The Re-genesis of Genesis

Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

1976 marked the rebirth of art rock epic songsters Genesis as a more cohesive, more commercially viable unit. The metamorphosis occurred when lead singer Peter Gabriel packed up his circus outfits, Adams Family make up and rolled up the parchments of his 20-minute songs, opting for a solo career. On the hook for a new singer and a less theatrical mage, the group auditioned vocalists as they prepared for their first post-Peter album.

Phil Collins temporarily manned the mike stand during rehearsals, content to remain the group’s drummer. The other members, Steve Hackett (guitar), Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar) and Tony Banks (keyboards), figured Collins could handle the quieter material. When Collins wrapped his near-virgin lungs around the challenging “Squonk” the group realized their new singer had in their midst all along. Genesis was reborn…

Rhino has reissued a spate of the Phil Collins helmed Genesis albums in an enjoyable two CD/DVD format. The first CD is a remastered version of the original recording, immaculately reproduced. Now you can hear the bass and guitar patterns that acted as the foundation for Tony Banks’ soloing. The second disc contains a 5.1 digital recording of the album (the better to hear what a good drummer Phil Collins is), plus interviews, promotional videos and rare concert footage.

A Trick of the Tail (3.5 out of 5 stars)
“A Trick of the Tail” is tricky indeed, magical in parts, promising sleight of hand in other sections, and at its worse, pure flim-flam.

The album begins with “Dance on a Volcano,” one of those worrisome speed freak progressive rock jams that never pulls itself together. Beginning with a massive drum roll, blanketing synths and Steve Hackett’s studied guitar, it balances its rep on the remnants of the old Genesis; the verses are herky-jerky, packed with tongue twisting lyrics, with Collins squawking intensely. Hackett manages to sound like he knows what he wants to do despite the chaotic arrangement, favoring billowy chords on his guitar. There are a lot of good ideas being tossed about, but there’s no need to hear them all in the space of thirty seconds. The song spins haphazardly toward an end, as if to show the group could even out-weird Peter Gabriel. They can, but that doesn’t make it good.

“Entangled” is twinkly, olde English and a memorable step for the new Genesis, a song worth getting wrapped up in. A ghostly madrigal, Banks plays a spooky synth solo that blends beautifully with Hackett’s acoustic thrumming and the distant moan of a choir.

“Well, if we can help you we will. Soon as you're tired and ill. With your consent I can experiment further still. Well, thanks to our kindness and skill you’ll have no trouble until. You catch your breath and the nurse will present you the bill.”

In “Squonk,” Collins’ barbaric anvil drumming beats down like a tired blacksmith with a schedule to keep. Mellotrons and synths surround the beat, which is also supported by Rutherford’s countering bass. There’s no lack of confidence from Collins at the mike either, as he rips his voice ragged. "Squonk” runs the musical kharmic wheel from progressive rock to a Catholic mass fade out, and yet manages to sound like a cohesive composition instead of a hodge-podge of ideas.

The mellow, majestic piano that begins “Mad Man Moan” builds like a yellow moon slowly rising on a starless night. The middle section is busy, with an interlude that could be the pre-precursor to “Paperlate,” then proceeds to transform itself into a full blown orchestral drama on par with the lavishness of a philharmonic orchestra. The song hits its “mad man” stride picking up uncontrollable steam (another bow to the Gabriel era) threatening to careen out of control before somehow steering itself back toward a very pleasant ending.

In “Squonk,” Collins’ barbaric anvil drumming beats down like a tired blacksmith with a schedule to keep. Mellotrons and synths surround the beat, which is also supported by Rutherford’s countering bass. There’s no lack of confidence from Collins at the mike either, as he rips his voice ragged. "Squonk” runs the musical kharmic wheel from progressive rock to a Catholic mass fade out, and yet manages to sound like a cohesive composition instead of a hodge-podge of ideas.

The mellow, majestic piano that begins “Mad Man Moan” builds like a yellow moon slowly rising on a starless night. The middle section is busy, with an interlude that could be the pre-precursor to “Paperlate,” then proceeds to transform itself into a full blown orchestral drama on par with the lavishness of a philharmonic orchestra. The song hits its “mad man” stride picking up uncontrollable steam (another bow to the Gabriel era) threatening to careen out of control before somehow steering itself back toward a very pleasant ending.

