Genesis completed their full metamorphosis into a pure pop/rock outfit with 1986’s Invisible Touch, the top selling album of the group’s long career. The group’s thirteenth overall studio album, it is also notable for spawning five singles which reached in the Top 5 on the pop charts in the United States, making Genesis the only non-American act to accomplish that feat on a single album.
Prior to Invisible Touch, the trio had much success with the 1983 album, Genesis which topped the charts in the UK and went on to sell over four million copies. Following a tour to support that album, the group took a break while each member worked on solo projects. Keyboardist Tony Banks worked on the film Lorca and the Outlaws in 1984, while lead vocalist / drummer Phil Collins released his third successful solo album, No Jacket Required in 1985. Guitarist and bassist Mike Rutherford formed Mike + The Mechanics, who released their commercially successful debut album in 1985.
In late 1985, the group began work on Invisible Touch with producer Hugh Padgham, who had worked on the group’s two previous albums. The album’s tracks were all written entirely through group improvisations with no material pre-developed prior to the studio sessions.
Invisible Touch by Genesis
|Released: June 9, 1986 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Hugh Padgham & Genesis
Recorded: The Farm, Surrey, England, October 1985–March 1986
|Side One||Side Two|
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
Land of Confusion
In Too Deep
|Anything She Does
Throwing It All Away
|Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Bass
The album explodes into full eighties synth glory with the opening title track. “Invisible Touch” features electronic drums and synths which complement the fretless bass and vocals. The popular song went on to be Genesis’s only #1 single in the United States. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” is another electronic song but with a slightly cool mechanical vibe due to Banks’s synth work. This track should have and could have been a much more effective opener and, even though the lyrics are nearly nonsensical, the musical effects carry this song through its eight and a half minute duration.
“Land of Confusion” is the most rock oriented song on the first side built with Rutherford’s guitar riff and a synth bass arpeggio by Banks. The fine bridge section also brings this song closest to the classic Genesis of years earlier. The fourth hit from side one, “In Too Deep” is a pure adult contemporary love ballad, featuring Banks on electric piano and Collins hitting some impressive high notes vocally. There is only the slightest guitar presence by Rutherford, who reserves his playing to a very laid back and standard bass throughout the track.
The second size starts with the frenzied and upbeat “Anything She Does”, with lyrics about the porn business. The sound complete with synth horns and ska-like rhythms, making this an overall fun song which sounds less dated than most of the rest of the material on Invisible Touch. The ten minute, two part suite “Domino” is a bit uneasy and uneven. The first part, “In the Glow of the Night”, is really just another synth-driven, cheesy tune with slightly dramatic, almost paranoid lyrics. The second part, “The Last Domino”, is a little more interesting with a driving rhythm and subtle, distant organ setting the soundscape.
A refreshing return to pop excellence and the highlight of the album, The Top 5 hit “Throwing It All Away” features Rutherford’s soul-influenced guitar and Collins’s sweet but desperate vocal melody. Banks adds just the right amount of synths to make this a classic ballad for the decade and, ironically, the title works to do the exact opposite as far as this album is concerned – it salvages it. The album concludes with the instrumental, “The Brazilian”, an electro, synth piece which is a big let down after the fine ballad preceding it. The best part of the piece is Rutherford’s slight guitar lead near the end, but unfortunately the song is already fading out by the time this solo really starts to heat up.
Invisible Touch became the band’s fourth consecutive album to top the UK charts and peaked at #3 in the US. The group soon embarked on their largest world tour to support the album, Playing over a hundred dates through 1986 and 1987.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1986 albums.
Mike + The Mechanics was a quasi-solo project by Genesis bassist and guitarist Mike Rutherford The 1985 self-title debut was a commercial success which spawned three hit singles and helped shape the sounds of the mid 1980s. Musically, the album features a mix of classic rock and new wave elements oriented towards the radio-friendly pop music of the day, fueled by the compositions mainly co-written by Rutherford and producer Christopher Neil.
Shortly after Genesis condensed down to a three-piece group in the late 1970s, each of the members decided to embark on parallel solo projects in-between the Genesis albums and tours. Rutherford released his first two solo albums, Smallcreep’s Day and Acting Very Strange in 1980 and 1982 respectively. However, he found the process of recording a record alone artistically unsatisfying and soon started a songwriting partnership with Scottish performer/composer B.A. Robertson. Following the success of Genesis’s 1983 self-titled album, the pair enlisted Neil as an additional composer and producer of the initial Mike + the Mechanics album.
