85 of 88 people found the following review helpful
I listened to Genesis obsessively while in graduate school and this 1973 recording was always a favorite. For me, Selling England by the Pound represents everything about progressive rock that I hold near and dear: intricate ensemble work, virtuosic musicianship, cool synthesizer sounds (ARP Pro Soloist!), and "hummable" melodies. I know the "hummable" melodies thing will raise a few eyebrows, but they are nice to have around and there is no shortage of them on this recording.
There is a mixture of long and short pieces on Selling England by the Pound, which range from quiet acoustic pieces to full-blown, over the top, prog extravaganzas. The longer pieces include Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (8'03"), Firth of Fifth (9'37"), The Battle of Epping Forest (11'44"), and The Cinema Show/Aisle of Plenty (12'41"). Sandwiched in-between the longer pieces is the poppy I Know What I Like (in 1974, it reached #21 in England), More Fool Me, which is an acoustic piece with Phil Collins on vocals, and After the Ordeal, which is a short instrumental written by guitarist Steve Hackett. Each of the longer pieces are excellent examples of their highly disciplined ensemble approach to arrangements, which include pre-composed solos and display the use of a few carefully placed chords that make the transition between sections in different keys seamless. The transitional chords and mellow 12-string acoustic guitar parts, along with smooth synthesizer and guitar tones, a full Rickenbacker bass sound from Mike Rutherford, and the ability of excellent drummer Phil Collins to make even a 5/4 seem natural impart an unhurried, warm, and intimate feel to the whole recording.
Based on what I have read, writers block plagued Genesis during the recording period even though Selling England by the Pound is conceptually sound (it comments on English class structure) and it is only Firth of Fifth that suffers from a dodgy lyric. Furthermore, keyboardist Tony Banks expressed irritation with vocalist Peter Gabriel's decision to plaster lyrics over the entirety of the already busy The Battle of Epping Forest. So many lyrics in fact, that Peter reportedly ran out of breath during live performances of the song.
Although the sound quality of this 1994 remaster is not nearly as good as my old LP, it is still pretty good.
In spite of it all, the guys in Genesis came through with a remarkable recording of progressive rock - one that I return to again and again. Very highly recommended.
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2002
Chances are any die-hard fan of 70s prog knows this album already and won't even need to read these comments. Genesis in their early years were one of the most outlandish and imaginative (not to mention musically talented) groups out there, and Selling England is arguably the finest representation of the band while Peter Gabriel was still in it. The whimsical lyrics and ten-minute songs that marked the genre are plentiful here, but not excessive; they're rooted in ear-pleasing melodies and arranged in an almost classical manner. (Check the wonderful piano intro to "Firth of Fifth" or the heartfelt guitar solo.) They also offer some shorter gems (the peaceful piano/flute-led "After the Ordeal," the simple strumming of "More Fool Me") that it wouldn't take a proghead to enjoy, and "I Know What I Like" was the group's first single to break onto the charts. I'd recommend this as the first early Genesis disc for those who are just learning of their life beyond Phil Collins. Incidentally, Phil's drumming is inventive, layered and well-executed over all their early albums. I wish he'd remember it sometimes.
Though it's a holy grail of sorts among its cult fan base, this still isn't an album for everyone; there are lots of organs and keyboards scattered around, the music ranges from simple to dauntingly complex, and the lyrics at times can seem downright silly. I'll add that it was the record of theirs most grounded and down-to-earth; where previous efforts went through historical settings to fairy tales and futuristic landscapes, this one is distinctly English all over. It's consistent from the British slang words through "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" to the fading-out of the final track in a melange of store signs, green grocers and scrambled eggs. If the album's title seems a little sarcastic.. you'd never know it from the nicely singable melodies, but these were some of the most witty and cynical guys the rock world has ever seen. "Firth of Fifth" compares humanity to a tumor on the landscape, and to sheep refusing to free themselves. "The Battle of Epping Forest" introduces us to a colorful cast of East End thugs and robbers before gleefully killing them all. "Moonlit Knight" seems to give snapshots of the old British empire slowly falling apart due to petty squabbling and greed. Somehow, though, it never sounded so fun before.
