March Through Time: Genesis

This month, I’m hitting pause on coverage of new artists and releases, focusing instead for a bit on the bodies of work from some of my favorite artists. — bk

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: I respect Phil Collins as an artist, but I have little use for the pop era of Genesis’ music. So for this March Through Time I will restrict my comments to the band’s earlier material.

  • From Genesis to Revelation (1969) – It’s remarkable how many great bands (Caravan, Yes) made debut albums that don’t fit neatly into the signature sound they’d soon develop. That’s the case with Genesis’ debut. That said, even though it’s little-known, its worth hearing.

  • Trespass (1970) – With Genesis compositions, longer has tended to mean better. At nine minutes, “The Knife” is the band’s first classic. Dramatic, sweeping, amazing.

  • Nursery Cryme (1971) – Three lengthy pieces (out of seven total) and a new drummer (one Phil Collins” make this a classic. “The Musical Box” showcases the strengths of every member.

  • Foxtrot (1972) – And the hits (well, not hits…) keep coming. “Watcher of the Skies” and “Supper’s Ready” are among the finest works from the group.

  • Selling England by the Pound (1973) – Their very best, with “Firth of Fifth” as the best thing they’d ever do, supported by a bunch of other great tracks. Though Peter Gabriel remains as the primary focal point, Phil’s lead vocal on “More Fool Me” is heart-rending, and hints at the (then as yet unknown) future.

  • Genesis Live (1973) – A solid document of the live set, but perhaps not strictly necessary.

  • The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) – Genesis moved into quasi rock opera territory. As muddled a story as Tommy, but the music’s still very good. Not as immediate as earlier records, and not the ideal entry point.

  • A Trick of the Tail (1976) – A transitional work, with Collins as lead singer. The band is still swimming in progressive waters.

  • Wind and Wuthering (1976) – The post-Gabriel lineup seems to have found its footing here. And – egads! – a hit single in “Your Own Special Way.”

  • Seconds Out (1977) – If you want live Genesis, this is the one to get. Even though it’s from the post-Peter Gabriel period, it’s the definitive document of the band live onstage, with lots of classic material.

  • …And Then There Were Three… (1978) – When guitarist Steve Hackett departs, so does my keen interest. He wasn’t the linchpin of the band – they were all key – but with him gone, a spark disappears. But it’s hard to ague against the quality of the music, including another hit single, “Follow You Follow Me.”

  • Duke (1980) – This record effectively marks the end of prog-era Genesis. Three hit singles – all admittedly excellent songs – would finally lead them away from what made them special to start with. Later music is, from my standpoint, for a different audience.