Classic Rock Review

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Genesis Archives 1967-75 (1996)


1998 must have been a red letter year for true-blue, Genesis fans. The five titans of the group, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, and Michael Rutherford, got together and assembled this awesome, four-disc box set. The first three discs predominantly contain material taken from live shows (that weren’t also included on Genesis Live).

Part of the third disc and all of the fourth disc contain non-album singles, demos, and an assortment of early, unreleased songs. There are 52 songs on this collection in total. Indeed, sitting through this album is a project. However, speaking as someone who not only listened to this entire collection, but wrote a track review for every single one of them, I’ll tell you…… I had a blast!

The first thing you should note about it is that the first two discs contain a live rendition of the entire rock opera, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. They play its songs very similarly to how they were played in the studio album. It’s a valid criticism that it makes it a pointless collection to own, because it’s essentially an inferior version of it.

…However, I appreciate it, because I like to marvel that they were able to capture so many of those delicate textures from the album in that live setting. (With that said, there were parts that had to be rerecorded in 1998 due to technical problems with the original recording. Notably for the album closer, “It,” Gabriel’s vocals had aged tremendously! Admittedly, it would have been better if they left it alone, but surely the soul of the original shows are still there in full display.) Steve Hackett fans should especially appreciate that he gets to shine a bit more here than he did in the studio cut.

But I’m not going to spend much time talking about the first two discs, because it’s the third disc where the highest concentration of goodies are. Its crown jewel is an entire live rendition of “Supper’s Ready,” a recording that probably should have been included on Genesis Live if only Genesis gave it the proper double album length. But anyway, hearing the band perform it live is fascinating to me, because it has nearly the same effect on me as its studio counterpart.

They were able to recreate that magic on stage? Wow. Those lucky people in the audience! I also love all the Selling England By the Pound selections including “Firth of Fifth,” “More Fool Me,” “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and my personal favorite, “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” All marvelous live renditions (But why did they cut out Tony Banks’ opening piano solo at the beginning of “Firth of Fifth?”)

With that said, probably the most interesting selections of this box set for most Genesis fans are the non-LP studio songs, because they’re brand new to many people. “Twilight Alehouse” was the B-side to “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and it’s quite fantastic! I’d say it would have been a pretty weak fit on Selling England By the Pound, because the transition between its folky beginnings and that strange dance groove comes across as jarring to me.

Certainly it doesn’t develop as gracefully as all the other songs on that album. But anyway, it’s excellent to be able to hear another Genesis song from that era that I never heard before. “Happy the Man” sounds like an attempt for them to get a radio single in 1972. It’s a sweet, sunny pop-rocker with a nice melody… However, it takes a few awkward turns here and there, so it’s not much a shocker that it never took off.

All those early, pre-From Genesis to Revelation tracks on the final disc are certainly interesting to sit through. A few of them are demo versions of songs that would come up later in their discography, such as “In the Beginning,” “In the Wilderness,” and “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet.” But the majority of them had never been released before. Some of them can be quite interesting. “Going Out to Get You” is based on one of the weirdest piano grooves I’ve ever heard… It makes me think more of The Residents than Genesis!

…However, most of the other songs are very simplistic and shows these guys in their most formative years. Some of the material was even recorded as far back as 1967 when Peter Gabriel hadn’t developed confidence a singer yet, and Tony Banks seemed to always just want to pound blocky chords at a cheap sounding piano like an amateur. But I do admit I find these art-nerd teenagers charming! I wonder if they had even an inkling of what would lie ahead in their future?

About the album score, this one was really tough to determine since I believe this is the first time I ever reviewed a box set like this. I could have gone as high as a 13 on this just based on the overall quality of it, but I figure ratings as high as 13s should be reserved for albums. For now, a 12 seems like a perfectly reasonable score. It’s a wonderful collection that all Genesis fans will certainly treasure. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about acquiring it because its length intimidates you, then get off that fence. I was on it until recently, and I’m glad I have finally gotten off of it.

April 3, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Archives Vol 1 1967-1975 |

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