It was decided that the core of the group would be Rutherford on guitars and bass along with keyboardist Adrian Lee and drummer Peter Van Hooke. Beyond that, session musicians and vocalists were brought in where needed, with three different lead vocalists performing on Mike + the Mechanics.
Mike and the Mechanics by Mike and the Mechanics
|Released: October 5, 1985 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Christopher Neil
Recorded: AIR Studios, Montserrat, 1985
|Side One||Side Two|
All I Need Is a Miracle
Hanging By a Thread
|I Get the Feeling
Take the Reins
You Are the One
A Call to Arms
|Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass
Adrian Lee – Keyboards
Peter Van Hooke – Drums
A long synth swell introduces the opening track, “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)”, a song written by Rutherford and Robertson and featuring Paul Carrack on lead vocals. When the song fully kicks in, it features great musical atmospherics to accompany the complex yet poetic lyrics. While dominated by Lee’s keyboards throughout, there is nice short rock guitar lead by Rutherford, making it a complete rock song, which was very successful on the pop charts in both the UK and US. The album’s second track was also its second single. “All I Need Is a Miracle”, sees the group moving into the realm of pop accessibility with strong synth motifs and catchy melodic hooks by Paul Young. While the lyrics have much less depth than those on the opener, this song became the biggest charting on the album when it reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1986.
“Par Avion” is a slow-paced, synth-drenched ballad with soft and reserved lead vocals by the third lead vocalist, John Kirby. Rutherford originally wrote the song with a heavier arrangement but Neil thought it worked better as a softer ballad. “Hanging By a Thread” is much more complex than the previous track, laced with strong synth sections, most prevalent during the song’s extended bridge section. Next comes, “I Get the Feeling”, an upbeat showcase for Young’s vocals, features dual saxophones and Hammond organ throughout to sustain the feel-good vibe.
“Take the Reins” starts out with a pretty cool synth arpeggio but morphs into a song proper which sounds dated and superficial for a pop song sans soul and brain, making it the weakest so far on the album. “You Are the One” is a ballad with sort of the same feeling as late seventies era Genesis, when that group moved away from the complex theatrical numbers and more towards softer, accessible ballads. Speaking of Genesis, “A Call to Arms” began as an unfinished track which was rejected by that group before Rutherford gave it new life for Mike + The Mechanics. The song contains good bass and steady drumming under rich synths through the anthemic, save-the-world, adjust-the-attitude song with well-treated lead vocals by Carrack.
The album’s best song is save for last as “Taken In” features a subtle, sad and steady mood. The understated music is perfect backdrop for the fine lead vocals of Young, who delivers on the very effective use of lyrical repetition as composed by Rutherford and Neil. Further adding to the vibe is a slight sax lead after the each verse of this song which became the third Top 40 hit and a tremendous way to finish the able.
Mike + the Mechanics reached number 26 on the Billboard 200 album charts and, being satisfied with the results of this project, Rutherford decided to continue with this band rather than returning to a typical “solo” career. This paid off, as the group’s next album, Living Years in 1988, brought them even greater commercial success and Mike + and the Mechanics continued well into the 1990s.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.
Perhaps the most “out there” album by Genesis as well as out Classic Rock Review Album of the Year, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, is a rich double-length concept rock opera. The complex album was built in two phases with the overall story arc and lyrics written by front man Peter Gabriel and much of the music composed earlier by the other band musicians. Serendipitously, it all came together with some truly brilliant moments both musically and lyrically. However, this was not enough to prevent the ultimate parting of ways between the group and Gabriel, who departed Genesis about a year after this album’s release.
After the success of their 1973 album Selling England by the Pound and the subsequent tour, Genesis headed to the famous Headley Grange mansion (which Led Zeppelin and Bad Company had previously inhabited) to write and develop material. However, the building was in poor condition and, believing the house was haunted, several band members found it difficult to sleep. Gabriel was absent from these sessions due to personal problems and most of the music was worked out by keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist.guitarist Mike Rutherford and drummer Phil Collins. In fact, Rutherford had began composing a theme based on Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince but Gabriel insisted on composing an original story himself to the point where there was friction at the mere suggestion of a lyrical adjustment.
Lead guitarist Steve Hackett, who was a standout on the previous two albums, admitted he was pretty much “an innocent bystander” on this album, although he did manage to conjure a handful of impressive guitar leads. In contrast, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was probably the finest overall musical effort for Banks and Collins. Banks’ range on this album stretched from his use of both the nearly outdated Mellotron and some brand new synthesizers, while this may be Collins’ best overall performance as a drummer on an album which is highly rhythm driven.