A cheeky English street urchin tale, “Robbery, Assault and Battery” is the Artful Dodger goes prog, with Collins calling on his skills as a child actor, adopting a cockney accent. He sets a difficult pace on percussion, and the group lets him lead the way, a mistake, because they scatter about in different directions as if they were pickpockets being chased down by Bobbies. Collins bangs away in every time signature imaginable, assaulting his kit and robbing a potentially amusing tale of its humor. This is battery in the first degree, punishable by never being spun again.

“Ripples,” written by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, is Genesis at its most romantic and grandiose, an enchanting masterpiece about growing old that alludes to the folly of Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection, and Helen of Troy waking up one morning to find out she’s no longer the most sought after girl on the matrimonial battlefield: “The face that launched a thousand ships is sinking fast, that happens you know. The water gets below. Seems not very long ago, lovelier she was than any I ever know.” Hackett’s backwards guitar work floats alongside of Banks’ sensitive strides on piano. The effect is awe inspiring. This is what prog should sound like whenever a musician’s skills match his highbrow intentions.

“A Trick of the Tail” is very Gabriel-esque in its use of word play, telling the tale of a shunned beast that no one can stomach or understand: “They got no horns and they got no tail, they don’t even know of our existence.” Unlike “Robbery, Assault” etc... this is Elizabethan rock with brains.

The CD ends with “Los Endos,”an instrumental where Mike Rutherford gets to leave an impression, rolling the bass strings Jack Bruce style, and Tony Banks slips in a section he would later iron out as the beginning of “Turn it On Again.” “Los Endos” is mostly a workout for Banks with Collins in Billy Cobham jazz-speed overdrive. It’s filler, but its interesting filler and occasionally returns to a basic theme, when it could have easily gone off into incoherent jam-land.

Extra Tails
Disc 2 is a DVD which includes interviews, “A Trick of the Tail” 5.1 stereo, and videos for “Robbery, Assault and Battery,” “Ripples” and “A Trick of the Tail.”

"Robbery, Assault and Battery" casts Collins as a thief. He kills a man who stumbles across him robbing a safe (check out Mike Rutherford’s hammy death scene) and is chased down pursued by Bobbies (Banks, Hackett and Rutherford).You get to see a lot of Collins’ facial expressions in ”Ripples, ” and witness when he looked more like an Apostle than a rock star, with a beard and a full head of hair (!) You also get to see Rutherford in late 70s rock gear – a Minnesota North Stars Jersey, and what the band looks like dowsed in a blue tint. Not much goes on, but its still a beautiful song. “A Trick of the Tail” is another performance video where the boys stand around the piano (the Monkees did this a lot too). Since it’s an odd ball song, the band felt obligated to stick in a few amusing touches, such Hackett playing guitar with a monster claw or shrinking Collins down to about three inches in height. Collins would later say “Trick of the Tail” was the most embarrassing video of his career, (yes, it is), but it’s nice to see the boys having fun.

“Trick of the Tail” ‘s extras include a 2006 interview about the album. With hindsight as their educator, the group candidly discusses Peter Gabriel’s departure and the circle the wagons approach Rutherford, Collins, Banks and Hackett took in making the album. Banks comes across as erudite and stuffy as his playing, Collins remains cherubic, Hackett is conflicted, and Rutherford’s dry wit and honesty is refreshing and informative. Rutherford also sounds exactly like horror film veteran Christopher Lee, and is possesed of a rich educated baritone, which makes you wonder why he’s not doing voice overs.

“Genesis: In Concert” features generous helpings of the new band with a mike hugging Phil Collins still adjusting to center stage. Former Yes stick man Bill Bruford is on board to help out on drums, and although he’s a highly regarded top gun, he doesn’t latch onto the nuances of the numbers the way future Genesis tour drummer Chester Thompson would later on. The concert starts out with a song identified with Peter Gabriel, the amusing “I Know What I Like,” played over a visual of the stage being set up. Collins has Gabriel’s delivery down pat and draws appaluse from the crowd when he adlibs a nimble dance routine. “The Carpet Crawlers,” also from the Gabriel days, is performed expertly with Banks leading the band through the complicated arrangement. “The Cinema Show” is supported by footage from an unidentified silent movie that helps break up the length of the performance as does the drum showdown between Bruford and Collins.

