I base this prediction on the fact that even though this version of the band unquestionably sold a buttload of albums, the fanbase itself was more casual in nature. There was never the sort of intense fan devotion that was involved in earlier incarnations of Genesis.
The following that this band had during its early, so-called “progressive rock” years may have been smaller than the millions who gobbled up albums like Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance. But they were a rabidly devoted lot. Much more so I would say, than what I would call the more transient fans who picked up albums by the Phil Collins-led Genesis of the “pop years,” right alongside their purchases of Journey, Loverboy and REO Speedwagon.
But I digress.
I guess that I just don’t see the memory spans of those fans matching that of those queueing up for the other big ticket reunion tour this year by the Police. Now if this reunion was with the band featuring Hackett and Gabriel doing The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for example? Different story entirely. But only time will tell if I was right or wrong on this.
But anyway, like I said it’s looking to be a big year for these guys either way.
As part of the Genesis reunion hoopla, Rhino/WEA has released Genesis: 1976 – 1982, a boxed set covering the albums released during that period in new remastered and enhanced CD/DVD versions. They have also reissued each individual album by itself as a double remastered and enhanced CD/DVD.
These albums are interesting mostly because they serve as a bridge between the old, prog-rock version of the band, and the hit machine they became in the eighties. They are bookended by Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering — the first two post-Gabriel albums in which the band simply continued doing the prog-rock they were then best known for — and Abacab, the album which completed the band’s transition to more commercial fare.
Landing right in the middle of that are these two albums, and for that reason alone they may be the most noteworthy of this entire period. On And Then There Were Three and Duke, Genesis were a band caught between directions, seeming unable to decide which way it wanted to go. On these albums, what you hear is a clear case of a band with one foot in and one foot out. It’s fascinating to be able to re-explore them in their newly remastered and enhanced context, knowing what has now come to light historically.
With Steve Hackett out of the band on the appropriately titled And Then There Were Three, you can hear Phil Collins begining to really assert creative control. The drums are mixed a lot higher for one thing – and on this remastered version they sound pretty amazing.
And let’s face it, Phil Collins was and is one hell of a drummer. It’s just too bad that what he really seemed to want to be was more of a song and dance man. Here, this first manifests itself in “Follow You, Follow Me,” which despite it’s nice, sugary enough pop sensibilities, sticks out like something of a sore thumb on this album.
Fortunately, Rutherford and Banks still made up the other two thirds of this band at this juncture, creatively speaking as well as in name. And for that, you get the soaring keyboard swells of “Snowbound” and the romantic textures of “Many Too Many.” The band also flexes it’s progressive rock muscles on tracks like “Down And Out,” “Deep In The Motherlode,” and even “Say It’s Alright Joe” which builds from a slow rock ballad to a nicely layered crescendo of crashing keyboards and guitars.
But on the seven-minute “Burning Rope,” Genesis really remind you just why they were considered one of progressive rock’s greatest bands. Banks and Rutherford build a virtual wall of layered sound on this track, and Collins just plain drums his ass off here. On this new remastered version it sounds even better than I remembered it.
By the time of Duke, Collins — by now, a commercial success as a solo artist — was well on his way to taking over the drivers seat completely in this band. Duke stands as the last gasp of the band’s former progressive sound. By the time of the next album, Abacab, it would be replaced pretty much entirely by the fusion jazz and big drum leanings of Collins. Which wasn’t so bad, because the full-on schlocky pop/R&B of later albums hadn’t yet completely reared it’s ugly head. However, it was still lying in wait and lurking just around the corner.
On Duke, there are for the first time two bonafide pop singles – the bouncy “Turn It On Again” and the more romantic sounding “Misunderstanding.” Again, two great songs from a band by now nonetheless moving further and further away from it’s former self. The best remaining evidence of the band’s prog-rock sensibilities captured here lies in the grand sweep of “Duchess/Guide Vocal” and the closing drum driven jazz-rock of “Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End.” Again, the remastered sound here does both great justice, especially on the grandly layered keyboard swells of “Duchess.”
The remastered versions of these two albums each include some great extras on the bonus DVD. Duke, most noteworthily, features a decent-sized chunk of video from a 1980 live concert in London. And Then There Were Three also has live footage, plus new interviews with band members — including Steve Hackett, who explains his departure — conducted just this year.
Taken together, both of these records close one chapter of Genesis history. They capture the final moments of a band clinging to its legacy as one of progressive rock’s most innovative and original sounding bands, right before they rode a wave of hits to become, well, that “other band” in the eighties.