Co-produced by John Burns, the album contains some advanced musical techniques and some very modern compositional approaches that touch on the yet-to-be formalized genres of punk and new wave. The album also features Brian Eno, who is credited with the “enossification” of several tracks with his mastery of synthesizers.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis
|Released: November 18, 1974 (Atco)
Produced by: John Burns & Genesis
Recorded: Island Mobile Studios, Wales, August–October 1974
|Side One||Side Two|
|The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Fly On a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
In the Cage
The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
|Back in N.Y.C.
Counting Out Time
The Carpet Crawlers
The Chamber of 32 Doors
|Side Three||Side Four|
The Waiting Room
Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist
Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats
|The Colony of Slippermen
The Light Dies Down on Broadway
Riding the Scree
In the Rapids
|Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Flute, Oboe
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Banks has a long classical piano intro to the title track, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, which persists throughout behind the rock arrangement. Gabriel’s new vocal style for this album is also established here, as is Rutherford’s aggressive bass approach. Lyrically, the song introduces the protagonist Rael, who emerges from a night of mischief to witness an odd occurrence, and includes a slight rendition of The Drifters’ “On Broadway” in its outro. “Fly on a Windshield” is a direct sequel to title song, with strummed acoustic and spooky backing effects. Rutherford described the original inspiration as “Pharaohs going down the Nile” prior to Gabriel’s lyrics being added. In the story, Rael witnesses a big cloud solidify like a screen and follow him as he flees up Broadway, showing up pictures of what existed around it in the past. These images are described in “Broadway Melody of 1974”, a short but highly excellent track with a simple, choppy rock riff.
“Cuckoo Cocoon” is the first song on the album set up like a recent Genesis song, with picked guitar, melody, flute, and good vocal melodies. In the story, Rael regains consciousness to find himself wrapped in a cocoon and in some sort of dark cave. On the album’s first side, the group seems to try too hard to link songs in a continuum, However, the intro to “In the Cage” contains an exception link as it builds towards driving rhythms. The song itself builds tension with odd timings and beats, as all the instruments seem to be doing their own independent thing but yet somehow all jive together. There are exception rhythms by Rutherford and Collins and fantastic, multi-part leads by Banks in the long mid section. Noticing he is trapped in one of several linked cages, Rael sees his brother John for the first of several encounters that add metaphor to the deeper story. Next, Rael is spun into an empty modern hallway with a highly polished floor. much like a modern department store for “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”. Musically, this is a radical turn from the dramatic to the light and entertaining as this marching song builds with each verse, employing grand effects and instrumentation along the way.
The album’s second side begins with “Back in N.Y.C.”, which was way ahead of its time musically. Gabriel’s vocals are at their most desperate and strained in an excellent rock manner above the synth motifs and pounding rhythms. Much tension is built through the music of Banks, Rutherford, and Collins, especially in the bridge section. This is the first of three tracks where we learn of Rael through retrospective stories, here revealed to have been a thug and pyromaniac in his past. “Hairless Heart” is the first instrumental of the album with some English style acoustic slight pedal guitar by Hackett and a thicker synth lead by Banks. The title reverts back lyrics in “Back in N.Y.C.” and seems to indicate a softer side to the character. “Counting Out Time” is the last of the retrospective trio, a light and entertaining pop song with just a touch of funk and wild, synth-effected guitar lead in the most “enossified” of any song thus far on the album. This lighter song speaks of Rael’s first intimate encounter, which he tried to execute through specific instructions from a book entitled Erogenous Zones.