“A Trick of the Tail” is a credible leap forward by a group that could have easily tossed in their codpieces. “Ripple” is worth the price of the CD alone, but the new remix gives the material an elegent gloss its lacked in the past. Peter who?

Wind and Wuthering (3 out of 5 stars)
Here’s your last chance to hear Steve Hackett as a member of the band. Hackett quit after the “Wind and Wuthering” tour, frustrated that his ideas were being ignored. Given that Hackett had put out his first solo album “Voyage of the Acolyte,” before “A Trick of the Tail” and admittedly had no finshed material to give to Genesis, you figure Steve might cut the band some slack.

There’s a lot of wind on the album and equal amounts of wuthering, whatever that is. (Okay, wise guy, when was the last time you wuthered?) The album takes its title and theme from “Wuthuring Heights,”one of the all time stuffed shirt English parlor dramas. And this platter has plenty of theatrics, from the opening trilling intro by Hackett, who swoops in behind Banks full range of keyboards. “The Eleventh Earl of Mar,” a group written tune, is another scattershot attempt to capture six zillion time signatures in one song. Like its predecessor, “Dance on the Volcano,” the Earl shows Genesis can play, particularly Banks, who floods the scenery with mellotron and gentle piano. Much better than “Dance on the Volcano”(because there’s a melody here, although it’s a very loose one), the “Earl” still needs to give up his title. At 7:45, Banks’ yeoman keyboard work can’t hide that this Earl is marred.

“One For the Vine” written by Banks, has the soft touch of his previous compositions. At 10:00 it’s also a bit bloated, but Banks’horn-like keys and waltzing accompanyment will keep you from dozing off. When the arrangement picks up speed, it’s a less rickety transition than it was on “The Earl” because Banks leads the way (rather than the smack-happy Collins), making the shift from soft-psych to pop to boderline disco less jarring. And despite his complaints, Hackett gets to play a little too.

“Your Own Special Way” is one Mike Rutherford’s career-making compositions. Banks supports the chivalrous arrangement with a quiet wave of keyboards, Rutherford and Hackett strum elegantly, and Collins handles the high notes without ruining the mood or a lung. It’s interesting that the background music stops when Banks takes a solo; it’s more noticable here because the song is subdued to begin with. A composition Genesis could be proudly perform in their golden years (which would be now), “Your Own Special Way” combines many of the groups strengths, a clutch Collins vocal, scads of atmosphere from Banks, and a gauzey, high class melody.

The instrumental “Wot Gorilla” is credited to Banks and Collins. Banks does some adventurous razzle-dazzle on the synths, a bit of a surprise, given his usually calm soloing even in the most flipped out pieces. Banks’ sudden jolt of juice may have a lot to do with Collins’ simian-like pounding on his kit, pressuring Banks to let go. “Wot Gorilla” is a bit inconsequential, but its not offensive, and at 3:20, it’s the right length.

“All In A Mouse’s Night” another Banks solo writing credit, briefly gets into some nice Yes-like syncopation during the choruses, but during the verses its one of those disjointed searching for a beat nightmares with a lot of cymbal abuse. At one point, as Collins is talking about “a ten foot tall monster mouse,” Banks launches into a Chiller Theater theme fit for The Phantom of the Opera, further adding to the songs kitchen sink approach. Where’s my mouse trap?.

Hackett gets to introduce “Blood on the Rooftops” with a dash of fanciful acoustic fingering. Couple Hackett’s flameco flourishes with the rest of the group’s decidedly Elizabethian mood and you’ve got an intriguing clash of styles. The instrumental “Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers” mixes eerie thermin sounding synths and trailing acoustic guitar, making it a great soundtrack for a ghost story or a remake of….“Wuthering Heights!” “In That Quiet Earth,” which quickly follows, is neither quiet or earthy, a landslide of musical conflict. Collins sets a wicked pace, Hackett buffets the ears, and Banks is back in his prog-soaked soloing routine. So much for Hackett’s ideas being ignored; he’s all over this too, trying to figure out what to play. “Afterglow” picks up the album’s credibility again. It’s a gallant, proud ballad by Banks with a chorus of saintly backing vocals and a pleading lead from Collins.

