After everybody in the whole wide world bashed FGTR into the ground, Genesis apparently decided that if they were going to be a successful group at all, they would have to revamp in a big, big way. So they picked up a new, slightly better drummer in John Mayhew, headed into the studio and reinvented themselves as a fledgling prog-rock group. Gone were the short pop songs and youthful faces on the cover, replaced by lengthy, complex compositions with endless instrumental breaks and an icy blue album cover depicting the temptation of Christ by Lucifer.
So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that a huge number of these instrumental breaks are, at least on first few listens, dull to the extreme. A lot of them grew on me eventually, but for the first year or two that I owned this album, I couldn’t even vaguely remember a large chunk of them. Put another way – take the following year’s The Yes Album, preserve the quality of the songs from a melody perspective, but remove virtually all melodic and ‘epic’ hooks (not to mention energy) from the instrumental parts, and what you get is Trespass. But then, this was to be expected; Genesis never had the greatest chops in the world even in their hey-day, so what should one expect when they have neither of their major virtuosos, not to mention that it’s only been a year since an album that had some very sub-par instrumental performances? The band does a good job of creating a lot of interesting atmosphere, and a lot of the textures during the parts when Gabriel sings are very pretty, but when the vocals disappear for a long stretch, things often get hairy.
In this respect, the first side of the album is a real pain to sit through, even if there are enough strengths to compensate at least partially. The actual songs are very, very good, don’t get me wrong – even the somewhat ridiculous White Mountain, with lyrics by Rutherford, has a fabulous melody in the main portions. And the overwhelming vibe of desperation coming from Gabriel’s vocals in Looking For Someone (with another fascinating and extremely complex melody) and the pretty melody and chorus in Visions of Angels make both of these tracks extremely enjoyable at times. But ONLY when Gabriel’s singing – the rest of the time, my head inevitably starts drooping. I’ll admit that the ‘jam’ at the end of Looking For Someone makes some sense, with a pretty impressive build, but the rest? Bleh.
However, the second half is significantly better. Stagnation seemed a little unmemorable to me at first, but I’ve come to love it over the years. The first makes for a pretty, memorable and cold ballad, and the main instrumental passage, particularly in the bits with Tony having fun with the tuning properties of the mellotron, is incredibly lovely and atmospheric. And of course, there’s the fabulous return of Peter’s vocals near the end, as Gabriel pleads for water and a place to rest himself (“ah ah ah AH AH AH AH AH AH AH SAID I WANNA SIT DOOOOWWWWN” is something all Gabriel fans should hear at some point). To me, though, the quiet ballad Dusk is just as good. Have you ever had the chance to sit outside during a cold winter dusk? If not, you might not be able to fully appreciate the cold majestic mood created by this track, but if you have, you’ll probably agree with me in my fondness and love for this song. Not to mention that the melody is once again friggin’ beautiful, with gorgeous harmonies in the choruses and even more of the shaking tenderness than usual of Peter’s emoting (especially when he sings, “And if we draw some water, does the well run dry?”). And best of all, the instrumental jamming in the song is kept to an absolute minimum, only involving some pleasant acoustic lines and some flute chiming in once in a while.
So yeah, this is a good album, despite all of the problems with the instrumental passages, and …
Ha! Did you really think I was going to write a review of Trespass without gushing over The Knife? It’s crazy, like nothing I’ve ever heard before or since. For the first time ever, the Banksynths have found an awesome riff and melody to latch onto, and goodness knows I like it when Tony’s playing a pattern that’s interesting and makes sense. And the lyrics??!! “I’ll give you the names of those you must kill, all must die with their children. Carry their heads to the palace of old, hang them high, let the blood flow”!! “Tell me my life is about to begin, tell me that I am a hero, promise me all of your violent dreams, light up your body with anger.”!! And of course, “Some of you are going to die, martyrs of course to the freedom that I will provide.” And the most frightening thing is that, listening to Peter scream out these lines in the way only he can, you actually believe him if you’re not careful. Not to mention that there are some perfectly interesting guitar solos in the song (pretty much the only ones on the album, actually), interspersed with quiet flute lines, gloomy and majestic organ passages, Peter chanting “we are only wanting freedom” in a war-march style, all culminating in the band playing a menacing chord in a rhythm more frightening than all of the ‘evil’ passages of every heavy metal band ever (well, maybe except for the end of Metallica’s One). It’s not the absolute greatest number the band ever did, but it’s certainly up there (though I actually like the Live version more, believe it or not), and by itself makes the album worth hearing and owning.
In short, all of the traits that made Genesis such a great band are already in place – it just so happens that all the negatives are splashed over them in a greater amount than usual, and they’re just too much to not hurt the rating significantly. But it’s still quite a good album.
Genesis abandoned all that sunshine-pop stuff and went all King Crimson on us, which I’m sure disappointed about two people. Even though this is still pretty early in their career, it sounds exactly like a Genesis album. That is to say, there’s no major stylistic difference between this and Selling England By the Pound. Yup, this is an album full of wimpy sounding songs, and lyrics that indicate that they read a lot of geeky fantasy novels. …Of course, that’s one of the main reasons I like Genesis. I am a pretty wimpy reader of fantasy novels myself.