“The Carpet Crawlers” brings us back to the present and the main plot, and is one of the most heralded tracks on the album. This pleasant and moody contains good harmonies by Collins and Gabriel’s lead vocals get more and more animated as the song goes along as more and more is being discovered by Rael in this dark room. Here, the protaganist finds himself among others for the first time as they point upwards towards an endless staircase that leads to a chamber which they “got to get in to get out”. “The Chamber of 32 Doors” starts with dramatic intro and guitar lead until the song proper is driven by bouncy bass of Rutherford, which slow to three-note measured rhythm during next desperate post-verse section. This fine, multi-part composition finds Rael facing the difficult choice of choosing the appropriate door. Here there is a bit of editorializing on the types of people to trust in this endeavor;
I’d rather trust a countryman than a townman, You can judge by his eyes, take a look if you can, He’ll smile through his guard, Survival trains hard. I’d rather trust a man who works with his hands, He looks at you once, you know he understands, Don’t need any shield, When you’re out in the field…”
The person Rael chooses to lead him is the blind “Lilywhite Lilith” who feels her way through but leads him to a cave that he believes will bring him death. Musically, the song contains dual lead vocals in a pretty heavy rock song with multiple rock guitars and an outro refrain that revises “Broadway Melody 1974” but with more dynamic vocals. “Lilywhite Lilith” is also the only track credited solely to Gabriel and Collins. “The Waiting Room” is the wildest, sound-effect laden piece of experimental music, which Collins called “The Evil Jam” when it was started by Hackett and Banks back at Headley Grange. “Anyway” was deveoped from an unused 1969 composition called “The Light” and is often overlooked as a classic. This beautiful and desperate piano tune captures the mood and the various thoughts when it appears that Rael’s death is imminent. Just a hint of synths compliment the piano and later rock section with harmonized guitar lead by Hackett and great philosophical lyrics by Gabriel;
Does Earth plug a hole in Heaven or Heaven plug a hole in Earth, how wonderful to be so profound when everything you are is dying underground…”
By contrast, “Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist” is short, light and with little substance lyrically but its rock jam makes it entertaining overall. in all, the latter part of side three is the weakest part of the album, where it doesn’t quite seem to flow well. “The Lamia” contains a quirky intro as it really doesn’t fit with previous track. This long, story-telling piano ballad is very poetic and profound and probably the best song lyrically, but is slow developing musically until it finally ends with good lead by Hackett that seems to be cut off too soon. Here Rael faces death again in an erotic act that kills his seductive attacker. The most overt filler, “Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats” is all effect-laden, slow and surreal, but a weak way to end a side of a record.
A long, minute and a half instrumental intro with Eastern musical influence using various sound effects and percussion starts the extended “The Colony of Slippermen”. Soon, it breaks into upbeat and bouncy theatrical sound, in the same vein as “The Battle of Epping Forest” from their previous album. Rael is a little disillusioned, when the grotesque Slipperman reveal that the entire colony have one-by-one been through the same glorious romantic tragedy as he and now Rael shares their physical appearance and shadowy fate. The only escape from this colony is through a dreaded visit to the notorious Doktor Dyper who will remove the source of his “desire” problem. During the long middle section, the story turns but music remains upbeat and entertaining. After a most dramatic loss, Rael calls for his brother John to help him, but he refuses.
After “Ravine”, another link song with little substance, comes “The Light Dies Down on Broadway”, a recurrence of the opening song, but much more calmer and moderate. This is the only track where Gabriel did not write the lyrics (Banks and Rutherford took care of that) and it offers Rael a choice to “escape” back through a portal to New York City or save his drowning brother who had fallen in the rapids. He chose the latter, which carries through the next two tracks and the climax of the story. “Riding the Scree” is funky with odd-timed beats and carnival elements under a long synth lead by Banks. “In the Rapids” contains good guitars by Hackett throughout with layers as the piece builds in intensity. The moral of the story revealed here as Rael hauls his brother’s limp body out of the water and looks to find it is not John’s face, but his own. Collins remarked that the entire concept was about split personality, as Rael believed he is looking for John but is actually looking for a missing part of himself.
The closing track “It” contains fastly strummed guitars and is upbeat and optimistic. This track is almost an epilogue outside of the main theme, as a song of discovery and revelation and directly quotes the Rolling Stones (then brand new) “It is only rock and roll but I like it” for it’s final line. Ultimately, the entire meaning of this complex story is defined by “It”, and “It” appears everywhere, either you get “It” or you don’t.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway reached number 10 in the UK, but didn’t cracking the US Top 40. Upon its release, Genesis went on a world concert tour and, at Gabriel’s insistence, performed the album in its entirety over 100 times. Gabriel had already revealed to the band that he was leaving before the tour commenced, but did not make this public until after the tour in Summer of 1975. Although the album was hardly a success at the time, it is now considered a Genesis classic.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1974 albums.
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 the 30th anniversary of 1983 albums.
The classic lineup of Genesis was at their absolute peak musically and melodically on the 1973 album Selling England by the Pound. The band had a steady progression in the early 1970s albums, leading to this climax which fused their heavy prog-rock and overtly theatrical background with an English folk theme topped by incredible rock virtuosity. The album has a storybook quality and is nearly drifts into “concept album” territory. Instead it is more a collection of short stories, fables, and fairy tales that don’t really have much in common save the English themes. And, of course, the fantastic musicianship that made this album one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock genre.
