After the release and subsequent success of the four-disc box set of rare material from the Gabriel years, the next logical step for Genesis was to release one from the Phil Collins years. I admit, I wasn’t terribly eager to give the volume a listen, but after doing so, I discovered to my delight that it contains quite a lot of gems in it. There are even a staggering amount of non-LP B-sides, which are miles more entertaining than their accompanying A-sides. For instance, remember that awful song from Invisible Touch called “In Too Deep?” …I would never have suspected that the B-side of its single release, “Do the Neurotic,” is a vastly entertaining exploration of different textures, and … gasp … it shows Michael Rutherford coming out of his shell to shred his guitar in a blistering way!
“Paperlate” is one of the catchier songs they’d ever done, and it had originally appeared on the vinyl release of Three Sides Live. However, come its CD release, they cut the studio songs in favor of more live cuts. …Thankfully, that nearly forgotten song is available here. Not only is it catchy, but I will always love it for its full, bubbly horn section. There were four other songs originally included on that vinyl release, and three of them are included here (“You Might Recall,” “Evidence of Autumn,” and “Open Door.”) The one conspicuously absent is “Me and Virgil” Granted, that song isn’t their most inspired moment, but why leave it off?
An even greater crime is that they left off a song called “Match of the Day,” which was written by Steve Hackett. It’s a beautiful pop song that he had intended it for Wind & Wuthering, but it had been unceremoniously left off for being “uncharacteristic.” (I guess there’s no love for “Match of the Day.”) Another rejected song by Hackett, however, is thankfully included here, and it’s called “Inside and Out.” It’s easily one of the best folk-ballads they’d ever done. Leaving a song like that off the most boring album of their discography goes to show precisely where their heads were in relation to their bottoms at the time.
The second disc is the least interesting of the lot, filled with live performances from the Collins era. Considering there were already three double live albums from the Collins era, I don’t think there were too many fans out there thirsting for more. (In contrast, there was merely one live album from the Gabriel era, and it wasn’t double.) With that said, it’s not completely worthless. For example, it starts out with a rousing rendition of “Illegal Alien.” Collins sounds as excited and boisterous as ever. You can’t go wrong with that.
Where you can’t go right is covering a song like “Dreaming While You Sleep,” which was one of the crappier songs from We Can’t Dance… *Groan* But then there are also a few picks from A Trick of the Tail: “Ripples” and “Entangled.” The latter song was surely one of their finer moments, and the live rendition is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the inclusion of that song can’t liven up the last half of the album, which is otherwise plagued with some of the most horribly tedious songs of their repertoire. …I’ll tell you what they are, but please be careful, because these songs are so boring that evoking their names have been known to make people pass out: “Your Own Special Way,” “Burning Rope,” and “Duke’s Travels.” Blech!!!! …If you’re looking for a powerful, non-prescription sedative, then I think I found one!
There are also a handful of remixes here, which are almost entirely pointless. All the songs they remixed had already been perfected in their final studio form… or at least as perfect as they were ever going to get. All they really do, mostly, is add extra clicky percussion noises and put an annoying echoing effect on Phil Collins’ vocals. They even lengthened the some of the songs significantly, which in the case of “Land of Confusion” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” gets on my nerves terribly. …With all that said, they did a number on “I Can’t Dance” by adding a flurry of synthesizers on top of it, which made it far quirkier than the original.
Even though sitting through some of this box set was a real chore—particularly the live performances and remixes—I had an all-around good time with this release. While this doesn’t amaze me quite like Genesis’ first archival box set, it’s certainly worthwhile enough for it to earn that 11 I so graciously decided to award it. I not appreciate that it’s around, but it also has its fair share of rare gems on it that I know I’m going to come to treasure in the years to come. I didn’t even talk about a few of the gems in the main body of this review, so please do peruse the track reviews for more information about them. (And perhaps even some confusing sentences?)
Not as essential as the first archive, but much better than it could probably be. The biggest problem with this boxset is that, aside from its logical status as a “sequel” to the glorious first boxset, it doesn’t have the greatest amount of justification for its existence. Nothing as “epochal” as, say, The Lamb came out during the Collins era, so there was no “need” for any of the band’s live cuts as much as there was from that tour. Plus, as good as some of the outtakes here are, there’s nothing quite on the level of Twilight Alehouse, though some might come close.
Still, the seeming superfluousness of the set as a whole doesn’t take away from the fact that parts of it are very enjoyable, and lead to it getting quite a high grade. The second disc is particularly enjoyable in this regard, a collection of live tracks from all the various periods of the Collins era (there’s also a couple more on the third disc). Of course, for the most part this material is much simpler than what we had during the Gabriel era, and as such there isn’t the benefit of an extra dose of energy based on trying extra hard to keep up with the studio versions, but they’re ok nonetheless. One of them, actually, is utterly spectacular – ho boy, was I right in suspecting that there was an utterly gorgeous creature lying beneath the occasionally tattered rags of arrangments of the studio version of Ripples.