More Wuthering…The Extras
The second CD/DVD for “Wind and the Wuthering” contains the continuation of a 2006 band interview focusing on the album. Rutherford admits he felt the album was one of their weaker efforts, mainly because it was dense, with complicated instrumetal passages dominated by Banks’ keyboards. Banks agrees: “Virtually every track requires a bit of listening to.” Hackett, on the verge of quitting the band, relates he felt intimidated by Banks and Rutherford’s talent as songwriters.

The lip-synched footage from “The Mike Douglas Show” is grainy and Collins doesn’t get to the mike before the records starts, but it does show that the seemingly square Douglas had a way with the rock and roll acts that played on his show. (Douglas once managed to get John Lennon to co-host the show for a week. Too bad he brought Yoko with him.)

“Wind and Wuthering” is rife with all the pretentious noodling that gives progressive rock a bad rep. When the band tackles the faster-paced lengthy material such as “The Eleventh Earl of Mar” and “All in a Mouse’s Night” the hither and yon desire of the boys to try and fit every riff they know into one song causes the album to lose its direction. It’s the calmer pieces that make gell, have a sense of melody and keep Phil Collins from having to sing like a Vienna Choir boy on his third latte at Starbucks. Stick to the quiet stuff and you’ll find your own special way with plenty of happy wuthering.

And Then There Were Three (3 out of 5 stars)
Talk about a literal title. After Steve Hackett’s departure, the group continued as a trio. They had wuthered original guitarist Anthony Phillips departure and Peter Gabriel’s abandonment, so who’d miss a guitarist that seldom soloed? Since Collins wasn’t a full-time writer, the weight of composing the material fell to Banks and Rutherford, who could have rehashed bits of “Wind and Wuthering.” But “…And There Were Three” is infused with….melody!

“Down and Out” continues the Genesis trade mark of starting off with a fast-paced opener that spurts and stutters more than Mel Tills delivering a commencement address. “Undertow” has Banks’ trademark bits of romanticism, the grand piano figures, sweeping mellotron and grandiose drumming from Collins. It flows and flourishes because it’s a song – no crazed detours, just verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

The group-written “Ballad of Big” throws the band back into pick-a-rthymn mode. It begins as a percussive cousin of The Beatles “Old Brown Shoe,” turns into an organ based march, and it’s back to “Old Brown Shoe.” You get the picture, the two sections don’t mesh. Big mistake.

“Snowbound” drifts in on a brief icy chill on mellotron from Banks before Collins begins to quietly emote. An avalanche of sound will set you back in your chair as Collins pleads, “Pray for the snowman, oh, what a snowman. They say a snow year’s a good year, filled with the love of all who lie so deep.” There’s a touch of “Ripples” in the wintry mix, but since “Ripples” was a classic Genesis track, “Snowbound” at least stands a snowball’s chance of warming your musical cockels. Banks pushing the arrangement skyward on the keys higher than a skier going airborne off a 50 foot jump will give you chills.

Banks’ “Burning Rope” begins with his usual dramatic flourish that earmarked him for a future scoring films. “Burning Rope” also has a wintry feel as Rutherford steps forward to give a fitting, not flashy, series of solos. On “Many Too Many” Banks breaks out the grand piano balancing it against Collins’ pleading vocal and weepy synths. Rutherford sneaks in another competant solo that doesn’t stray to far from the melody as the song fades out.

Nonsensical lyrics about the bad things children envision during our dreams inhabit “Scenes From A Night’s Dream.” The flood of clumsy imagery conjured up by “poor little Nemo” trashes the overall enjoyment of the song, but the boys are playing like a band with a more steady cadence, instead of their usual car-wreck beat. “Little Nemo rubbed his eyes and got out of bed, trying hard to piece together a broken dream. His visions lifelike and full of imagination, It’s strange to think they came from such a tiny head.” And it’s scary this nightmare came from three grown men.

