Classic Rock Review

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Genesis Three Sides Live (1982)

imagesCAUZLNXSFrom johnmcferrinmusicreviews.org

The rating for this album may not be that much higher than the one for Seconds’ Out, but this is a case where numbers can be deceptive. This is a far superior live album to its predecessor – the song selection may not be as theoretically strong, as it relies heavily on the pop-oriented material of the last few albums rather than the classic Gabriel-era material, but the performances are far better as a whole. Rather than butcher classic songs because Phil and Co. felt an obligation to play them (even though Phil just couldn’t handle many of those tracks), the band was able to work with material it had come up with itself and as such felt comfortable performing.

As expected, the first portion draws completely from the last three albums. Moreover, as though the band knew themselves that Three wasn’t so hot, the band relies mostly on Duke (Turn it on Again, Behind the Lines, Duchess, Misunderstanding) and Abacab (Dodo/Lurker, Abacab, Me and Sarah Jane – good boys!). As a result, this portion functions decently as a best-of collection of the recent material. For the most part everything is done equivalently and thus equally well as before, with only Turn it on Again as a little worse (thanks to Phil’s blubbering) and Abacab as a little better (an even more convincing coda). This makes this portion a bit superfluous, sure, but it’s ok.

Ah ha, but just when you thought you’d be in the land of early 80’s pop forever, the band goes back to its prog roots, and in the process creates one of its greatest live calling cards. For whatever reason, In the Cage seems PERFECTLY suited to Phil’s vocal style here, as he gives a heated delivery that retains all the firey emotion of the original and then some. The band then expands the song into a medley, bringing out the ending portion of Cinema Show (which sounds much less annoying here than on Second’s Out) mixed with parts of THE COLONY OF SLIPPERMEN, and even with a quote from Riding the Scree. And then it all ends with a fine rendition of Afterglow, which is far better than the studio version, thanks to a vocal workout that actually shows some real passion. It sounds so good here, honestly, that my mind has settled on the idea that the rightful place for Afterglow was always at the end of this medley, and not as the Wind closer.

After the fadeout from Afterglow, the album splits in two, between the American and British releases. The American version was true to the title – the first three sides of the album are live, while the fourth contains five studio tracks. The British version, on the other hand, eschews the studio numbers for two live tracks from a ’78 show and even one from the ’76 tour (with Hackett on guitar! Alright!). The British version made it onto CD, but that doesn’t matter here – thanks to the miracle of mp3’s, I’m able to have BOTH fourth sides at my disposal. Hence both sides will get some thoughts.

The live side is of mixed quality. On the one hand, it opens with the full ten minutes of One for the Vine, which sickens me as I imagine all sorts of idiotic people who think they’re intelligent and deep swaying back and forth in a psuedo-meditative fashion as if they’ve been somehow been touched by this grand performance. Kinda like all the hicks I saw around when Kansas opened for Yes at a show I saw in 2000 … But anyway. The other two live tracks rule something fierce. Simply based on clarity of production, one could easily argue that this runthrough of Fountain of Salmacis surpasses the original – the mix isn’t so annoyingly bass-heavy, after all. And again, SHOCKINGLY good vocals from Phil – I guess he had worked hard at making himself not so unbearable on the older stuff.

The absolute peak of it all, though, comes at the end. it is done fabulously, at a faster clip than originally and Hackett obviously enjoying his slight release from studio bondage. But then as you expect the song to just fade out normally with Phil improvising over the “it’s only knock and know all” coda, out of nowhere comes the majestic organs of Watcher of the Skies and some cries of Hackett guitar. The applause that pops up from this is fully justified, I think – the effect is amazingly seamless, and it’s just so nice to hear the ending chunk of Watcher again.

The studio side, on the other hand, is kinda mediocre. Paperlate is in the vein of No Reply at All (mostly because of the horns), and while it’s nowhere near as idiosyncratic, it has some clear power, and overall it’s a good song. You Might Recall shows a BIT of promise here and there, but doesn’t fulfill it, Me and Virgil is just clumsy as hell, and Open Door is another in Rutherford’s row of guitar-based ballads, but not one that suggests his gift was still there. Evidence of Autumn, however, is AWESOME, though I overlooked it at first. I initially thought it had a pleasant enough atmosphere but no hooks, but I wouldn’t dream of it: the hooks are definitely there, just a little hard to dig up, and in addition to the gorgeous atmosphere it also has a totally unexpected upbeat piano part in the middle as a contrast.

But again, the studio side is irrelevant to today’s consumer, as the only available version is the one with the fourth live side. And that version is a good little album – not one you really need, and certainly not worth the more than $20 charged for it, but a good album nonetheless.

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March 15, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Three Sides Live |

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