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Genesis Archive Vol. 1 1967 – 1975

3944From johnmcferrinmusicreviews.org

A terrific example of what a boxset should be. Many boxsets aren’t much more than glorified greatest hits packages (Time Traveller). Other boxsets take an even more annoying approach, as they try to be both “best of” albums and a collection of unreleased rarities, trying to satisfy both casual and hardcore fans but not fully pleasing either (30 Years of Maximum R&B, Yesyears). But Genesis and their record company got it right with this one. All tracks here were previously unreleased – some are outtakes, some are demos, and most is live material from the Gabriel era that never made it onto album (in other words, no overlaps with Genesis Live.)

The most infamous asset of the boxset comprises the first two discs of the four disc set – an official recording (in fact, the only official recording from the tour) of a show from the Lamb tour. Not surprisingly, there aren’t that many differences between this and the studio incarnation, but it’s still worth a listen or two. The biggest difference is that, while he’s still not quite as involved as he was on England, Hackett gets much more freedom to color the sonic landscape here than he did in the studio. The stretch from Anyway through The Lamia, in particular, is quite ear-catching compared to before. As for Gabriel, given that he had to sing while wearing some insane costumes (you have got to see the Slippermen costume!), it’s no surprise that his singing often isn’t quite as powerful as you’d expect. In fact, Gabriel was sufficiently disappointed in the way his voice turned out that when the archive was being compiled, he went in and re-recorded some of his parts.

Oh, and speaking of re-recording – apparently, the tape ran out during this show, and so the band had no choice but to reunite for this boxset and present a new recording of it. And it sounds great. It’s surprising, but Gabriel’s voice, if anything, has only gotten better over the years. His voice is richer than ever, and his vocals roar through the song in a way that far surpasses the original’s. It also is nice to hear that the band can still pull off their parts as well as ever – Hackett is very active, and Collins punches out the difficult rhythms of the piece as if he had stayed a drummer forever … (note: I’ve already been sent comments correcting me on this, which are posted below, so don’t bother sending more anymore telling me I’m a dumb dumb for not knowing it’s just a re-recorded vocal).

While the first two discs get the most attention, my personal favorite has to be the third disc – a collection of various other live tracks from the Gabriel era (plus three studio tracks). The entire first half of England is presented in a live format, and while the tracks lack some polish (due to lack of studio production, obviously), they are just as powerful and funny and moving as before. But those aren’t all! There’s a *drumroll* live Supper’s Ready! Huzzah! And for those of you who want some obscurity – Stagnation!

The three studio tracks on this disc are of mixed quality, but of interest to hardcore fans nonetheless. Twilight Alehouse is a lost classic, a Trespass-era number recorded during the Foxtrot sessions. It has a number of interesting themes that somehow manage to gel together despite all logic, and the ending instrumental section is eerie as hell (indeed, over time, it’s easily become one of my five favorite Genesis tracks). It’s no wonder, then, that it was a stage favorite of the band. The other two songs, on the other hand, aren’t so great. Happy the Man is a hilariously dippy song that should never have been released as a single, and the *single version* of Watcher of the Skies (*cough*) is such a hackjob that it’s only enjoyable from a humor standpoint.

The fourth disc takes us back to the whee days of the band, and reminds us what a nice band this was all along. Even when they weren’t writing about Giant Hogweeds. The demo versions of some FGTR tracks may be enough to convert haters of that album based on its production – stringless, there is nothing to obfuscate the incredible melodies of pieces like The Wilderness and One Day. And some of them started out as completely different creatures than what they became – for instance, did you know that The Serpent was originally called She is Beautiful? The hook of the song went – “She is beautiful, very beautiful, look at her. She is a model!” In Hiding also had a different character once, as a pretty instrumental called Patricia.

Most of the other songs on the disc aren’t that great, though. They all have the wide-eyed charm that permeates the FGTR songs, but without instantly memorable hooks. I like the cute Going Out to Get You, and I always find the beginning of Sea Bee pretty, but ehn. Not bad, but I always want to whiz back to When the Sour Turns to Sweet etc.

All in all, though, this is a very enjoyable boxset for a Genesis hardcore like myself. Don’t buy it as a beginner with the expectation of it converting you, though – that’s not its purpose.

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March 13, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Archives Vol 1 1967-1975 |

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