“Say It’s Alright Joe” drifts like a sad drunk leaning over a bar, its identity dependant Banks’ whispy piano. The band returns to mixing a soft melody and with a Sonny-Liston sized chorus as Collins’ voice slams against Banks’ wall of sound. Genesis would learn by their next album not to mix incongruent styles…But for now, say it ain’t so, Phil.

They didn’t learn fast enough, because the good wood on bass from Rutherford and a lazer-like solo from Banks are sacrificed as filler for “The Lady Lies.” “Lady” is dragged down by the band’s insistance at grafting several styles together to make a song as attractive as Harvey Fierstein in drag. This lady not only lies, she ain’t no lady.

With a resounding “Where the hell did this come from?” “Follow You, Follow Me” politely bounces in. Collins doesn’t overpower, Banks’ solo doesn’t drift, and there are lyrics you can follow (or you can follow me). This group-written ballad, their biggest hit to date, signaled more accessible material – and worldwide acceptance – was just an album away.

And Then There Were Extras
The band interviews for the album address Hackett’s departure and the bonding of the remaining members as a trio. Collins gives an amusing perspective on Hackett’s flight, laughing about being the last one to learn Hackett was leaving, even though he had just given the unsually mute guitarist a ride to the studio. Rutherford still seems surprised at how easy it was to write “Follow You, Follow Me,” (“We were getting better at writing short songs”), while Collins, a charter jazz drummer, feels vindicated that the members of Weather Report loved the song, playing it on their tour bus. (Weather Report’s drummer, Chester Thompson would later serve as Genesis’ tour drummer.)

There’s a warning about the quality of degraded picture for “Three Dates With Genesis” a BBC documentary shot in 1978, but it does improve the further along it gets – either that or my eyes need Lasix surgery. The lengthy documentary gives you the genesis of Genesis, including shots of actor Phil Collins as the Artful Dodger at age 14. Mostly it focuses on the background personnel, the stage crew, managers and seemingly faceless minions that put together the group’s tours.

A pensive Collins shows he’s learned how to milk the mike in the promotional video for “Many Too Many,” while “Follow You, Follow Me” turns the camera on a tacturn Banks, who stares straight ahead like a squinting U-Boat Captain eyeing his prey, his hands seemingly in the same position they’ve always been in all the videos. The performance vidoes don’t have a lot of movement, but will be interesting artifacts for devout fans.

“And Then There Were Three” is an improvement over the occassional pretentiousness of “Wind and the Wuthering,” with the band edging toward shorter songs and Collins lessening his banshee vocals. Call it a transition album with some very pleasant “undertows.”

Duke (3.5 out of 5 stars)
The band comes in with it’s practiced introductory fanfare for “Behind The Lines,” as Banks unfurls a blanket of synthsizers, Rutherford sneaks in with a short competant guitar passages and Collins shows why he was one of the 80s most in demand drummers, his touch commanding and lyrical. Unlike on past albums, this opening tune is worth revisting. Phil Collins had recorded a version of the song with an R & B feel with the Earth, Wind and Fire horns for “Face Value,” his hugely successful 1981 solo album. Minus the horns, this version doesn’t have Phil’s R & B kick, but this is Genesis we’re talking about, kids, not Soul Train, so if your toes even hint at any movement that’s a big deal.

With a slight bow to third world music (via a drum machine), “Dutchess” sneaks on a simple conga beat that sustains in the background throughout the song, which features variations on the refrain, “Soon all she had to do was step into the light, for everyone to roar. And all the people cried, you’re the one we’ve been waiting for.” An overlooked gem, “Dutchess” received its due in concert, with Collins once again manning the drum machine.

Dutchess segues into “Guide Vocal,” which is short on time (1:35!), but long on bitterness. “Man of Our Times” is one of those screamers the boys always muck up with too many chord changes. Given a sturdy platform by Banks whipping keyboards and Collins’ submachine gun drumming, it falls victim to Collins’ over-reaching screams, which are buried in the mix, but still manages to inject unspeakable pain during the verses. It’s not as unlistenable as past failures, but I’m sure you’d rather do time than listen to“Man of Our Times’ again.

