What differences are there between the Gabrielled Genesis and the Gabrielless Genesis? Well, first of all, as one might guess, a Gabrielless Genesis features no Peter Gabriel. That meant that somebody had to replace his showman/singing abilities (the songwriting would be quite modestly handled by those old pals, Mr Banks and Mr Rutherford). After trying out dozens, if not hundreds, of potential candidates, they suddenly found out that the answer was right before them all of this time. Our old friend, Phil the Boomer, rose to the challenge and demonstrated his ability to take the place of Peter. And so begins the Odyssey of Phil Collins and his rapid rise from one of the best drummers in progressive rock to one of the crappiest performers on the adult contemporary scene…
One might note, though, that Phil Collins isn’t really responsible for the song material on this album (nor is he really responsible for the following two albums, for that matter). The compositions are mostly penned by Banks and/or Rutherford, with an occasional collaboration from Collins or Hackett. The latter seems to have been relegated to purely decorative functions. If one complains about the lack of audible guitar on the ‘classic’ 1971-74 Genesis albums, he should throw this stuff away even without looking at it. The little bits of guitar that you might discern aren’t certainly worth a whole band member (moreover, some of them might just as well be played by Rutherford). Sure, Steve gets in one composition of his own (‘Entangled’) and is responsible for some of the most beautiful moments on the album (the breathtaking solo on ‘Ripples’, for instance), but these sound more like a sop hastily thrown to the man by his more ambitious colleagues.
This means that Hackett’s departure in 1977 really made little influence on Genesis – contrary to what many people believe. Poor Steve, he was virtually squeezed out of the band – what you’ll find on here, actually, is a lengthy, 50-minute feast of Banksynth noises. Alas, even when he turns himself to normal pianos, it doesn’t always help. The sound is as uniform and monotonous as it might be, and while the actual melodies still stand out, Genesis seem to be heading more and more in the Kansas direction – and may I remind you that Kansas had built their entire early career on ripping off Genesis. Not to mention that they are among the most boring progressive groups to have ever existed. Granted, the sound might still have been fresh in 1976, but now it just sounds dated – pointless studio gimmickry which sure makes the music sound ‘modern’ (that is, ‘modern’ for 1976), but it sure doesn’t make the music sound entertaining.
Moreover, Phil’s singing is highly disappointing after all those Gabriel cookies – to me, at least. Yes, he does sound like Gabriel, but where are these cute little changes in intonation, these spoken passages, these inspired rambling mutterings? Phil delivers his lines in a boring, monotonous way, and even so he’s often muddied down by the production. His voice is not bad at all, but he isn’t able to model it at all, and just ends up overemoting on each track. From now on, Genesis vocals are crisp and professional, but are no longer a standout.
So… why an eight for this album, then? Well, see, the song material is actually quite strong. Whatever I may hold against Banks, at this point he did know how to turn in a great little tune (on occasion), and, hell, Rutherford was a really talented composer. His beautiful ballad ‘Ripples’, dedicated to the problems of aging, is one of the definite highlights on the record, romantic and tear-jerking, even though a little bit overlong (as a matter of fact, everything on here is overlong: the band just never knew when to shut up). Still, it does have that great solo thrown in by Steve. Other wonders include the tragic anthem of ‘Squonk’, with a charming fantasy story about a little animal who dissolved itself into tears when it was cornered, and the thrilling story of ‘Robbery, Assault, And Battery’ which again plunges us into the world of Genesis-like Britishness (strangely, the lyrical matter evokes the subject of ‘Harold The Barrel’).
Not that the songs are really that British as the album cover, with its Boz-like illustrations, suggests: in fact, without Gabriel there to deliver the lyrics, Banks often ends up sounding as a lame parody on Pete Sinfield (‘Mad Man Moon’ – arguably the worst track on here, an overlong sloppy ballad which doesn’t hold a candle to ‘Ripples’ or, well, ‘Musical Box’, for all my life’s worth; it does have a nice atmosphere to it, though, which is more than I could say about its successor on the next album, the dreadful ‘One For The Vine’). Still, his best composition on the album (title track) should be considered a classic. On ‘A Trick Of The Tail’ everything seems to gel perfectly, maybe for the last time on a Genesis album. The lyrics (a story about a devil who, for some unknown reason, came to seek happiness on Earth) are decent, the melody, a nice shuffle with delicate key changes, is invigorating, and even Phil manages to somehow lift up his spirits on this one. Try it, you’ll like it.