Also, Genesis has a pretty good handle on melodies and atmospheres, and, generally speaking, good melodies and atmospheres are why I like listening to music. (That’s one of the reasons I never cared for Rush or Styx even though I do sympathize with their incurable geekiness.)
Really, that’s all there is to Genesis’ appeal, because God knows they weren’t very good instrumentalists. …That is to say, they were pretty good, but they really had nothin’ on many of the other huge bands of the day. (I don’t think that is news to anyone.) They didn’t have any real virtuosos in the group. Their guitarists and keyboardist usually just stuck to playing arpeggios.
Peter Gabriel played his flute about as well as you’d expect to hear at a high school recital. Phil Collins wasn’t even in this incarnation of the band, and thus the drumming on Trespass is merely average. What’s more, they sometimes even come off as amateurish in this release. They get some slack there, though, since they were still extremely young.
Luckily Genesis isn’t about their instrumentalists and they never pretended to be; they were about songs. And they come up with some pleasant ones in Trespass. Right away, “Looking For Someone” is a highly engaging, mystical sort of song with interesting lyrics, thick atmosphere, and a rather ear-catching melody. It’s nothing that really blows away my toupee; I consider it more to be a song that I just enjoy listening to while relaxing in a big chair. But even for such a song, they do a really respectable job developing it through a series of dramatic crescendos!
If I’m going to listen to a seven-minute song, it’s great that it has a lot of crescendos in it, because it actually gives me the feeling that it’s going somewhere! Sometimes it gets boring, but I listen to it knowing that it won’t be boring for long.
On the other hand, “White Mountain,” does seem to get stuck in a few ruts. The slower, mystical parts seem to go on for too long, and its crescendos aren’t very numerous and not very well developed. However, I do like some of the textures they pull out there, which is the main reason I gave it a respectable ‘B’ rating in the track reviews… So, this is still a good song to listen to while lazing around in my big chair! “Vision of Angels” is a near-brilliant song that does develop rather well… That beautiful piano passage that opens it is incredibly ear-catching, and I’m almost moved profoundly whenever they get to that chorus. (It seems to take a lot to move me nowadays, so “almost moving me” is a pretty big deal.) The instrumental interlude is intricate and keeps the overall song moving at a solid pace.
“Stagnation” is very slow moving, but it’s the sort of thing that I can lose myself into, which is quite a rarity for me. It’s a sweet, pastoral epic is another sweet thing to listen to while I’m in that relaxed position. (And it’s not like it’s 100 percent “stagnant,” either… it gets pretty tense at times.) “Dusk” never gets tense at all, but it’s excused because it’s only four minutes long, and it’s a nice precursor to the song that follows, “The Knife.”
That is without a doubt the highlight of Trespass due to the fact that it’s nine minutes long and pretty consistently tense throughout. It might be “slow” at times, but it always gives me the impression that something big is happening. Again, that’s not something I experience too often…
Somehow I feel a bit strange awarding this album such a high score even though I’d imagine that 95 percent of the human race wouldn’t feel the same about it. Although I guess I’m at a point in my life where I’m not surprised if 95 percent of the human race is profoundly different than me! Despite my pretty glowing recommendation of Trespass, this is not a great place to start with Genesis. If you already own the similar though superior albums Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme, Selling England By the Pound and you’re itching for more, then get Trespass immediately. And try not to feel bad about being an egghead. You should never feel bad for being an egghead. We’re the ones that make the world go round. According to me.
Trespass was the beginning of Genesis’ wild wacky journey into progressive rock. Many Genesis fans ignore the fact that they had an album before this. From Genesis to Revelation was their debut, and was a pop album, and to 70s Genesis fans, that means crap. But that wasn’t Genesis’ last venture into pop. After two key members of Genesis (Peter Gabriel, to name one) in the mid seventies, drummer/occasional vocalist Phil Collins took over. And Genesis once again became what their fans disliked so much. So, with a fresh line-up and probably some uncertainty, Genesis made their first prog rock album.
Trespass is a much calmer album than later Genesis works. One of the reasons could be because Steve Hackett had not joined Genesis yet, a tremendous guitarist, whose sound added a lot to Genesis’ stuff. He joined on the album’s successor Nursery Cryme where Genesis had established a classic line-up. Like many Genesis albums, Trespass is very keyboard driven, probably one of the first prog bands to be so keyboard oriented. Sometimes the keyboards make the music a bit boring, sometimes it gives the music a breath of life.
Either way, it’s almost always the ‘lead’ instrument on Trespass. Tony Banks’ organ, piano and Mellotron playing is definitely at the top of Genesis’ arsenal on this album. Visions of Angels is a perfect example, everything else is outshined in this very angelic, orchestral song. John Mayhew’s drumming is also very notable on Trespass, accompanying Banks on his ascending organ runs. Ironically though, Banks doesn’t make very complicated keyboard arrangements, adding further to the fact that Genesis were not fully established as a progressive band.