“Misundertstanding,” a Collins track intended for his first solo effort, wound up being one of the most popular cuts on the album. The saga of a break up (if rock stars didn’t get divorced after every tour what would they write about?), it belies the nasty feelings between Collins and his spouse by couching the theme in a cheerful shuffle. The new mix gives you an opportunity to hear there were indeed bass lines in Genesis’ material.

It’s back to rambling in “Heathaze.” Given his immenent divorce, Collins should have been able to tap into the song’s intended sadness, instead he sounds as if he’s not only in a haze, he’s in a saliva dripping coma.

“Turn it On Again,”another popular FM radio tune, hit #8 in Britain. Collins drives the song on drums and dominates with susinct vocal, and cha-cha back ups capturing the narrator’s paranoia. Rutherford’s harp-like guitar cues Collins wanting vocal for “Alone Again Tonight.” A slight tune lyrically, it takes it weight from the thudding sadness of Collins’ drumming and Banks distant, crying keyboards. “Cul de Sac” is the tale of a doomed regiment -- the English soldier as martyr. There are elements of the battlefield in the music. Collins throws in a brief march, and Banks assaults his keyboards like a prickly Keith Emerson being told he has to report to the draft board. It’s an energetic, forgettable waste.

“Please Don’t Ask” is one of those rare Genesis songs that someone in the group lived – in this case, it’s Collins again, relaying the disbelief that his marriage is an irretrevable mess. Genesis would occasionally bury or obscure their lyrics behind Collins strong-armed drumming or banks of Banks’ keyboards. In “Please Don’t Ask” the lyrics are the very reason the song exists; it’s classic case of using personal tragedy to create unforgettable art: “Please don’t ask me hwo I feel, I feel fine. Oh I cry a bit, I don’t sleep too good, but I’m fine. When can I see you? When can I touch you?”

“Duke’s Travels” is a gadget filled marathon instrumental lead by Banks (who else was going to solo?), and totals over eight plus minutes, at least eight of which are unecessary, before giving way to “Duke’s End,” a variation on the opening strains for “Behind the Lines” – aha, the music’s gone full circle.

Put Up Your Dukes…The Extras
In the band interviews the ever-candid Rutherford confesses if “Duke” hadn’t been a success the band might not have continued. (He and Banks had recorded solo albums while Collins was sorting out his marital problems before recording his first solo album.) Rutherford points out that collaborating produced a more cohesive radio-friendly sound. Banks and Rutherford note that Collins was a better singer and song writer by now and had begin taking charge of the band’s sound. Collins, always glib and informative reveals that “Misunderstanding” was based on The Beach Boy’s “Sail On Sailor” and Toto’s “Hold The Line,” and is proud he nicked such good tunes.

The promotional videos situate the band back at the piano again, or driving aimlessly. If not for Collins’ facial expressions, there would be little to look at. Even the Ricky Ricardo classic car he drives in “Misunderstanding” could use a little more sprucing up.

The concert footage shot at The Lyceum in London in 1980, includes "Behind the Lines", "Duchess", "Guide Vocal", "In the Cage", "Afterglow", "Dance on a Volcano" and "Los Endos.” With the addition of guitarist Darryl Streumer and long-time concert drummer Chester Thomson, the band’s confident and tight. Thompson and Collins have a drum war and make a much more in synch duo than the wan pairings of The Allman’s Jai Johnny Johansen/Butch Trucks or The Dead’s Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzman.

There could be no misunderstanding. With “Duke” Genesis was continuing to peel away the remaining heathaze of their bloated Phillips/Gabriel/Hackett days. Take the Duke behind the lines and give it a good listen. You’ll turn it on again.

Abacab (3.5 out of 5 stars)
“Abacab” marks the completion of the group’s transformation into FM darlings and concert area champs. As the band streamlined its sound, Collins refined the tone in his drums, using reverb, compression and noise gates to create a hollow and authoritative percussive effect. When Phil played, fans listened.