Plus, the other three compositions are okay. ‘Dance On A Volcano’ is anthemic, ‘Entangled’ is, well, entangled, but listenable (watch out for that mighty crescendo at the end – it’s pure heaven when the headphones are on), and the closing ‘Los Endos’ is clever, even if it’s nothing more than an average prog-rock instrumental with snippets of some other tracks and a quote from ‘Supper’s Ready’ inserted at the end. In fact, there’s little offensive stuff on the record, as far as songwriting is concerned. Just imagine how this might have sounded if they’d bother to substitute some of Banks’ tools for, say, a twelve-string? Oh, okay, an extra six-string would easily do, I’m sure.
P.S. Considering one of the reader comments which reflects a widely spread statement, I’d just like to combat one nasty myth: namely, the assertion that after Gabriel’s departure Genesis became more “musically-oriented”. Genesis always paid most of their attention to the music – ‘Supper’s Ready’ and Selling England might have their theatrical moments, but 99% of their charm stems from the actual music. If anything, Genesis became less “theatre-oriented” after Gabriel’s departure, actually, they dropped the ‘rock theatre’ vibe almost in its entirety. But they didn’t ‘compensate’ for it by paying more attention to the music, simply because they couldn’t ever have paid more attention to the music than they did in the Gabriel days. On the contrary, what was so amazing about Gabriel-era Genesis was that they managed to combine ‘rock theatre’ with perfectly written music.
If you complain about your attention being drawn away by Peter’s antics, well, it’s your problem; I, for one, can concentrate either on Gabriel or on the music, whichever I prefer, and therefore consider the early Gabriel-Genesis experience twice as rewarding as whatever followed. Yes, post-1975 Genesis never wrote such mini-show pieces as ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’, but the main charm of these pieces stems from the fact that they are all highly melodic and incorporate blistering musical performances; the music in there is in no way overshadowed by Peter’s delivery. So much for the illusionary “theatrical/musical” Genesis opposition.
Exit Peter Gabriel, enter … actually, nobody. Upon his departure, the band auditioned scores of possible replacements for Pete, but something tells me they weren’t going to choose a new person anyways. After all, no matter how good the replacement might turn out to be, chances are that he would always be looked upon as an inferior ‘outsider’ by the fanbase, and the band would certainly have problems if that occurred. So the band did the only logical thing – they promoted from within the organization. Hence, Phil rose from his drumkit (well, at least in live performances – the studio drumming still is the same wonderful Collins work as ever) and into the position of singer and frontman for the group.
Now, in a lot of ways, this choice seemingly made sense, and not just because he was already a group member. At the most basic level, Phil’s voice isn’t all that different from Peter’s, and so there wouldn’t be as huge of a shock for the listener’s ears upon hearing a new album. Plus, Phil had had the opportunity to sing lead on a couple of songs in the past, and while the efforts weren’t spectacular or anything like that, they certainly weren’t bad. Add in that his backing vocals were often just as important for the vocal harmonies as Peter’s were, and you had yourself an almost textbook choice for a replacement. Right? Right?
Er … sort of, but in a lot of ways, no. The main problem with Phil the lead singer, at least at this point, is that he’s just not that creative in his singing approach. Oh sure, he sounds fine when he’s belting full power, but when the compositions and lyrics call for subtle nuances and variations from line to line, he really comes up short. His singing tone isn’t usually bad mind you, but it’s very monotonous and does little to help draw your attention to the material. Not to mention that traditional Genesis compositions rely heavily on the singer’s ability to hook the listener in, as the arrangments are never chaotic enough a la Yes to be able to get by with just a straightforward vocal “covering,” like what Phil mostly provides here. I wouldn’t want to go so far as to say Phil’s vocals on this album are a weakness, but I would say that this album took what was once one of the band’s greatest strengths and turned it into a relative non-factor.
