Although it is titled like an eponymous debut, Genesis was actually the twelfth studio album by Genesis. The group decided to name it such because it is the first album on which all (three) members of the group helped compose each track. The album was a huge commercial success, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic (#1 in England), remaining on the charts for a full calendar year, and eventually selling several million copies worldwide. While the 1980s version of the group deviated from the artistic realm, they still managed to be original within the pop realm and stretched the boundaries of “radio friendly-ness” with Genesis.
The album was recorded and released in 1983 and came smack in the middle of a very odd situation for the band. Lead singer and drummer Phil Collins had released two phenomenally successful solo albums with Face Value and Hello, I Must Be Going along with a string of radio hits through 1981 and 1982. Collins had also played drums on two solo albums for former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant and one album for former Genesis front man Peter Gabriel. Still Genesis, once a quintet which had lost two departing members in the late 1970s, remained a priority for the remaining three Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford.
The album was the second to be co-produced by Hugh Padgham as well as the second to be recorded at Fisher Lane Farm, a converted cowshed and cottage owned by the band. Collins’s early solo albums had a rather dark presence which carried over into the themes on Genesis. He also made heavy use of drums and well-effected percussion, giving the overall sound an edge while making it more accessible than most traditional, art/rock Genesis albums. In fact, one reviewer called this “a Genesis album for people who normally hate Genesis” and “great music for the masses”.
Genesis by Genesis
|Released: October 3, 1983 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Genesis & Hugh Padgham
Recorded: Fisher Lane Farm, Surrey, England, May–August 1983
|Side One||Side Two|
Home by the Sea
Second Home by the Sea
Taking It All Too Hard
Just a Job to Do
It’s Gonna Get Better
|Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Vocals
Right from the start with the opener “Mama”, it is clear that the band borrows from some of the minimalist arrangements and sonic effects of Collins recent solo work. This very mechanical and slowly moving song migrates from being quiet and haunting to becoming ever more intense, slowly building with instrumentation until a full rock arrangement finally kicks in about five minutes into the song. The first single from the album, “Mama” reached the Top 10 in several European countries. Like awakening from a bitter nightmare, the light and entertaining “That’s All” could not contrast more from the vibe of “Mama”. Light, warm, and piano-driven, the song is a happy-go-lucky way to express the lyrical misery and contains a great middle organ solo by Banks, which is only topped by the excellent outro guitar lead by Rutherford. “That’s All”, was the band’s first U.S. Top 10 hit, peaking at #6.
“Home by the Sea” is a melodic adventure song which may have fit well with some of the more theatrical cuts from years past. Rutherford does excellent on bass, mainly stepping away from the guitar to let Banks’s keyboards drive most of the music. Lyrically, the storytelling song is about a burglar who breaks into a house only to find it is a prison, haunted by the ghosts who capture the intruder and force him to listen to their stories for the rest of his life. The most progressive part of the album, the song combines with the mainly instrumental “Second Home By the Sea” as a two=part suite. However, this second part is basically subtraction by addition as it is laced by ever-present electronic drums and unfocused keyboards which drown out the main funk guitar.
The second side begins with “Illegal Alien”, containing a nice blend of electronic percussion and effects with bouncy keyboard motifs. This is all topped by Collins catchy melody and several other sonic goodies with a great middle section filled with Caribbean/reggae motifs. The lyrics take a rather comical look at the frustrations of an illegal immigrant with Collins even trying a bit of an Mexican accent.
One of the finest tracks on the album, “Taking It All Too Hard”, is a ballad with a real edge. A combination of strong rhythm with topical electric piano and emotional vocals, along with just a splash of complimentary backing vocals, the song really shines, especially during the chorus parts (one of which was the song opening). “Just a Job to Do” is a pure eighties pop song, sounding like it came right out of Miami Vice. Musically, it is a frantic funk with bass patterns topped by a cheesy synth with the great vocal hook once again carrying the song to respectability. Lyrically, it tells the story of a private investigator chasing down his subject.
Unfortunately, Genesis does not finish up on a very strong note. “Silver Rainbow” contains a big beat which feels very out of place among the other fine tracks on the album. When the song finally gains full focus, it sounds pleasant enough, but not enough to really carry it to respectability. The closer “It’s Gonna Get Better” tries too hard to make the most of synths and electronic effects and ultimately the album finishes much weaker than it potentially could have.
Following the release and success of Genesis Collins resumed his solo career, which would continue to produce hit songs and albums through the remainder of the decade. Rutherford followed suite with the formation of his solo studio group Mike + the Mechanics, which itself released several Top 40 hits in the mid 1980s, including the #1 single “The Living Years”. Like clockwork, Genesis returned three years later with the album Invisible Touch, another very successful album commercially.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.