Give Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins credit for sustaining the title track’s foundation. Rutherford could have easily laid down a long winded guitar solo, but oustide of a short, willowy burst, he leaves the heavy lifting to the more accomplished Banks. Collins’ compressed percussion bangs like garbage men mangling trash cans, but stays within the song’s framework. And Banks comes through with one of his more engaging techno gone wild passages, imitating seagull calls and electric current.

“No Reply At All” is given a soulful goosing by the Earth, Wind and Fire horns, Collins’ aid de camp on his solo efforts. Genesis cool? Yes, they can pull off having a sense of rythmn every so often. The horns really fill this out, punching through the arrangement like Muhammed Ali’s world-class jab. In the remixed version, you can now hear the hand claps that were muffled in the past, and the James Jamerson bass that takes a prominent role in this tip of the beret to Motown.

“Me and Sarah Jane” is slow and as creepy as a dirty old man in a trenchcoat rubbing his nose on his sleeve. Initiated by a drum machine, it has more off-kilter Peter Gabriel Genesis influences, particularly the bad acid trip atmosphere that goes too far off course to make the pertinent. Once again Genesis shows how to make a long , showy piece unattractive. Keep it simple, guys.

“Keep It Dark” is a keeper – with robotic keyboards from Banks that cooly match Collins deliberate thumping and jangly junkyard percussion that works well against the automated back track.

The boys went out on a limb with “Dodo/Lurker,” a tribute to an extinct prehestoric bird (a metaphor for one of the writers perhaps?). The beat is ponderous and preditory, with Banks’ keys carrying the threatening weight of villiany against Collins’ mechanical vocal and lurking percussion. Collins gives a lesson in backfilling empty spaces, whacking and thwacking at his kit as if trying to either summon the ancient creature to life or beat it into a fossil. “Lurker,” the second part of the medley, would have been better off if it had carried on with “Dodo”’s ominous theme. “Lurker” trips over Banks’ goofball keyboards and a short tour guide rap by Collins. If the two titles had been reversed this Pee Wee Herman funhouse reject might have made more sense. It should have been called “The Shirker” because it really doesn’t really lurk so much spaz its way through the speakers, jeopardizing the credible ground work laid down by “Dodo.”

The question concerning “Who Dunnit?” should be “Why’d they do it?” This is another arty piece gone complety astray, and is quite possibly the worst song Genesis ever committed to vinyl. The lines “Was it you or was it me” and “I didn’t do it” are repeated until you’ll scream “You did it and you should be $#!!*!! ashamed!” Hard to fathom that it took all three members to write this pouting waste of space that’s more annoying than a diarrhea-filled baby on a 13-hour plane ride.

“Man on the Corner” restores “Abacab”’s direction. There’s more use of a drum machine against Banks’ subdued keyboards and Collins’ pensive lyrics about a loner. It’s time to give Collins credit for writing some of the group’s more accessible material.

“Like It Or Not” is a more animated extension of “Man On A Corner.” The theme is the same..loss. It has a plesant but forgettable plodding beat, and serves as an excuse for writer Mike Rutherford to take a brief solo. Collins vamps well on vocals, giving it his throat- tearing best, but the song is still pointless. You may like it or not, but chances are you’ll be in the or not category.

On “Put Another Record On” Collins slaps at his high hat and initiates a multi-tracked beat that excels during the chorus. It’s an atypical beat that employees an atypical harmonium back up by Banks. Mixed together, battling Bamks and clobbering Collins resemble a prog version of the White Stripes. “Record” has stones that a lot of their later material lacked and is more rock their usual spacey material.

“Abacab” is the album where the trio distilled the formula that would set the chart ablaze. Old school Genesis fantatics were less than pleased by the addition of horns, the sound of Collins’ booming drums, and the more commercial compositions, but the fact was Genesis had trimmed away the fat and was all the more successful for it.

Extra Tracks CD (3 out of 5 stars)
With all the time Genesis spent in the studio between 1976 and 1991, there were a lot of tracks left off of albums and a brace of singles that had no collective home…until now.