Through a variety-packed 53 minutes the boys paint pictures of their green homeland, giving everything their own distinct shades of humor, bawdiness, sadness and rustic charm. Look into Foxtrot if you like this one, then perhaps tackle the mammoth acid trip of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I can't say what's best for anyone else, but I know what I like.
66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 1999
For those people who only know Peter Gabriel for his pop song "Sledgehammer", who think Genesis and Phil Collins are pop/rock musicians only, or those who don't have respect for them for being pop/rock superstars... Genesis besides being pop rock superstars, they were Art-Progressive Rock superstars in the 70's, and such albums like Foxtrot ,Nursery Cryme and the masterpiece The lamb lies down on Broadway prove it. But by far, the best record ever made by Genesis is this one, Selling England by the pound. The reason: They sound like a band, everybody has the opportunity to show their talents. Peter Gabriel's dramatic voice and a flute as dramatic as his voice. Steve Hackett, with his over the top guitar, almost Van Halenish sound, with complex and lyrical solos. Mike Rutherford showing he is great in the rhythm section with his precise bass lines. Tony Banks with his classical influenced keyboards that give the whole atmosphere to the recording and Phil Collins as the great drummer he is, with complex rhythms and a great background and lead vocalist. Along with Close to the edge by Yes, In the court of the crimson King by King Crimson, Aqualung by Jethro Tull ,Emerson Lake & Palmer's debut album, and Pink Floyd's Dark side of the Moon, this one is one of the essential recordings for those who are interested in the British Progressive Rock era. Sure, Genesis made some of the best pop songs in the 80's, but in the 70's they made their best music, and this album is a statement of that.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2006
While some may differ Selling England By The Pound, to me is the finest album Genesis released - period.
For the first time Genesis spend time in the studio and make the best of it. The recording quality is miles beyond their prior albums, including the wonderful prior release Foxtrot. Beyond the vastly better sonic quality is the cohesive skills shown here. For the first time Genesis puts out a complete album where no song could go missing and not be considered ruining the album. Much as I like prior releases there are songs that could be removed and not much would have changed the album other than missing some track time, something Genesis was unusually kind about considering their long running times for an era where 40 minutes was long for an album.
And before people get angry, I'm not saying Supper's Ready should be excised from any album, nor many other fantastic tracks on earlier Genesis albums. I am saying that for the first and only time with Peter Gabriel, there is not a song that did not belong, although some felt differently when "the drummer, Phil Collins" sang lead vocals on "More Fool Me."
Of all the Genesis albums I find Selling England By The Pound to be essential, vital and most capably played of their catalog. Opening with Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Genesis start with what would become the launch pad for many a progressive song in the various eras progressive rock has endured.
Unlike Yes, Genesis were seen as a more subdued band, or so it seemed, particularly because of it's older, less capably recorded and produced albums. What is true is that Genesis were far more economical as composers and as such, could get the point across in six or seven minutes what Yes would take ten or twelve, much spent on solos, beloved as they are.
Looking back, Genesis is the more direct of the Symphonic Progressive artists. They create their music, waste nothing on repitition or solos that didn't help make the song better. They wrote etherial songs along with darkly brooding and wryly funny moments. Of the progressive rock bands they were the more human.
Each musician was technically excellent but were also superb ensemble players and that ethos they had for years comes to fruition on Selling England. Bands would kill to have written a song of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight's quality, not to meantion lyrical prowess, something I found the worst part of many prog bands.
While not a concept album, or not as far as I know, much of the album deals with English mythology and sociology with some Pythonesque commentary in songs such as The Battle Of Epping Forest and the classic, The Cinema Show. Even the ending song, Asle of Plenty has a wry humor related to what we've experienced as a song and in term of lyrical content. In that way, if Selling England wasn't a concept album there is good argument that it is.