Then there’s the songs themselves. Best as I can tell, the band members didn’t really wish to try and gallump about for an altogether new stylistic approach like they had on The Lamb. After all, the fans had already undergone one major catastrophic change in Gabriel’s departure, and the last thing they would want would be a total break from the Genesis they had grown to know and love. Hence, while there are certainly some significant changes (not all of them for the better, mind you) from the “classic” style, this album is certainly much more in line with England than with Lamb. But really, that ends up hurting the album a bit – they try to capture the old vibe, but with Peter away, it was gone forever, and trying to recapture it without the requisite parts was ultimately a futile effort. They could now be nothing more than a Genesis imitation (albeit still a really good imitation), and that meant that, however good the album could be, it would have to be the last in that style. Of course, where they ended up was a disaster, but I digress …
There is one really really huge difference between England and Trick, and that is the arrangements. England boasted a perfect balance and meeting point between Tony and Steve, whereas this album continues the Lamb path of tipping the balance well into Tony’s favor. However, while Lamb found Tony’s keys creating ghostly black-and-white paintings of the netherworld, Trick finds Tony’s synths getting just a little too obnoxious in tone for me in places. Steve isn’t invisible, as there are a few parts where he’s clearly in the front of the mix (though it should be noted that his guitar sound on this album, for the most part, is nowhere near as satisfying as on England or on his solo album from a year earlier, Voyage of the Acolyte), but for the most part he’s back to being a featured supporting player (providing good texture as best as he can), and not a lot more. The best example is what happens during his solo in Ripples, as mentioned in the page introduction; of all the moments when Tony should have just scooted into the background, this was it, but instead we get the marring of what should have been one of the all-time beautiful moments in prog rock (for proof of how good this track could be when the guitar was given full emphasis, see Archive 2).
So, after all that complaining, I still give the album an overall B because the actual songs are very good. The only one I’m not especially thrilled about is the rambling Banks “ballad” Mad Man Moon. Granted, it represents a definite break in style and form from Gabriel Genesis, which is an “advancement” I suppose, but I liked that style and form, dang it. The song has some moments that almost leave me thinking they’re beautiful (until I wonder what exactly would distinguish them from plenty of other keyboard-based prog bands), and the song takes a nice turn during the piano breaks and the “hey man, I’m the sand man part,” but the lyrics are unremarkable on the whole, and the song tries too hard for a beauty that just isn’t really there.
But the rest is mostly fabulous – at least, the songs are. As an example, the opening Dance on a Volcano is stricken with annoying *squeak* noises coming from Steve’s guitar in the beginning and some ridiculous tones from Tony’s synths throughout … on the other hand, the synth riff underpinning the vocal melody is absolutely genial, and the main melody itself is nothing to sneeze at either. And of course, there’s later the gorgeous Rutherford ballad Ripples, with Phil’s best vocal performance of the album, an incredibly beautiful chorus to go with the nice verses, and of course the pretty Steve solo.
My favorite, though, has to be the cute Mike/Tony composition Squonk, about a hunted creature who cries himself to non-existence when finally captured by the “narrator.” The song incorporates a good chunk of 12-string guitars, Phil’s powerhouse drumming grooves things along well, and the organ riff in the chorus is fabulous! It also features a vocal melody that’s pretty complex but still very memorable, and the vocal parts are sometimes even moving! It also doesn’t hurt that it’s poppy at its core.
The other four songs are very good as well. Entangled is a nice Hackett/Banks (!) collaboration, with a pretty melody, lots of acoustic guitar and appropriate touches of mellotron here and there. And the slow winding synth part at the end is remarkable – Banks does a good enough job of building up the tension and volume such that the piece doesn’t really seem as overlong as it probably is.
Two of the other tracks also have heavy input from Banks, as one is a collaboration with Collins and the other is a solo composition. Strangely enough, the solo composition, the title track, turns out to be the second best song on the album, which means it’s really really good. It’s actually poppy in its essence, which is a surprise given the source, and both the verse and choral melodies are incredibly memorable. Plus, the lyrics are actually entertaining for once, as they tell the story of a runaway devil who discovers that life among humans isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But the poppiness also extends to the other track on here, the Harold-the-Barrel-inspired Robbery, Assault and Battery. On this track, Phil comes the closest he ever would to fufilling his calling as Gabriel’s heir of funny characterizations, and while it’s certainly no Battle of Epping Forest, it’s certainly not the “worst Genesis song ever” like some fans apparently say it is. Some of the mid-song synth soloing sounds a little amateurish, but I don’t mind it horribly.