As mentioned before, this LP doesn’t deliver too much guitar-wise. White Mountain is lead by an acoustic guitar, until drowned out by the organ. It returns in the little interludes, and then fades into the background while Banks and the exceptional rhythm section work. Ironically, Anthony Phillips who played lead guitar on this album left Genesis because of stage fright. Even so, White Mountain is a very good and catchy song. Dusk, one of the most soothing songs I’ve ever heard, has the best showcase of acoustic guitar on Trespass, and beautiful backing voices singing with Peter Gabriel.
Gabriel’s vocals are probably my least favourite thing about the album, they sound very shaky and uneasy. While I think he’s always had that type of characteristic in the Genesis 70s era, here it’s more noticeable and bothersome. His storytelling, of course, is always top-notch, usually a medieval-based tale, which fits perfectly to the music.
Then there’s The Knife. While it’s probably sort of unfitting for this album, it’s such a good song that it doesn’t seem to matter. This song shows the best group work on the album, Phillips’ guitar truly shining, the only Trespass song with his electric guitar. With a dark edge, Mayhew’s frantic drumming and Banks’ lively organ find a comfortable place in this Genesis classic (the only well-known song from this album.) This song definitely paved the way for future Genesis.
Trespass isn’t that well-known, or praised as much as later Genesis works like Foxtrot, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or Selling England by the Pound, but is still definitely worth a listen for any Genesis fan. It didn’t sell too well either when it came out, Genesis fans claim it was ahead of its time (1970 wasn’t a big year in prog.) Perhaps not for Progressive fans in general, Trespass doesn’t fit as a genre-defining album, but is still very good. And if you want to check some of it out, all I can say is you won’t be disappointed by The Knife.
The eighteen months between the release of the Genesis debut in March 1969 and its successor Trespass in October of the following year are probably the decisive period in the history of Genesis. Everybody who knows both records cannot but notice just how impressively much the band had developed their style. Many a crucial experience from this period laid the foundation for what was to come.
Once they had overcome the frustration in the wake of their first record things returned to normal. All of them continued to pursue their education, but the music and the experience of the months behind them would stay with them. Says Tony about his time in university: “I wrote quite a number of songs at that time. I could not play the piano because the music building was still under construction, so I wrote songs on my guitar which I found very interesting… it was a very productive period for me.” Though they met less frequently they used every minute to practise together. “… we would travel around all summer and rehearsed at friends’ places. Everybody’s parents went away for two or three weeks and we would roll in.”, Mike remembers. He and Ant developed their skills on the twelve-string guitar. And it was their new-found enthusiasm for music that prompted first themselves and later that summer also Tony and Peter to break off their education and become professional musicians in Genesis. The only exception was John Silver who did not want to run the risk of a career in music. The band were undeterred and tried to overcome the weaknesses that had surfaced when they had been recording their debut.
Said Tony: “We had been rehearsing all summer but we had not played any gigs because we kept writing new material and learning new things. We recorded many demos during that time as well as in the months that followed.” The band had found their new drummer in what used to be the usual way, i.e. an ad in Melody Maker, and they were now ready for their first gig: The famous party at Mrs Balms’s in September 1969. With the cottage of Richard Macphail’s familythey found the perfect place for the winter to focus on their career: “That was definitely the beginning of a new era because we started living with each other. This cottage period certainly left a strong mark”, says Mike, and Richard recalls what the days were like there: “We would get up around 7 in the morning, have breakfast, and then we would rehearse for ten or eleven hours straight, interrupted only by lunch breaks.”
The most recent musical influence coming from outside the band was King Crimson’s album In The Court Of The Crimson King. Producer John Anthony, who was captivated by one of the band’s more frequent and regular performances, hooked them up with Charisma boss Tony Stratton-Smith. It was not difficult to excite him for this project, and soon nothing spoke against Genesis recording a new album. This intensive phase in which the band wrote songs (and also recorded a couple of demos) and the more or less regular live gigs had positive side effects, Tony recalls: “Everything was different on this album. We had gained a bit of live experience, and each song on the album had been played live on stage before. We had at least twice as many songs to choose from than ended up on the album.”
According to Richard Macphail there was one major factor that determined which songs landed on the album: “The effect the gigs had on them was decisive.” Adds Ant: “I am not quite certain that we really picked the best songs …. Many acoustic pieces were left out though they merited inclusion.” Trespass was recorded over a period of one month in summer 1970 at Trident studios. Tony: “We were still very inexperienced and tended to press too much into a song. We used 16 tracks instead of 4 tracks we had on the previous album and we really made use of them. There were many good things on this album, though, and it moved in the direction we have been following ever since.” Intense work with their own music made them their toughest critics. Says Tony: “We were not very happy with the end result of the album. We were always very critical and not too happy with the production though we got along very well with John Anthony.”
As the band became increasingly perfectionistic and he grew less and less satisfied with both his and the other’s input Ant decided to leave the band. He was not up to the new professional approach of the band, and problem then were not solved by talking about them but by “separations”. Ant: “I slowly realized that I could not exist in such a collective, democratic musical environment.” In the wake of this sharp loss the band thought “in for a penny, in for a pound” and also fired their drummer John Mayhew, who had never really been considered a full member of the band. But there was never a question of not continuing.