On this album there are no less than five masterpiece songs, all of them the lenghtly ones. Those include Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), Firth Of Fifth, The Battle Of Epping Forest and The Cinema Show. These tracks are the basis of the album as well, which is not to say that the remaining tracks are unnecessary. In fact, they work like connective tissue, adding tension and release and in After The Ordeal, the means of going from a rock based Battle of Epping Forest to the more dual acoustic guitar attack of The Cinema Show.
The lyrics are stunning throughout the album proving Peter Gabriel was more than "the vocalist." We'd find that out a couple of albums later, but for now, read and listen to Gabriel's phrasing and stylized voices. If nothing else, I was always impressed with what Peter Gabriel could do with his already distinguished voice, but here we hear the depth to which his voice changes, and we hear it with exceptional lyrics which are his finest.
As the band wrote as a group we are very much hearing a group effort, one where everyone is on the same page and thinking in complementary ways.
Every song on this album matters, there are reasons for them being on the album, not just that they are good songs, but that there are lyrical segments that tie into another, musical passages that have bearing upon one another. Having been a fan and seeing all their concerts for years, much of this album remained, even through the Genesis as pop stars era band using this album as the basis for their 'old songs' sub-set.
But of vastly greater importance few bands achieve an album that connects as their best impression of what Genesis, the band could do, Genesis, the explorers did...like introducing synthesizers as more than a flashy sound and more as another, more esoteric and melodic sounding part of the band. This is important in that their contemporaries were using synths more as a novelty the first few albums they had them whilst Genesis made it another instrument on equal footing with guitar or flute where melody was concerned.
Besides King Crimson, I don't feel anyone did more with less flashy playing. King Crimson brought the mellotron to the attention of many artists as more than just a cheap way of having orchestral sounds. And Tony Banks was probably the most understated keyboardist in a genre that would be cluttered with them, and yet his phrasings and actual work were nothing short of stunning! The intro to Firth of Fifth was all I remember hearing when auditioning keyboardists for my own band. Every one of them tried to play that intro, and some actually got the notes correct, but not the feel or soul that Tony Banks managed to bring to all his work. And yet there are no massive 10 minute keyboard extravaganzas to be found in Genesis' music, nor in the era this masterpiece of an album was released. In fact, it was common to wow the crowd with your musical prowess.
To their credit Genesis did so by playing some of the best crafted ensemble arrangements to be heard in the 70s, or any time. That this album is timeless is yet another reason why I love it so.
Using Firth of Fifth as another example, the solo by Steve Hackett is tremendous in it's scope. It is literally epic, so much so that to this day Hackett and anyone involved with the band have left it extant, a guitar solo that took on the place of a melodic line, and one that was climactic to boot. Phil Collins proves why he was such an amazing drummer and one of the hottest session drummers in the U.K. His style was steady yet had elements of sophistication years beyond his young age at the time. He is at his prime here and on Genesis' next opus, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. It is no surprise that so many drummers have borrowed his style and many sounds, including some breakthrough work on Peter Gabrial's third, and many consider, best, solo album.
Mike Rutheford always seemed the backbone of the band, whether playing guitar or as the bassist with sophisticated and endless fills that made you think, how did that one come about?
Though maybe 5 years older than me, I see artists like Genesis as the reason I plod on in music well past my prime...because there is proof that music isn't flashy sounding, handsome/sexy media candy, but a bunch of blokes that enjoy what they do and have ideas that many of us would kill to be honored to have said, "that was my song." In the end, that is why Genesis exemplifies the progressive sound in so many bands. They were able to make listeners think beyond our normal boundries, more like artists of the written word than simply musicians. Beyond that, they were entertaining as a playing band, incorporating masks, lighting and themess on the stage; and while bands like Pink Floyd did this first, Genesis had a stronger group of songs to work with. Their images were visual in an impressionist way, leaving plenty for listeners to think for themselves, and even in the great days of the original progressive rock bands, few were able to hold a candle to Genesis, even, if only for a short time, after Peter Gabriel left the band.
