Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Genesis Selling England By The Pound (1973)


If this isn’t the greatest prog album of all time, then I don’t know what is. I must have heard it well over 100 times, and it continues to fascinate me. No other record in my collection or out of my collection (that I’m aware of) contains such a rich variety of arresting textures, hooky melodies, and pure emotion.

I can even say that I get excited about listening to this album in the first two seconds of its opening song, “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” That’s not because I’m particularly thrilled about Peter Gabriel singing a Medieval folk ballad a cappella, but I greatly anticipate the journey that it’s about to take me on. That song is a perfect example of how majestically well Gabriel-era Genesis were able to smoothly interweave a variety of constantly evolving textures and emotions. If I were to play snippets of it in random places, they would seem like they came from completely different songs, but as I’m actually listening to it from beginning to end, everything fits together flawlessly. It’s amazing sitting through that song, and it must be heard to be believed.

Genesis were not only on top of their game as songwriters, but also as instrumentalists. They are even more amazing than they were in Foxtrot! If you want proof of that, you needn’t look further than “Firth of Fifth.” There, you’ll find Peter Gabriel delivering a rather uneasy, somewhat paranoid flute solo, Tony Banks dazzling the crap out of us with a few chord-heavy keyboard solos, and Steve Hackett playing a guitar solo that sounds bigger than the universe. Not only do these solos have a distinct personality, but they’re just as melodic and memorable as one of Peter Gabriel’s vocal melodies, which are as memorable and melodic as Genesis has ever been or will ever be again.

Although not all these epic prog outings are quite so wildly developing. The 11-minute “Cinema Show” starts as one of the most sweetest, gentlest folk songs I’ve ever heard, and it very gradually turns into something more dramatic and thunderous. That’s quite a song, too; it must be the most warmest, nostalgic pieces of music I’ve ever listened to. I can’t help imagining Peter Gabriel singing its fairy tale lyrics to his children on a snowy day by the fireside. Of course he ends up scaring the children with its rather tense and scary ending, but that’s just like all the other fairy tales we were told as kids.

Phil Collins deserves a lot of the flack that he gets, but I don’t quite understand what so many people have against “More Fool Me,” a rather loose, three-minute folk ballad. Sure, it sounds like a demo and it’s not one of the grandiose progressive epics, but it has a catchy melody and Collins’ lead vocals seem genuine and sweet. Any song with those qualities would qualify as a great song in my book.

I am about as attached to this album as a pet owner is attached to a pet, and it’s impossible for me to try to imagine what my life would have been like without it. Whether I listened to it passively while driving in the car or listening to it intensely with my headphones, it have always greatly treasured its diversions as I soak up its rich variety of textures. Sometimes the album sweet and angelic and other times it’s tense and dramatic; through all its twists and turns, I’ve always manage to hold onto its every move.

I think you might have guessed it by this point, but Selling England By the Pound is one of my favorite albums of all time. I didn’t even get to talk about everything I wanted to in the main portion of this review! But instead of making this review twice as long as it already is, I figure I’d better shut up and give you a chance to experience it for yourselves. If you haven’t heard this album before, then don’t let another second go by. If you have heard it and you thought it was boring (which is a fairly common reaction), then I urge you to take another close and unhindered listen. If there’s even an inkling of a chance that you might come to see the treasures I see in this that I see, then your efforts would surely pay off.

April 4, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Selling England By The Pound |

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