While all members of the quintet are at their absolute peak on this album, no one shines brighter than guitarist Steve Hackett. This is his absolute moment in the sun and makes one wonder why there was relatively so little from him in subsequent years (even though he stayed with Genesis through three more albums). On this album Hackett perfected the use of the tapping technique and sweep picking, techniques which would not become widely popular until a decade later. This is also the album were drummer Phil Collins (who would later be more associated as the band’s front man) best displays his drumming skills. Even lead singer Peter Gabriel gets into the musical act, providing flute on several tracks to add to the overall English folk vibe.
A nice balance is struck throughout the album and on a matrix of levels. The four epic pieces alternate with the four lighter pieces throughout the album and with these an alternation between deeper and heavier eccentricity with contemporary pop and fragile love song themes. There is also a nice consolidation between the rock and folk sections, the overt literary allusions and hook-driven themes often all within the same track. This combination makes this album infinitely listenable and not the least bit dated four decades after its release.
Selling England By the Pound by Genesis
|Released: October 12, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: John Burns and Genesis
Recorded: Island Studios, London, August 1973
|Side One||Side Two|
|Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
|The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Odeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
|Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Flute
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars, Cello
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
A long intro with only guitar textures and vocal melody mask the ultimate dynamics of “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, the de facto title song of Selling England by the Pound. This eight minute album opening song blends lyricism and acoustic texture during the opening verses with the exquisite musicianship during this middle jam. During this section each musician’s skills are showcased nicely before the song fades into an add yet intriguing mellow outro which eats up nearly two minutes with psychedelic rudiments. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” was the band’s first charting single through five LPs, climbing all the way to #21 on the UK charts. It has a mechanical sound-effect during the intro with spoken word intro before it breaks into a pleasant pop (almost “glam”) song with the chorus melody being mirrored by a heavy synth riff and a very active bass line by Mike Rutherford. The lyrics were derived from the painting by Betty Swanwick called The Dream, which originally did not include the lawn mower which the band asked Swanwick to add to the painting to match the song’s protagonist. A simple, “lawnmower man” who is constantly getting advice from people concerned with his future, but is content with what he is (“I know what I like and I like what I know”). Although the song was the most accessible in their collection to date, it still contains some Genesis edge including a return to the mechanical effect during the coda beneath a flute lead to end the song.
I don’t make such assertions lightly, but “Firth of Fifth” is one of the greatest rock masterpieces ever, despite its relative mainstream and radio obscurity. This song has everything great about a progressive rock song, starting with an unbelievable classical piano intro by Tony Banks which lasts over a minute alternating between among time signatures before giving way to a pure rock verse and chorus performed by the entire ensemble. The song then travels through a sonic journey of several sections, some with vocals, some instrumental, but all purely excellent. There is a part with a light flute solo by Gabriel over Banks’ methodical piano riffs, which leads to part where the piano builds and builds until breaking into a frantic synth led over the full band rendition of the opening piano piece, where Collins especially shines on drum. Then comes perhaps the greatest guitar lead ever by Hackett, who sustains notes into the stratosphere above a basic driving, bluesy backing rhythm. But this guitar is anything but basic, striking notes in the most methodical and melodic way where each one counts. Even the sparse lyrics are superior, especially during the final verse;
Now that the river dissolves in sea, so death too has claimed another soul / and so with Gods and Men the sheep remain inside their pen until the shepherd leads his flock away / the sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change…”
The title of “Firth of Fifth” is a pun on the estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, commonly known as the Firth of Forth. Although, like all tracks on the album, “Firth of Fifth” is credited to all five band members, Banks was actually the author of most of this song with Rutherford helping out with some of the lyrics.
Selling England by the Pound is also notable for a milestone in the band’s career, containing the first song with lead vocals by Phil Collins, who would take over those duties permanently following Gabriel’s departure in 1975. “More Fool Me” is a bit melodramatic yet pleasant love song and pretty much only involves Hackett and Rutherford on acoustic guitars and Collins on lead vocal. Collins sings soprano most of the way, which really stands out due to the song’s sparse arrangement.
