Take Five: Early Epics from Genesis

The fourth album from Genesis, Foxtrot was released 50 years ago October. The critically-acclaimed album was the band’s first major commercial breakthrough, climbing to the #1 spot in Italy and reaching #12 on the album charts in the United Kingdom. It showed that nearly a decade before Genesis’ turn toward mainstream pop, there was a significant audience for the group’s sophisticated, progressive rock. Here are five classics – one per year – from Genesis’ prog era.

“The Knife” from Trespass (1970) – The first of what would become a long line of epic-length progressive works from Genesis, this nine-minute track composed by vocalist Peter Gabriel and keyboardist Tony Banks debuted the darker, harder-edged musical character of the group’s music.

“The Musical Box” from Nursery Crime (1971) – A truly collaborative work, this epic piece became a focal point of Genesis’ live performances. Onstage, Peter Gabriel wore increasingly outlandish masks and costumes as he acted out the Victorian tale of sex and violence.

“Watcher of the Skies” from Foxtrot (1972) – Inspired in part by the work of Romantic era poet John Keats, the science fiction fantasy is introduced by the dark tones of Tony Banks’ Mellotron, an innovative keyboard that re-created orchestral sounds. Nursery Cryme also marked the debut of the group’s new drummer, Phil Collins.

“Firth of Fifth” from Selling England by the Pound (1973) – Often cited as Genesis’ finest work, this tune by Banks (with words by Banks and bassist Mike Rutherford) features dazzling, breathtaking instrumental performances by every member of the group, most notably Banks and guitarist Steve Hackett. It also showcases one of Gabriel’s most expressive vocal turns.

“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) – Peter Gabriel’s final work before leaving Genesis was a conceptual double-album. A fantastical odyssey set in New York City, the album was performed in its entirety on a tour that included more than 100 dates in the U.S., Canada and Europe.