Listen while you read: “Dance on a volcano” (audio snippet)
I have been a fan of Genesis for some years. Just now memories are coming back of earlier days, when I was 13 (1982-83), listening to Genesis on 103 PhD, coming out of Buffalo (for many years when someone referred to a “PhD”, I thought of that station, not some degree that an academic nut might get). That station had weekend “supersets” of three or more songs for each band played and I sat eagerly waiting to record the next set if a favourite came on (Yes, The Police, Pink Floyd, The Band, Foreigner, Led Zep, and others I still listen to were regulars on that station). Thank goodness my older brother, Stephen, had a half-decent stereo in our shared room (but he was beginning to get into Opera of all things!).
Still, in recent years my Genesis fixation had been primarily on the years when Peter Gabriel was lead-singer (the “true” Genesis as some say). There is a sense in which I too began to think of the Gabriel years as Eden and the post-Gabriel years as the Fall along with some others who preferred Gabriel (Gabriel wrote the majority of the lyrics during his time). Selling England by the Pound (1973) is perhaps my favourite among the Gabriel-Genesis albums, and still remains so.
But my views are changing somewhat now that I have been listening more often to later Genesis albums on vinyl (I’ve got just about all of them now, both good and not-so-good). In particular, the two albums immediately following Gabriel’s departure, which were both released in 1976, are consistently impressive and yet distinctive from one another. This is quite a feat considering that they were produced so closely together right after the departure of their lead singer. Both precede the shift from progressive rock to a more pop-based sound that emerged as the band went into the 1980s (the true “Fall”, if you want to put it that way). Memories of the progressive rock days begin to fade following Duke (1980).
Listen while you read: “Entangled” (audio snippet)
The first post Gabriel album, A Trick of the Tail (© 1976 Atlantic Recording Corporation; Atco SD 36-129), is cohesive and alive! The majority of the tracks are co-written by Rutherford, Banks and Hackett, but Collins is also included as co-composer of two pieces. The heavy, opening prelude that you listened to at the beginning of this post (“Dance on a volcano”) sets the stage for recurring themes that echo throughout the rest of the album and come to completion in the postlude (“Los endos”). The complicated time changes and dramatic movement (as well as some good, heavy drumming) in that opening track find echoes throughout the rest of the album in interesting variations.
Magically, the drummer, Phil Collins, who had no intentions of being the main vocalist, managed to take on the role of lead singer, seemingly without a glitch. At the same time there is not a high likelihood of confusing him with the unique vocal stylings of Gabriel (my wife gets them mixed up nonetheless). Collins may well hit the notes more accurately and cleanly, but Gabriel’s vocals had an unidentifiable mystery to them which few can capture. (For the interesting story about how Collins ended up in this role, see the Wikipedia article). Alongside the heavier tunes are rather calm and medieval sounding tracks, such as “Entangled”, which are reminscient of some more acoustic sounding songs on earlier albums. Overall, this blend of heavy and not-so-heavy provides an even balance for the album as a whole. The lyrics, too, keep things interesting as they return to the sort of fairy tale world of adventures with a medieval spin.
In many ways, the follow-up of the same year, Wind and Wuthering comes across as a darker, more moody, album in terms of both its sound and its lyrics. Still, it is also very impressive when it comes to the band’s overall performance and the intricacies of the music. Both of these albums are among the high-points of progressive rock, which was soon to fall out of vogue. Phil Collins ain’t so bad after all–if you can forgive him “Against all odds” and such (I kid: even “Against all odds” and “Sussudio” have a charm of sorts, at least for someone who grew up in the 1980s, such as myself).