Finally, capping off the album (and possibly making up for lack of other inspiration), we have an instrumental reprise of some ot the various themes found throughout in Los Endos. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, though – there are bits and pieces of new music in there, and the way they interweave the parts from Volcano and Squonk is quite fascinating. Why Phil sings a quote from Supper’s Ready near the end continues to elude me, but no matter – the melodies mostly rule, and while the arrangement isn’t perfect, parts of it are fantastic (my favorite part is that brief “teasing” guitar line near the very end). It would get much better live, anyway.
So all in all, this is a pretty great album … but that’s because it’s rooted in a very great style, even if there have been some small changes here and there. For the first time in the development of this style, there is no track that tops the best effort of the previous album (remember, I’m not counting Lamb in this sequence, as it really doesn’t fit), and the weaknesses are beginning to rear their ugly heads again. But the songs are still great, and that’s what matters.
You would think a group that loses such a productive member (Peter Gabriel) would in turn roll over and call it quits, or at least have a tough time creating a good reputation for themselves. Peter Gabriel was what made them famous, but the rest of the band was the backbone. They were indeed writing most of the material, but it was Gabriel who brought it forth to their fans by dressing in outlandish costumes. The sad thing was that mostly everyone thought Gabriel was the creative force behind the band. So, the rest of the band had to create an album which overshadowed everything they did previously with Gabriel. And they pulled it off! It was their best selling album to date. After the success of this album, people changed their thoughts about Peter Gabriel. When they once thought that Peter was the creative force who contributing everything, they began to reconsider that Gabriel contributed nothing, mostly riding on the coattails of the rest of the group. A Trick of the Tail is their most beautifully crafted album, I must say.
The album starts off with “Dance on a Volcano”, a track that showcases Genesis’s uncanny knack of musicianship. Phil Collins’s vocals are much more natural than Gabriel’s. But that could always get an artist in trouble. In later efforts, Collins seemed to concentrate more on sappy love songs than works of art. His drumming was phenominal! And never is it more apparent than on this track.
The next tune on the album is a very melodic tune called “Entangled”. A beautifully crafted piece with amazing lyrics. I just love the line “as I count backwards your eyes become heavier still”. It makes you feel like you are in a quack doctor’s office, lying down on the comfy couch. This tune makes you feel as if you are having an out-of-body experience. If you have a pulse, you must like this song in some way or another. And if that wasnt enough, Tony Banks provides the track with a synthesizer workout. Very hypnotic indeed.
“Squonk” follows with amazing drumming by Collins. The guy can make these drum fills that can make you wonder how in the world did he make that sound so easy. “Mad Man Moon” starts out as a nice ballad with heart-breaking vocals by Collins, but then there is this break within the track that drags it down. Tony Banks’s cheesy synthesizer interlude just ruins a good tune. Mad Man Moon also sounds like it could have been written by Gabriel, probably due to the fact that Collin’s sounds more like Gabriel than Gabriel himself did. “Robbery, Assault and Battery” is a nice rocker. The lyrics are rather trite, but other than that amazing musicanship.
If you thought “Entangled” would be the most aesthetically pleasing song ever written by Genesis, they throw “Ripples” into the mix. Again, heart-breaking vocals by Collins and exquisite piano playing by Banks. There is a synthesizer and guitar interlude within “Ripples”, but it is in much better taste than “Mad Man Moon”. Steve Hackett provides eerie, swooping guitar notes within this interlude.
The title track, “A Trick of the Tail” is definitely under par. I would have to say it is the worst song on the album. Good thing they didn’t finish out the album with this unpleasing tune. Genesis did though, close out the album with “Los Endos” which is an instrumental track that contains the melodies found within the other songs on the album. You can hear “Dance on a Volcano”, “Squonk”, “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” in different arrangements within this track. I just love the way they mixed in the songs to provide an “overture” so to speak.
If it was just for Entangled and Ripples alone, the album would be magnificent. These two precious ballads make the album what it is. There are a couple horrible moments like “A Trick of the Tail” and the synthesizer interlude within “Mad Man Moon”. Too bad Tony Banks had to mess around with the synthesizers so much. It was the 70’s though, everyone messed around with synthesizers, expecially the progressive rockers. I still say this is Genesis’s best album right behind Foxtrot, of course. I would give the album a healthy 9 out of 10.