Side two is a much more theatrical side, especially with the side’s opener “The Battle of Epping Forest”. This begins with colonial-type battle march, led by flute and a marching drum rhythm. It then bursts into a full prog-rock arrangement through the first verse before morphing its way through many multi-character, story-telling sections in a manner similar to “Get Em Out by Friday” from their previous album Foxtrot. A wild, choppy guitar provides rhythm for the second verse leading to a complete break in the middle “Reverend” section, with a waltz-like tempo and more deliberate melody. The song was inspired by territorial gang battles in East London but uses heavy allegory of middle age clashes in the forest while subtly eschewing an anti-war message;
There’s no one left alive, it must be a draw…”
“After the Ordeal” is presented as an instrumental epilogue to “The Battle of Epping Forest” but acts more like an intermission bridge between two epic songs. Written mainly by Hackett, the piece has two distinct parts with the first half an up-tempo classical guitar piece with a piano backing and the second half a slower rock piece beneath Hackett’s electric lead. This lead is again masterful and the only real problem is that it is edited way too short.
The eleven-plus minute epic “The Cinema Show” sustained as the fan favorite from this album. It begins as a purely romantic, modern day “Romeo and Juliet” tale, led by dual acoustic folk guitars and melodic lead vocals by Gabriel. The lyrics from Banks and Rutherford were inspired from a T.S. Eliot poem along with Greek mythology and have highly sexualized overtones. Like the other epics on this album, the song builds into many sections once the entire band gets involved, including a complex vocal motif and yet another lead to great lead guitar by Hackett which segues into a five minute long jam with various synth leads by Banks, some backing operatic vocal choirs, and incredible drumming by Collins, playing a shuffle in 7/8 time. The synth sounds act as a sneak preview of the band’s next album, the double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The song dissolves back to 4/4 time and segues into the closing song “Aisle of Plenty”, a reprise of “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, giving the album a bookend effect.
Selling England by the Pound was classic Genesis hitting on all cylinders, and the band put together a completely original and musically superior album like no other. Although it would pale in comparison to the commercial success of the band’s pop-oriented 1980s album, it nearly topped the charts in the UK, which was a big deal at the time. But where there album shines is artistically, and on this front it belongs on the list of best ever.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.
After a couple albums of extreme experimentation in theatrical rock, Foxtrot is where it all came together for Genesis. This 1972 album was the first of three, in consecutive years, that marked the creative apex during the band’s “Peter Gabriel” era. Gabriel was the band’s lead vocalist and flamboyant front man through the early 1970s who went on to have a successful solo career after his departure in 1975. Foxtrot is a solid album which struck a nice balance between jam-oriented progressive rock and theme-oriented art rock with not a weak moment anywhere on the album, making it one of the most esteemed prog rock albums ever.
The centerpiece of the album is the 22-minute closer “Supper’s Ready”, which Gabriel explained as “a personal journey which ends up walking through scenes from Revelation in the Bible.” This epic song is divided into several sections, some recurring, which straddle the line between classical and rock music and contain multiple changes in time and key signature and mood. While the five members of the band were given songwriting credit for “Supper’s Ready”, Gabriel authored most of the lyrics while drummer Phil Collins did much of the arranging and segues between the various sections. When performed live, the provided their audience with a programme which described many of the scenes with words such as;
At one whistle the lovers become seeds in the soil, where they recognise other seeds to be people from the world in which they had originated. While they wait for Spring, they are returned to their old world to see Apocalypse of St John in full progress…”
“Supper’s Ready” launches abruptly into the first verse with vocals by Gabriel along with guitars by Steve Hackett. The lyrical imagery tells of a common domestic scene morphing into a supernatural experience (which Gabriel has long claimed was true). With various scenes and characters of varying complexity, the song previews a style employed on Genesis’s 1974 double album The Lamb lies Down on Broadway. Towards the middle of the song is “Willow Farm”, which started as a stand-alone song but acts as a light break from the serious subject matter of “Supper’s Ready” (much like an intermission in a play).
Foxtrot by Genesis
|Released: October 6, 1972 (Island)
Produced by: David Hitchcock
Recorded: Island Studios, London, August 1972
|Side One||Side Two|
|Watcher of the Skies
Get Em’ Out By Friday
Can-Utility and the Coastliners
|Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Flute, Percussion
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Mike Rutherford – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Tony Banks – Piano, Keys, Vocals
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
The album begins with Tony Banks mellotron intro to “Watcher of the Skies”. The album got its title from a preset “foxtrot” on the instrument and, in turn, future versions of the mellotron contain the “Watcher mix” as part of its tape set. The long introduction cross fades into the song’s main theme, which uses unusual time signatures under the chanting vocal melody of Gabriel. Lyrics were provided by Banks and Mike Rutherford, who envisioned an empty Earth being approached by an alien visitor.
