreadful, simply dreadful 'Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore' - is that title even grammatical? In any case, crowd-raising anthemic chants is Phil's second worst genre after atmospheric sappy ballads; let the warning be made.

That leaves us with six songs which - finally - range the gamut from barely tolerable to okay. Jacket is often deemed to be Phil's 'optimistic' response to the pessimistic drive of the previous two albums: a wrong move, as the pessimistic material on those albums was actually the best stuff Phil ever wrote as a solo artist. Now what's to be found here? All the material is pretty upbeat, and Phil spends more time writing, ahem, 'rockers', some of them in collaboration with guitarist Daryl Stuermer. The best of these is probably 'Only You Know And I Know' that swirls along at a fast, steady pace and is at least able to get some blood flowing once you've convinced yourself that corny synths can really replace the guitar as the musical background in a fast rocker. 'I Don't Wanna Know' is less driving, but more catchy; make your bet today, win a rabbit tomorrow. But then there's 'Don't Lose My Number' which is creeping in the company of these somewhat superior rockers as an ugly duckling. Does it 'rock'? You bet. Me, I bet Phil stole this from Rod Stewart's Camouflage outtakes (although I'm also pretty sure Rod would have arranged the song in an even more horrible way way back in 1984).

So, apart from that couple of tolerable rockers, a delicate bit of consolation comes in the face of 'Inside Out', a mighty chant a little in the Genesis style (you know, the 'Silver Rainbow' kind), only set to a mandatory dance beat; the closing 'We Said Hello Goodbye' which is not related to the Beatles' tune - it's a simple piano ditty that does seem to be influenced by Lennon, though (think 'Imagine', eh?); and 'Take Me Home'. Oh sheez, don't bug me about that one. I first heard it in a live version and hated the living heck out of it. Turns out that as a studio song, it's done much, much better, as a real pounding, gospelish, sincere-sounding confessional. Hell, I don't even have to suppose it's fake or anything - why should it be? I repeat that not only is Phil not stupid, he is not a studio automaton, either, at least if we're not speaking about butchering other people's careers (I'll never pardon the man for what he did to Clapton at around that same time). And that's good.

Hey, actually, what are we talking about? Feel free to raise that rating two or even three points if you don't have such a tenacious allergy on generic synth-pop. Phil is a good lad, a friendly chap and a great drummer. And I agree to not notice the bald spot on the front cover.


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