Lead singers play such prominent and crucial roles within bands that their departures generally force their respective outfits to close up shop. Those who opt to continue generally are faced with fighting a tragicomic, uphill battle that is nearly impossible to win. Just ask Blind Melon, INXS, or The Doors. There always is, however, an exception to every rule, and Genesis has become the poster child for groups that not only managed to survive but also succeeded in surpassing previous commercial expectations after what should have been a death blow.
Of course, it helped immensely that Genesis’ Peter Gabriel-led era had grown increasingly strange and grandiose. Moving from Nursery Cryme to Foxtrot to Selling England by the Pound, the group had outlined the eccentricities of English life by wrapping its moralism inside the vivid imagery of fairy tales and fables. Even for progressive rock, Genesis’ work was an odd concoction. It all culminated, for better or for worse, with the epic, double-LP production of the postmodern The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the staging of which tested the faith of some fans and put a lot of strain upon the band itself.
It’s evident from the interviews featured as bonus material on the latest incarnation of A Trick of the Tail that Gabriel’s decision to leave Genesis in order to pursue a solo career placed the band in a bit of a quandary. In fact, its predicament was viewed, at first, as both a blessing and a curse. The group’s remaining members — Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford — knew that they wanted to stay together, but they weren’t sure how best to proceed. After dismissing the notion that the quartet would focus mostly upon instrumentals, it was assumed that Collins would play a larger role within the outfit since he already was familiar with the material. After all, he not only had sung harmonies with Gabriel, but he also had taken the lead on occasion. Still, before both the recording sessions for A Trick of the Tail and the subsequent tour that was mounted to support the effort, Genesis attempted to bring another vocalist on board to handle the ensemble’s edgier, rock-oriented fare. Each time, however, Collins proved that he was up to the task, and during the triumphant, 45-minute short-film Genesis in Concert 1976, which also is included with the new set, he admirably tackles the songs that typically had served as the backdrop for Gabriel’s high-drama hijinks — such as The Carpet Crawlers, Supper’s Ready, and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) — while also forgoing the requisite costume changes that Gabriel had endured.
As for the album itself, A Trick of the Tail was everything it needed to be, both for Genesis and for its fans. Spurred, in particular, by Banks’ multifaceted keyboard textures — which blended synthesizer, piano, organ, and Mellotron — the group returned to the intricate, prog-rock maneuvers of its early work. Although hints of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway lurked with the central piano interlude to Mad Man Moon, the bulk of the endeavor found the ensemble shifting back toward the standalone story-songs of Selling England by the Pound. While Yes’approach always was a mere stone’s throw away, A Trick of the Tail brought the two outfits much closer together, which made it wholly appropriate that Bill Bruford was asked to join Genesis on tour.
Without the presence of Gabriel’s dominant vision, Banks, Collins, Hackett, and Rutherford learned, once again, how to be a band. Any hesitancy on their part to extend Genesis’ legacy quickly fell by the wayside, and A Trick of the Tail is marked by its amiable, playful air. Within the nervous rhythms of Dance of the Volcano, the multiple movements of Squonk, and the winding passageways of Robbery, Assault and Battery, it becomes apparent that the group had been liberated by the change. The stunning, new surround sound presentation of the album makes it even clearer how much fun the group was having.
Yet, A Trick of the Tail wasn’t merely meant to be a waltz through the past. It also pointed toward Genesis’ future. All of the tracks on the album — lengthy as they may be — boast indelible melodies, and they are, in effect, down-to-earth, pop songs at heart. Two cuts, in particular, highlight a different side of the band than previously had been put on display: With its majestic harmonies and ethereal synth-driven orchestrations, Entangled connects everything from Brian Wilson’s Smile to Phish’s Billy Breathes. In a similar fashion, the title track stuffs one of the group’s fantastical tales inside a prog-rock, reworking of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations.
“There’s an angel standing in the sun,” Collins faintly sang during the final moments to A Trick of the Tail’s instrumental epilogue Los Endos. He had plucked the lyric from Supper’s Ready, and as if to drive home the victoriousness of Genesis’ miraculous rebirth, he delivered the line once more before the song slipped into silence. This time, he augmented it with another phrase from the tune: “free to get back home.” There’s no doubt that it was his way of fondly paying tribute to his former band-mate, though it simultaneously served as a message to those fans who had tired of Gabriel’s increasingly elaborate antics, one that let them know that Genesis was back in business. ½
If Abacab completed the transition of Genesis from progressive rock band to pop band, A Trick Of The Tail marked the beginning. It was this album that saw the departure of Peter Gabriel because he felt too cooped up by the band and wanted to go solo. This was after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and the subsequent tour in 1975.