A controversial, yet fundamental release, …And Then There Were Three marked a turning point in the Genesis history that would forever change its own landscape as well as the musical landscape of rock music of the time. In a time when the trend was the punk music scene, Genesis, now as a trio, began moving away from their progressive rock roots to a more commercial and radio friendly style.
After the departure of Steve Hackett, the roles of the remaining members became more firmly entrenched with Tony Banks handling all of the keyboard duties, Mike Rutherford all of the guitar/bass work and Phil Collins all of the drums and percussion work as well as the vocals.
To many of the early fans of Genesis, this was the final straw that began with the departure of Peter Gabriel. Many felt that this was a musical crisis that would soon lead to the groups eventual down fall. In fact, this became the most stable version of the Genesis lineup; lasting almost 10 more years.
“Down and Out” begins the track list with its 5/4 time signature and shows what a complex, musically diverse band that Genesis was. “Undertow”; a wistful Banks ballad and “Snowbound”; a spiritual Rutherford ballad are more pop tunes that come across with Collins small voicing. “Many Too Many,” while good, is just a little over string produced.
For those who want to return back to the more progressive days of Genesis, then “Burning Rope” with Collins drum fills and “The Lady Lies”; an epic, are the standouts with “Deep in the Motherlode” and “Ballad of Big” following close behind.
The other songs are OK also with the boozy “Say it’s Alright Joe” and the sprightly “Scenes From A Nights Dream” which sounds like a leftover from the “Wind and Wuthering” album.
The one song that sounds misplaced is the same song that gave Genesis its first hit record; “Follow You, Follow Me.” Perhaps that is the reason it comes at the end of the CD. More prolific is the fact that this would be more of the direction of Genesis in the future within the realm of pop music.
At this point in their career, Genesis was still trying to figure out who they were. They were definitely moving away from their progressive rock sound but they had not made the change over to the pop sound that they would cultivate by the time they hit their true transitional album Duke and subsequently Abacab.
As an added bonus, this release comes with a second disk on DVD which has the album mixed in 5.1 audio, plus the two promomotion videos for the album containing “Follow you, Follow Me” and “Many Too Many”. There are also interviews with Collins, Banks, and Rutherford as well as with Steve Hackett explaining why he left the band. There is also the documentary Three Days with Genesis which covered the 1978 European Tour.
…And Then There Were Three is a good album in the sense that it shows the direction that Collins and company will eventually take the Genesis, while still remaining closer to their original roots on this one. It is a little uneven at times, but still has a lot of the progressive rock that was Genesis. With the add-on DVD, it makes it worth owning regardless of which Genesis you liked. There is a lot to like here and in many ways …And Then There Were Three is an unsung classic.
Following the respective departures of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett in ’75 and ’77, Genesis entered into what was to be their longest and most successful period as a trio. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford signified this second rearrangement with …And Then There Were Three…, which served as the transition from Wind & Wuthering’s fading progressive wanderings to the pop-infested Duke. Essentially, this means that the band’s final 70’s recording still seems a little unsure about accepting the popular breakthrough that beckoned. It’s an unsteady merger of Genesis’ artistic and commercial sides, one that ultimately allowed the fan-hated pop to sneak in.
Divided as it is, there are plenty of parts to the album that manage to appease the progressive crowd, even if the average song length is shortened. Collins is coming into his own as a vocalist at this point, seeming more confident and having a far larger presence than before, although the sound still relies heavily on Banks’ keyboards. Rutherford took over as lead guitarist when Hackett’s position wasn’t filled, keeping his bass duties the same way Collins kept his drumming. Obviously, tour musicians were added, but the remaining Genesis core continued to be fully responsible for their output.
During the record’s strongest moments, the pop/prog mix works out well. Burning Rope balances the two nicely, revealing some classic Genesis passages among catchy melodies. The band’s characteristic storytelling is still upheld with The Lady Lies, though the narrative is much more straightforward. Accessibility does persist even within the prog-oriented material, and the muddy production doesn’t do much to add some punch to the songs. The positively chaotic rhythm of Down and Out makes it a misleading opener, which ever so slightly recalls the more intense sections of The Lamb; references to the past are generally a good thing here.
When the band truly ventures into pop territory, the results are uneven. The oddly placed Follow You Follow Me is the unavoidable hit, catchy and cleverly written, but lacking in substance. For those who believe the group ever sold their soul for success, this is a particularly great track to blame. Ballad of Big is their first attempt at a simple rocker, which really fails to make an impression, and the equally unremarkable Many Too Many finds itself a throwaway among too many (no pun intended) other ballads. Despite the overall inconsistency, there are gems to be found, particularly the Afterglow-esque Undertow and the quiet Snowbound. Genesis clearly went downhill after the losses of two crucial members, but …And Then There Were Three… is just interesting enough to look into.