Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Genesis Three Sides Live (1982)


This has gotta be the world’s most deceptive album title – double deceptive, actually. Originally, Three Sides Live in its American issue was just as it billed itself – three sides of the album were recorded live on the band’s 1981 tour, and the fourth side was comprised of five contemporary studio cuts. I’ve never heard these, although Genesis fans usually don’t think much of them, except for the single ‘Paperlate’. However, the British version of the album had all four sides live, with the fourth side dumping the studio cuts and replacing them with some more ‘archive’ live recordings, taken from the band’s performance at Knebworth in 1978 and at a gig recorded as early as 1976 (which means you have Steve Hackett on one cut!!). Since then we stepped into the CD age, and it was the British release that made it onto the CD. Now we have a double deception, heh heh: not only are there four sides live, there aren’t even any sides. They should have renamed it Two Discs Live! Next time, choose your album title more carefully and with regards to the future, guys.

[Sidenote: I still don’t quite understand why it wasn’t possible, given the CD format, to put both the American and the British side onto the re-issue. Even if the band themselves thinks that the studio cuts were crappy, completists would still want ’em. Why give the bootleggers a chance? Sheez.]

Anyway, onwards to the music. Three Sides Live clearly can’t be anywhere near as disappointing as Seconds Out, as by now the band had stepped firmly into their synth-pop era and what with all the material from their last three albums piling up behind them, Phil wasn’t forced any more to sing as much old Gabriel material as he used to. While that might have seriously disappointed the fans (there are, in fact, hilarious tales about Phil being nearly booed off stage several times for singing ‘pop crap’, when he bravely confronted the audience telling ’em to fuck off if they didn’t like the new material), this certainly guarantees you a safe and sound listening process. No clenched fists and yells about how you’d like to wring Collins’ neck for displacing the ‘Rael Imperial Aerosol Kid!’ line or for ruining the whole atmosphere of ‘I Know What I Like’.

The downside of this is that I seriously doubt if I’ll ever get a need to put on the first disc of this package again. The seven songs on there just replay the studio originals note-for-note, with differences so minor that I don’t want to even waste my time on comparisons. The only thing I noticed was Phil’s stupid near-scat singing on ‘Turn It On Again’ which finally proved to me that one thing Mr Collins has to always steer away from is improvisation. He’s really a humble, insecure, not tremendously expressive bald chap who has enough trouble as it is to sound nice and pleasing on the studio recordings; every time he tries to sing something different in a live setting, he just falls flat. That said, the rest of the song is played perfectly. And the selection ain’t at all bad – I could definitely do without the boring ‘Duchess’, but ‘Dodo’, ‘Abacab’, and ‘Me & Sarah Jane’ are three of the best cuts from Abacab, right? ‘Behind The Lines’ makes a nice interlude, and ‘Follow You Follow Me’ brings the album to a nice close. And that’s it. You’ll never want to listen to these two sides again.

Disc 2 is significantly different, though, and makes the purchase well worth owning. The “Third Side”, also comprised of 1981 recordings, gives all of you your favourite pop song (‘Misunderstanding’, of course! What other pop song are you ready to kill your mother for?) with some more idiotic blubbering from Phil in the end, and your favourite Lump of Emotion in ‘Afterglow’. However, it also has an excellent rendition of ‘In The Cage’, preserving all the tension and all the subtle mood shifts, with a complex and engaging instrumental coda borrowing elements from ‘The Cinema Show’.

Finally, the infamous “fourth side” is the grand prize you’ve all been waiting for. Er… then again, maybe not quite the grand prize – you’ll have to sit through the entire ten minutes of ‘One For The Vine’. Yep, you’ll have to tolerate that one, or maybe just skip through it. But pay some attention to the fast instrumental mid-section: instead of the complex drum pattern found on the studio original, Banks replaces it with cute ‘popping’ synth-noises that are quite hilarious in their own way. And then comes the really cool stuff: a grand live version of the immortal classic ‘Fountain Of Salmacis’. Gabriel or no Gabriel on vocals, this is a beautiful version; actually, don’t forget that the original, found on Nursery Cryme, boasted piss-poor production, and if you weren’t aware that the song has beautiful vocal and instrumental melodies and some actual hooks, here’s the place to prove it.

Finally, the band fizzles out with a 1976 recording of ‘It’. Real Hackett on real guitar! Total ecstasy and, like, rock nirvana. You know. ‘It is here, it is now…’. And in a fit of geniality, the band merges it with an instrumental section of ‘Watcher Of The Skies’, as Tony gets on the Mellotron and seamlessly leads the band from the closing glorious chords of ‘It’ into the ethereal vastness of ‘Watcher Of The Skies’. This is grand, and reason enough to own the album if you’re not overpaying. As superfluous as Three Sides Live essentially is, there’s no question that out of all the Collins-era live albums from Genesis, this is the one to own.

Oh! And what’s with the Who/Rory Gallagher reference of the album cover? Not only were these guys befuddling the customers’ brains with double releases of the same album, they were also trying to make it look like a bootleg! Probably so that the customers would blame all the confusion on poor innocent bootleggers. Hear, hear. What a cruel scheme to take revenge on a bunch of nice people

March 1, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Three Sides Live |

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