Genesis began to audition singers to replace Gabriel and drummer Phil Collins was given the job of coaching them. At the time, the rumor was that Collins did not want the job, but he later admitted that he really did want it but wanted someone to ask him. Eventually they did and Collins became the lead vocalist.
A Trick Of The Tail, the first post-Gabriel album and produced by a new producer, David Hentschel, featured a cleaner production than previous releases. It was well received by the critics and was the best selling Genesis album to date. Some say that it was because Collins sounded more like Gabriel than Gabriel did!
The quality of this CD is superb. They kept the CD in its original format and supplied a DVD with 5.1 sound quality as well as extra videos. The videos contain interviews and footage of the band
Here you have songs that are very dynamic such as “Dance on a Volcano,” ones that are whimsical such as “A Trick of the Tail” and Squonk,” and you have the clever songs such as “Robbery, Assault, and Battery.” Many of these songs trace their history back to the Gabriel days. There is not one bad song on the album.
There are a few highlights. Someone listening to “Dance on a Volcano” for the first time might think that the CD is skipping. It has a polyrhythm that becomes very catchy after listing to it a few times. You have Hackett strumming a tenuous, chromatic pattern until Collins checks in with his thunderous drumming, which really comes through in this re-mastering.
“Robbery, Assault, and Battery” contains a sprightly rhythm that captivates you and takes into a Gabrielesque attempt that is very innovative. The instrumental solos are very good — pay attention to Banks on the keyboards. Here he really shines.
“Ripples” has Hackett providing some absolutely great acoustic guitar work. This has a very Collins flavor and a very dark tone surrounding it. What it says is that with age, we will only be left with ourselves. Again listen to Banks on the keyboard.
“A Trick of the Tail,” while perhaps not the most profound song here, is certainly a lot fun. Its tune is similar to “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” in its sense of humor and it is certainly one of the shorter songs on the CD.
What makes this an “attic album” is that it shows what Genesis could have become had the right conditions stayed favorable. Had Hackett stayed on, had the band gelled a little more, they could have retained their progressive rock roots and still gained popularity as did some other progressive rock groups of the time, such as Yes.
Is it the best Genesis album ever? Most die hard fans would say that Lamb is the best. On the other hand there are a lot of people thought that Lamb was a little too artistic, poetic, and esoteric for their tastes. If you like the Gabriel Genesis, then A Trick Of The Tail is just a real good CD. If you prefer the Collins Genesis, then A Trick Of The Tail may be their best album ever.
When Peter Gabriel departed Genesis in 1975, thus ending for many ‘the classic years of Genesis’, the remaining members auditioned as many as 400 replacements before opting for already incumbent drummer Phil Collins as the groups new vocalist. Collins vocal ability for the material was not in any doubt. In fact critics of the day suggested he sounded too similar to Gabriel. However, the prospect of replacing the theatrical and active Gabriel with a singer stuck behind a drum kit was a little more concerning. Obviously this was no great problem in a studio environment but was a cause for concern if they were to continue with the flamboyance of the live shows. For this reason Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson was hired as second drummer (a drummer of far too great ability to be referred to as ‘second drummer’ but I’m sure you know what I mean) for live performances. He did not play on any of the studio sessions and Collins continued to handle all the drumming duties on the album.
With the new line up in place and plenty of song ideas Banks, Rutherford, Hackett and Collins went into Trident Studios in October 1975 and recorded what was to become their best selling album to date. In fact “A Trick of the Tail” more than doubled the bands previous album sales.
The album itself is a beautiful collection of songs all written or co-written by keyboardist Banks, which is probably why the overall feel of the album is that the songs are far more keyboard than guitar driven. This, of course, was eventually to drive Hackett away from the band once and for all. His somewhat spartan writing credits of just three showing the constraits he felt within the band.