Collins’ singing is even more moving than before, Banks seemingly sticks mostly to piano (keeping it relatively low in the mix), and the solo (which I thought was Hackett but actually isn’t – the perils of listening to a boxset without the liner notes) … oh man, I don’t think the solo is that much different from what it was before, but the mood created here by it is indescribable, even in comparison to before. During the time of that solo, nothing else in the world exists – my whole universe is a slow, winding passage with a gloriously ringing guitar tone, and my basest reaction is to put it back on right away.
The others don’t completely measure up. There’s three ATTWT songs, which theoretically doesn’t excite me, but they sound really good here. This is more surprising considering that I only liked one of the three songs originally (Burning Rope) – Deep in the Motherlode suddenly becomes catchy and even moving occasionally, and The Lady Lies suddenly sounds like something close to a classic (complete with a fantastic set of energetic guitar lines in the final push to the end).
Elsewhere, the allocation of live tracks is fairly spread out over the different eras – Trick also gets Entangled (pretty), Wind gets Your Own Special Way (not bad), Duke gets Duke’s Travels/End (which annilates its studio counterpart), Abacab gets No Reply at All and Man on the Corner (decent, though not spectacular – it should be noted that the attempt at replicating the horns with guitar isn’t very convincing), Genesis gets Illegal Alien and It’s Gonna Get Better (both are decent enough here, though I would’ve rally liked Silver Rainbow instead of Gonna Get Better), IT gets The Brazilian (good choice) and WCD gets Dreaming While You Sleep (not great, but could be worse). Basically, a good haul.
The rest of the material, however, is filled with studio rarities and dance mixes of various songs. The latter category doesn’t please me very much – I actually more or less liked three of the four remixed songs originally (Invisible Touch, Tonight Tonight Tonight, Land of Confusion, I Can’t Dance), but only the remix of ICD succesfully entertains me at all (though ironically, it entertains me a lot – it’s amazing how involving cheeziness can be when it wants). The 80’s corny production of the original IT tracks is magnified to an incredibly self-parodic degree (which I guess is the point of these things, but still), and I just can’t listen to these for more than a bit at a time.
The rarities are dispensable in some cases, but there’s some great material in here. On the Shoreline, a WCD outtake, is actually a very nice way to start the set. I get the feeling that the only reasons it was left off were (a) it’s clearly designed to be the opening track of an album, and wasn’t going to supplant No Son of Mine of its position and (b) it has some moments that were cannibalized into Driving the Last Spike. Still, it would have been one of the two or three best songs on that album had it been released, and the interaction of the guitars and keyboards make it sound more like a real Genesis song than much of what’s on that album.
Actually, come to think of it, pretty much every era (defined by album) gives at least one or two great new tracks. From the Trick sessions comes It’s Yourself, the first couple of minutes of which are a beautiful ballad that gets stuck in my head all the time, and the rest of which is a bunch of really lovely atmospherics that were later incorporated into the beginning of Los Endos. I actually keep meaning to figure out how to make a seamless splicing between this track and Los Endos; a version of Trick that would include It’s Yourself flowing into Los Endos would be even stronger than the album that currently exists.
From Wind comes a track that I somehow missed when I first reviewed this set, but which has gone down as one of my favorite post-Gabriel tracks. Inside and Out is a gorgeous Rutherford-style ballad (of course, if it’s not Rutherford and in fact I can’t really tell who composed what, I’ll be ready to just throw it in), with pretty singing and tasteful keys from Tony. Imagine something like Your Own Special Way with the compactness and good timing of Blood on the Rooftops (and an actually *gasp* energetic ending, with lots of great Hackett playing to counter Tony’s great playing), and there you go. From the Three sessions comes The Day the Light Went Out, an amazingly catchy synth-based rocker with a great chorus hook and effectively frantic energy in the verses and martial rhythms in the breaks.
Duke’s main contribution here is Evidence of Autumn, which technically isn’t new (it was one of the 3SL studio tracks: see that review for details on the track), but since it’s not available on CD otherwise, it might as well be. Abacab, apart from the mild fun of Paperlate, contributes a really strange groove in Naminanu, and a really pretty instrumental in Submarine, which gives the impression of watching fishes and mermaids and other things flow by. Genesis doesn’t really contribute anything new, with the exception of an early version of Mama. I used to hate this version, mainly because the HA-HA’s turned more into heh-heh’s, but I’ve come to enjoy it just as much as anything else on here. And even IT contributes a couple of gems, courtesy of Feeding the Fire and the seven-minute instrumental Do the Neurotic, which manages to be kinda “tough” sounding without crossing the line into stupid.