“Paperlate” continued the group’s string of hits with Collins at the helm and the Earth Wind and Fire Horms juicing up the groove. Given its R& B roots, it’s a very un-Genesis track. Although its credited to all three members, it has a decidedly Collins influence, with Banks and Rutherford serving as sidemen. Leave it to Collins to create his own lexicon and turn it into a hit (he is after all only talking about his newspaper not being on time). It was Collins who made the world wonder what the heck “Sussudio” was, and while we were dancing to it, Phil was cashing hefty royality checks.

A delicate sweeping ballad that should have found a home on one of the regular releases, “Evidence of Autmn” wound up as the B-side for “Misunderstanding.” The group composed “Pigeons” is Tin Pan alley material remincicent of Collins’ chirpy “I’m Not Moving” from his first solo album “Face Value.” Collins’ vo-do-de-oh-do megaphone vocal and the happy feel belie it being another tale of paranoia.

“You Might Recall” lives off of Collins’ r & b paced vocal: “Everyday seemed like summertime, when the river flowed like wine.” One lover questions another whether he made the right choices. Life imitating art again? It’s a song about marital discomfort, but the boys play it smart by giving “You Might Recall” a carefree, inviting arrangement.
“Naminanu” sounds as if it was named after a whale, but it’s the title of an instrumetal with third world influences, attempted jazzy bits on guitar. It won’t do much to disway the notion that the band’s instrumentals were throwawys.

“Inside and Out” isn’t the same energetic “Inside Out” from Collins’ second solo album “No Jacket Required.” This has a folkie introspective veil, which lifts when Collins enters during he second verse on drums, taking the onus off of Rutherford’s gossamer guitar work. It goes completely starkers for Banks’ mad solo and Rutherford’s sharp Steve Howe-like solo. Oh boy, more mixing and matching of two distinctly different styles.

“Me and Virgil” is the obligatory Englishman interpreting frontier America, a Brit take on “The Weight.” Choppin’ wood, Ma, the big bad world, and Pa. “Pa you broke her heart.” And this’ll break yours too. Stumbling, clumsy and at least two verses too long, the boys realize this is going nowhere and change the theme, coming perilously close to the outro of “Eight Miles High.” This is one the boys will look back on and say “What were we thinking?”

Wintry chording, broad strokes on the keys and an ocillating backdrop highlight “It’s Yourself,” an optomistic, piece of nostalgia that would be at home at a skating rink.

With a bouncy rhytmn track similar to 10CCs “Dreadlock Holiday,”Collins puts the bongos up front in the calypso pop of “Match of the Day,” which describes various ways to spend your Saturdays.

The other tunes are what you might expect from the later dau Genesis, slick, radio-ready and occassionally memborable. There’s even a vocal from Ray Major. the group’s third vocalist, (yes and then there really were three), who had the unenviable task of replacing Collins for 1997’s “Calling All Stations,” the group’s death knell.

Extra’s Extras
The extra features on the last disc are a bit threadbare, but then again after all the special features, videos and commentary and remixes, what’s left to say? You get the lip-synched video for “Paperlate” with a jovial Collins on drums, Rutherford bouncing around on guitar and three pasty blokes standing in on horns in place of Earth, Wind and Fire. They’re probably roadies and they’re actually playing brass instruments that didn’t appear on the song, but what the hell, the guy in the middle is really into his trombone faking, and worth watching all by himself. Air trombone anyone? And yes, Tony Banks still hasn’t learned how to smile on camera.

The extra extras also include brief interviews with Hackett, Collins, Rutherford and Banks explaining and raving over the sound of the reissues, which they certainly have the right to crow about.

Genesis would continue as a trio for three more highly successful albums: “Genesis” (3 ½ stars, featuring tear inducers “It’s Gonna Get Better” and “Taking It All Too Hard”); their apex, “Invisible Touch” (4 stars, with the moody imagery of “In The Glow of The Night” and the scathing politics of “In the Land of Confusion”); and their Collins swan song, “We Can’t Dance” (1 star with the amusing title track the only listenable song). These three platters will undoubtedly get the deluxe treatment in the future. And who knows? Now that the group has reformed for the summer and is filling arenas, can a reunion DVD/CD be far behind? And maybe Tony Banks will finally manage to smile.



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