The opening track ‘Dance on a Volcano’ is one of only two songs on the album to be credited as a group composition. On previous albums all tracks had been credited to the group but for “A Trick of the Tail” each track had indivudual composer credits. Starting off with a very distinctive riff it soon builds into a peice the equal of any of the Gabriel era tracks. ‘Entangled’, often cited as Tony Banks favourite track from the album is a nicely layered song with gentle verses and a slightly more powerful chorus. The ending of the song, which lyrically deals with serious illness, has a powerful cathedral like sound about it courtesy of the choir section of Banks’ mellotron. ‘Squonk’ is a much heavier track and according to Collins was a nod in the direction of Led Zeppelin. Collins drumming is certainly heavier than normal and rocky as the track is it has more in common with the eighties Genesis than Led Zeppelin for me. Initially called ‘Indians’ it tells the mythical tale of a squonk which dissolves into a pool of tears if it is captured. ‘Mad Man Moon’ starts with a beautiful keyboard melody introduction before Collins melancholy vocal is backed with a fine understated piano. The song gradually builds into a far more powerful track and after a long instrumental passage Collins returns with a more menacing vocal in an entirely different tone to the melancholia of earlier before reverting back to the initial style. The flute like melody of the introduction then returns to become the ending. It is probably the most structured piece on the album and melody/vocal wise is surely the highlight.
Collins does his best Gabriel impression on ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’ using the former frontmans habit of characterising parts of the song using different voices and accents. ‘Ripples’ is the longest song on the album and once again starts in a very quiet understated way before a more powerful and catchy chorus takes over. The song, as with many on the album, is heavily piano driven but also features some very prominent 12 string guitar. Title track ‘A Trick of the Tale’ was originally written around the time of the “Foxtrot” album and has a mythical almost Narnia like theme to it. Despite the apparent sadness of the lyric is has a very upbeat feel to it. Album closer ‘Los Endos’ is a jazz like instrumental which features several melodies and riffs from previous tracks, most notably ‘Squonk’ and ‘Dance on a Volcano’. Towards the end of the song Collins can be heard singing a couple of lines from ‘As Sure As Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men’s Feet)’ from the “Foxtrot” album as a tribute to departed vocalist Peter Gabriel.
Is it just me? Does anyone else feel that Genesis found a new power and aggressive direction with this album? Don’t get me wrong. I love the Gabriel years. Foxtrot and Selling England By the Pound are two of my favorite albums of all time. Trick of the Tail features much more of the powerful drumming and driving aspect of the band that perhaps was not featured as often on earlier records, not even the experimental and groundbreaking Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, although it kind of had its “genesis” there (ouch). I would even go as far as to say that this might be the album that gave Neo-Prog its roots.
It is clearly evident from the start with “Dance On A Volcano” that this is a new Genesis. It is powerful and lively in a way that we had not heard the band before. Much has been said about the way drummer Phil Collins had to take the reins of the vocal mike from former singer Peter Gabriel, but not enough has been said about how Collins took this opportunity to move his drumming in a direction heretofore unheard before this recording.
And then, as if to ease those who remember the acoustically driven sounds of the early years, they bring us “Entangled.” A lovely song written by guitarist Steve Hackett and keyboardist Tony Banks. “Squonk” another powerful cut, is driven by the forceful bass of Michael Rutherford and once again shows the newfound muscle of the band. It tells the story of the mythical creature that dissolves into tears when it is captured. “Mad Man Moon” is a tour de force for the talents of Banks, and is a lovely song with a piano interlude that is quite moving.
“Robbery, Assault and Battery” is Collins’ attempt to do one of Gabriel’s “character” style songs. It is maybe not quite as successful as Gabriel’s attempts, who had a massive flair for the dramatic, but it works well for the quartet that is now Genesis. The lamentful “Ripples” is quite beautiful, very romantic, and once again enters the English pastoral side that the band built its career on in its earlier albums.
A personal favorite of mine is the title track “Trick of the Tail.” I love the way it recalls other earlier humorous songs like “Harold the Barrel” and “Counting Out Time” with a cute story of a creature that leaves his comfortable otherworld and is astounded by what he finds in ours. It reveals something perhaps about our world and our reaction to something that’s different. They then pull it altogether with the oft-played instrumental closer “Los Endos” that musically runs through most of what has happened before on the disc and then some.
This is a step forward for Genesis, where they found a way to marry the experimental and powerful Lamb with the earlier sound in a new and forceful way. A mix of power and pastoral. To me there was no loss of momentum after the loss of what many felt was the leading force of the band. Although personal favorites still include Foxtrot and Selling England, this is the best example of the classic Genesis sound and would be the record I would play for someone who wanted to know what their pre-80s period sounded like.