“Time Table” takes a more traditional folk-rock approach with melancholy lyrics of medieval days gone by, highlighted by Banks’ piano intro and accents and Mike Rutherford‘s exquisite bass patterns. The song offers a calm and melodic approach that would be refined during the band’s “middle era” of the late 1970s. The lyric speaks of speaks of “a carved oak table that played host to kings and queens who sipped wine from goblets gold”. A short acoustic instrumental by Hackett, “Horizons” acted as a lead-in to “Supper’s Ready” at the beginning of the album’s second side. It became an extremely popular piece in the band’s live sets during Hackett’s tenure with Genesis.
“Get Em’ Out by Friday” is a unique and theatrical multi-act piece which may be the quintessential Genesis brand of song. It fluctuates in tenor and tone through the various phases of the story with Gabriel “playing” several characters with his singing. The “play” takes place in a future (ironically, 2012), using elements of reality and science fiction with the central theme being a landlord evicting tenants by force or by attrition. Under the guidelines of the government bureaucracy called “Genetic Control”, all tenants are restricted to being under four feet tall in order to fit “twice as many in the same building size”. Rutherford has commented that the lyrics of this song were the best that Gabriel had written.
The first side completes with another mini-suite “Can-Utility and the Coastliners”, which again returns to the middle ages and the 10th century English King Canute, who tried to demonstrate the absurdity of his worshipers by trying to halt the sea during a major storm;
They told of one who tired of all singing “Praise him, praise him” / “We heed not flatterers,” he cried, by our command, waters retreat, show my power, halt at my feet…”
The song starts as a top-notch folk song, led by the pastoral guitars of Hackett and the dynamic vocals of Gabriel, but later morphs into a classic prog-rock jam led mainly by the punchy keys of Tony Banks and the skilled drumming of Phil Collins.
Foxtrot is where Genesis began to forge their legacy as a top level art rock group. Although it was far from a commercial “hit”, this was also the band’s first album to break into the charts, reaching #12 in the UK. They would have plenty of commercial hits in later years, long after they abandoned their penchant for art rock.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.
We love Genesis here at Classic Rock Review. Although, this is certainly not evident by our treatment of the band so far in this inaugural year. We’ve had four previous opportunities to cover Genesis albums during our look at four classic years but passed on each of those albums (Trespass in 1971, Abacab in 1981, Invisible Touch in 1986, and We Can’t Dance in 1991). Well, today is an opportunity for some make up as we will do a double review of Genesis’ two 1976 releases A Trick Of the Tail and Wind & Wuthering.
These two albums mark Peter Gabriel‘s departure and drummer Phil Collins debut as the group’s lead singer. These are also the only two albums where Genesis is a four piece band. They were a five piece with Gabriel and would become a three piece in the future following the departure of guitarist Steve Hackett.
The band had searched long for a replacement for Gabriel (some claiming as many as 400 auditions were conducted) all while they wrote and recorded the instrumental tracks for what would become A Trick Of the Tail. Collins provided a vocal “guide” so these candidates could become familiar with their potential vocal role for this material, but no one was sufficient for the job. After briefly considering putting the album out as a pure instrumental, the band decided that Collins should be the new permanent vocalist, although he was initially reluctant to do so.
Critical expectations were low leading up the release of A Trick Of the Tail in early 1976. Hence, the album’s quality and originality were a pleasant surprise to all. It was although the four remaining members had a point to prove – that they could continue successfully without Gabriel – and they proved it brilliantly. Collins demonstrated that he is an excellent singer by staying with in the tonal range of Gabriel while still exploring his own territory vocally. The songwriting credits extend to everyone, making the album’s composition a true group effort. They stayed true to the Genesis legacy while evolving ever so slightly towards a new, modern sound. In musical direction, the album is an impressionist piece of art rock, using storytelling with and without words. The lyrics are like fairy tales or fables and the music makes you envision scenery much as an opera.
With Wind & Wuthering the band stayed true with the basic formula and philosophy as A Trick Of the Tail. However, it feels a bit more forced sounding less fresh than its predecessor. This is especially true on the second side where the band seemed to be making one last try at constructing an art piece in the fashion of their earlier albums. But, most of the songs sound under developed. That being said, Wind & Wuthering does have some brilliant moments, especially when it comes to the songs that open and close the album.