In the end, while some of the material ranges from kinda meh to mind-bogglingly stupid (e.g. the extended remixes of IT songs), there’s a good amount of really solid material here. I originally would have given this an 8, but the high points have grown on me through the years to the point that boosting this up a bit seems like the best course of action. Don’t buy it new, but definitely don’t avoid it used either.
Picking up where the first Genesis Archive set left off, this box set covers the pop-oriented years of the band, the period where Phil Collins took over as lead singer and the band moved away from its art rock roots and into platinum success.
Much like the first set, this one includes live tracks, B-sides, and rarities; unlike the first, it includes remixes and is shortened to three discs. This release rounds up most of the stray tracks from this era, such as most of the studio songs on the original version of Three Sides Live (sans “Me And Virgil”) and two of the three songs from the Spot The Pigeon EP (leaving off “Match Of The Day”), plus pretty much every studio song recorded in this time frame but never released.
Most, if not all, of these studio rarities have since been released on the 2007 box sets that remastered every Genesis album and added a bonus disc. For those unwilling to upgrade their entire CD library to those sets, or who want all of these tracks in one convenient place plus some live souvenirs and dance remixes, this set fits the bill.
Many people discovered Genesis in the ‘80s through pop hits like “Invisible Touch,” “Misunderstanding,” “Abacab,” and “That’s All,” as well as 1992’s “I Can’t Dance” and “No Son Of Mine,” and much of the music is in the same style and spirit as those songs, a sort of art pop hybrid nearly devoid of guitars, lyrical depth, or the sense of adventure that characterized the Peter Gabriel era of the band. Those devoted to the Collins era will find something to love here, those devoted to Foxtrot will not be interested, and those who love all Genesis will probably find a few gems buried across these discs.
Disc one opens with “On The Shoreline” and “Hearts On Fire,” both of which should have appeared on We Can’t Dance and which would have strengthened that album (the latter was the B-side to “Jesus He Knows Me”). “You Might Recall” and “Paperlate” are leftovers from the
Abacab era that don’t go anywhere, while “Evidence Of Autumn” is a melancholy tune that would have fit in nicely with anything on Wind & Wuthering. The instrumentals “Submarine” and “Naminanu” are fine, if inconsequential.
A few wince-worthy reminders of how far Genesis fell from the days of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway are present on this disc, such as the banal “I’d Rather Be You,” the overlong instrumental “Do The Neurotic,” and “Feeding The Fire,” the latter two of which originally appeared on the “Land Of Confusion” single. Skip those and go to the forgotten gem “Inside And Out,” a story song about a freed prisoner trying to fit into society, told through lyrics and Steve Hackett’s acoustic guitar on the first half and through keyboard solos in the second half. This is one of Hackett’s few appearances on this set, and it is wonderful.
Disc two is a collection of live tracks that add little to the studio versions save for three exceptions, although this is pretty much universal among all Genesis live albums, as the band tends to play as close to the studio versions as possible (being songwriters first, this is understandable). As it would have been redundant to present the hits (which already appeared on Three Sides Live and both The Way We Walk sets), the selections here are album tracks like “Dreaming While You Sleep,” “Entangled,” “Deep In The Motherlode,” and “Duke’s Travels.”
The take on “Ripples” slows the tempo and accentuates the moody guitar solo, retaining its status as one of the best post-Gabriel Genesis songs, while “Your Own Special Way” is remade as a torch song, complete with a string section, lack of drums under the first chorus, and some of Collins’ best singing. The drummer also gets to have some fun with “Duke’s Travels,” which is an improvement on the studio version and a reminder of the band’s art-rock past, despite the synthesizer overkill.
Disc three starts with remixes of three big pop hits; if extended dance versions of “Land Of Confusion,” “Tonight Tonight Tonight,” and “Invisible Touch” sound appealing, you’re all set. A few more needless live tracks come next (although “The Lady Lies” is redeemed in this setting), and then things come full circle with stray studio tracks, although they are all pretty dull (save for the loopy “Pigeons”). The project closes with “Mama” presented as a work in progress, which is 11 minutes of the song’s electronic drum beat with various words, keyboard effects and such on top of it, obviously meant to show the different ideas that were created before the band picked their favorites and cut a final version. It’s interesting but hardly necessary.
The same can be said for Vol. 2 as a whole. The band’s songwriting took a turn for the simplistic and inessential during this time period, so hearing the songs that did not make the albums and live versions of those that did, plus the remixes, renders most of this pretty bland and unnecessary. If you love all Genesis and the Collins era in particular, or are looking to pick up the stray B-sides and rarities, this is for you, but for everyone else this can be skipped.