Classic Rock Review

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Genesis Duke (1980)


Alright, if you did not immediately hear the opening synth chords to “Behind the Lines” after looking at this album cover, you are not a proper Genesis fan! I happen to own two vinyl copies of this album; one has been through Hell on someone’s turntable, and the other well preserved. While I also have a copy on my computer, I first heard “Behind the Lines” …on a Phil Collins album.

After …And Then There Were Three what deserves to be the most famous divorce in music happened, and Phil Collins went through every emotional change possible. In 1977, he was the drummer who happened to take Peter Gabriel’s place as the Genesis lead singer. In 1981, when Face Value was released, Phil Collins was well on his way to becoming a household name. Had Collins not been distressed enough to leave Genesis and begin working on solo material, we probably would not have the same bald singer today. In fact, we probably would not have Duke.

To my ears, Duke’s narrative screams of someone going through a midlife crisis. You have terrible breakups, stalking, self-realization, and a search for something meaningful in life, but written by all the members of Genesis (Collins would not be a predominant lyricist until the group saw the success of his first solo record). The late seventies and early eighties was a turning point for everyone, musically, politically, and socially, so Duke was not only setting trends, it showed the group in a web of confusion. What can we do next? Is this the new sound?

Synthesizers as eighties pop radio knew them had not been fully realized when they first began to show up on albums in the late seventies. While The Human League, The Cure, The Police, and other groups were experimenting, Genesis probably revolutionized this new sound. I would not bet an internal organ on that, but perhaps one of my copies of Duke. All that aside, listening in the new millennium to “Behind the Lines” may sound like any popular record from the 1980’s, but it is a lot different from what would follow through the years. Tony Banks certainly abused the sound throughout the record, but could actually play, unlike the simple chord maneuvers heard from top 40 bands.

Phil Collin’s drum sound on Duke is not the classic sound most eighties fans are used to. While he developed the gate drum technique with Peter Gabriel the same year, with Genesis he had a much more natural sound. Anyone who has heard “Return of the Giant Hogweed” knows Collins can play drums insanely well, but Collins never abandoned that part of his style. Genesis would later incorporate the drums like lead guitar, but Duke has many moments without any beats, or a drum machine droning on. The main attraction to Collins would come from his voice. Every time I hear “Turn It On Again” I get chills, because Collins proves he is one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time each time he opens his mouth. Through somewhat growling, often smooth lines of grief, Phil is the quintessential voice of a generation.

Mike Rutherford, probably the most underrated member of the band, becomes more of a guitarist on Duke. Previously, before Steve Hackett left, Rutherford focused on bass playing and the occasional twelve-string part. While Rutherford admits to being a guitar player first, his bass lines are always inventive and smooth. “Heathhaze” and “Cul-de-Sac” are dripping with incredible, perhaps innovative, bass, but it is evident that Rutherford was coming out of his shell with lead guitar. The lush chords of “Duchess” and “Please Don’t Ask” with the virtuosity of “Behind the Lines” and “Dukes End” definitely show Rutherford as a genius in his own right. While I am not fond of his solo material, or Mike and the Mechanics, within Genesis, Mike is a key ingredient.

Genesis never sold out at any point, and no one will kill you for liking Duke or their later albums. This is a Progressive Rock classic, in a decade where all the bands from the seventies, such as King Crimson, Rush, and Yes, were buying chorus pedals and digital keyboards. I cannot diminish what those bands did, as I love them too, but Genesis stands apart. They were more popular, but still technically inclined.

March 1, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Duke |


  1. Not to be a prude, but why is my review on this site? I did not give permission for you to post this.

    Comment by Patrick Aei | March 5, 2014 | Reply

    • do you want me to remove it?

      Comment by Jerry | April 9, 2014 | Reply

      • Jerry, I don’t mind the exposure, but I would’ve prefered an email in advance.

        Comment by Patrick Aei | April 11, 2014

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