A Trick Of the Tail by Genesis
|Released: February 2, 1976 (Virgin)
Produced by: David Hentschel and Genesis
Recorded: Trident Studios, London, October-November 1975
|Side One||Side Two|
| Dance On a Volcano
Mad Man Moon
|Robbery, Assault, & Battery
A Trick Of the Tail
|Wind & Wuthering by Genesis|
|Released: December 23, 1976 (Virgin)
Produced by: David Hentschel and Genesis
Recorded: Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands, September-October 1976
|Side One||Side Two|
|Eleventh Earl of Mar
One For the Vine
Your Own Special Way
|All in a Mouse’s Night
Blood On the Rooftops
Unquiet Slumbers For the Sleepers…
…In That Quiet Earth
|Group Musicians (Both Albums)|
| Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Steve Hackett – Guitars
Tony Banks – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitars
One of the fascinating qualities about A Trick Of the Tail, is how each song is so entirely different from the previous one. Some may consider this to be non cohesive, but we feel it enhances the listening experience by presenting the talents of these musicians in one package. “Dance On a Volcano” is the most complete group composition on the album. With a minute long intro that sets the sound scape, a measured, plodding tempo during the two verses moves into a frantic pace during the futuristic section that drives the song on a tangent towards its conclusion. The message of the song is when faced with an ugly, volatile challenge, you need to attack the situation like a hero would and dive right into the fire and fight. The song reprises during the album’s closing instrumental “Los Endos”, a foray into the world of jazz fusion. During the closing fadeout, the band pays homage to their former lead singer as Collins recites a few lines from “Supper’s Ready” off of 1972’s Foxtrot, an epic song closely associated with Peter Gabriel.
Steve Hackett’s “Entangled” has an ethereal musical soundscape, like an old English folk song. The lyrics juxtapose the peaceful sleep induced by anesthesia and the dreams of flying over the landscape until the song drifts towards a haunting instrumental section at the end. As a counter piece on the second side, Mike Rutherford‘s “Ripples” is a beautiful but sad ballad with fine melodies during the chorus that lament old age and dying –
Sail away, ripples never come back, they’ve gone to the other side…”
Keyboardist Tony Banks contributed the most compositions on A Trick Of the Tail. “Mad Man Moon” is a piano ballad with strings that blossoms into something almost theatrical, like an opera or performance art. “Squonk” is the first heavy, rock sounding release of the “new” Genesis. Full of hooks and catchy melodies, it retells the English legend of the squonk, a sad creature which roams about wallowing in misery and then melts away to tears once captured. Banks also wrote the album’s predominant “pop” songs.
The upbeat title song “A Trick Of the Tail” focuses on a “beast” character who leaves his own kingdom and enters the world of humans. He is captured and put on display in a freak show after his captors refuse to believe in his kingdom, which he claims is covered in gold. “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” is an entertaining song which moves from section to section, exploring many different time signatures and melodies. Both of these songs had promotional videos made, a forecast of the music world a half decade later with the advent of MTV.
Wind & Wuthering begins with a seven and a half minute mini-suite called “Eleventh Earl of Mar”, a good jam lead by Rutherford’s keys with and interesting middle section led by the folksy motifs of Hackett. This piece feels like a combination of several songs off The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and refers back to an historical English figure and events. Banks’ “One For the Vine” is a nearly ten minute piano tune with fine vocals by Collins. Sounding more like 80’s era Genesis, this piece morphs into a mellow, program-music-like piece before breaking out into a wild, percussive upbeat section.
Mike Rutherford’s “Your Own Special Way” is the plainest forecast of the new pop-ier direction that the band would pursue as a trio in the late seventies and through the eighties. A waltz, lead by a strumming, 12-string riff the song breaks into a full-fledged soft love song during chorus. It later goes into a gratuitous electric piano part that seems to do nothing but eat up clock, showing that the band was, in some sense, just trying to get through this album. “Wot Gorilla?” concludes the first side as a basic yet interesting instrumental.
The second side of Wind & Wuthering sees the band attempting to return to Gabriel-era theatrics, but falling just a bit short in this quest. “All In A Mouse’s Night” is a play involving a couple, a cat, and a mouse, while “Blood On the Rooftops” starts with a nice, classical sounding guitar and contains fine overall instrumentation, but the song as a whole doesn’t quite reach its potential. The album concludes with a three song medley, the first two of which are average but interesting instrumentals. “Afterglow” concludes it all with a beautiful and simple approach that offers a melodic conclusion to Genesis’ second album of 1976.
With our previous two presentations of twin album reviews (Alice Cooper in 1971 and Guns n Roses in 1991), the material was close to even in quality and importance. However, this is not quite the case here as A Trick Of the Tail, which we consider a classic, is decidedly superior to Wind & Wuthering, which may be reserved for dedicated Genesis fans.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.