In fact, I wrote this review because I reviewed the Wind and Wuthering album and felt that these two albums were in their own way, the best of what Genesis had to offer it's audience and music in general. Few bands can make an album of Selling England By The Pound's quality, let alone create songs such as Cinema Show, Firth Of Fifth or the quirky I Know What You Like (In Your Wardrobe), it is equally impressive that every album they made for at least the first six years they were a band, had at least one song of the caliber found in near obscene quantity here.
This is a must have album for fans of Genesis, Peter Gabriel or anyone who ever said they liked progressive rock. Your parents probably loved it and their parents, still in shock over rock music, could come to enjoy it. Because great music trancends age and social boundries, and this is one of the finest rock albums made.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Until I became a fan of progressive rock I little realized the pre-Phil Collins history of Genesis, or, as some fans describe it, the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis. I was unsure of what to expect when I first played this CD because progressive rock has a wide variety. I was pleased when the first track, "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight," starts off sounding like Jethro Tull with their unique style of folk-rock. Just like classic Tull, this track soon gets spiced up with some excellent guitar and drum work. The guitar in this selection is particularly interesting and challenging in portions and, with the complex lyrics, put this selection squarely in the center of 70s progressive rock. Genesis does use some kind of synthesizer on this track. It could be a mellotron or a chamberlain, or perhaps even a moog. I am unsure.
Foreshadowing the mellow Genesis of the future is "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)." However, the cryptic lyrics that nearly make sense and generally do not along with the unusual rhythms (sort of a jungle theme from time to time) keep this song in the progressive genre, though toward the pop side of progressive. This song was the first hit for the group in Great Britain.
The third track, "Firth of Forth," is a wonderful track that has elements similar to King Crimson's early work in combination with excellent semi-classical piano and flute. The synthesizer and drums round out an intertwined lush and sometimes sparse sound to create yet another outstanding progressive rock track. The lyrics for this song are more readily understandable, though still very euphemistic and poetic.
Phil Collins takes the lead vocal honors on "More Fool Me," once again a foreshadowing of the future of Genesis. This short track is a kind of interlude between the much longer "Firth of Forth" and "The Battle of Epping Forest," feeling almost like an intermission because of its relatively simple construction.
According to the booklet accompanying the CD, the nearly 12 minute song "The Battle of Epping Forest" was "Taken from a news story concerning two rival gangs fighting over East-End Protection rights." The song has a short introduction featuring vaguely military sounding music. The lyrics are all about conflict and the results of the conflict, but the grim lines are moderated by the satirical nature of the entire song. Even the music is ironic, often light and playful in the midst of the death and destruction of the fight between the gangs. The end is outrageous and the final irony. This music is one of those progressive rock creations that require hearing for full appreciation, and possibly never understanding.
Leading from one irony to the next is "After the Ordeal." The English seem to enjoy poking fun at religion, and this instrumental, which accompanies a poem in the CD booklet, does so well. Even the quasi-Elizabethan music feels vaguely religious without being so. However, the words of the poem describe the hypocrisy of a certain individual of the charge who apparently has some difficulty staying on a moral path. Well, actually the individual has veered off the path, kind of far, actually.
The seventh track, "The Cinema Show," is the fourth long track. This song is a dramatic story about Tiresias, a character from mythology who, in one version, was changed for a time into a woman, and then later back to a man. I leave the reader to discover the full story. However, the song brings in other elements to fill out the promise of the title, and because of the frequent ambiguity of the lyrics I am unsure of whether the intent was to harmonize the elements of the song with Tiresias's story, or whether the intent was to describe the elements of entertainments, since both Romeo and Juliet and Tiresias have been featured in various movies. In either case, the synthesizers are well-performed and much more subdued than those often featured in some other progressive rock work, such as, for example, that of Yes or Rick Wakeman.
The CD finishes off with the wonderfully bizarre and eccentric "Aisle of Plenty." There are some songs that are better left to the listener, and this is one of those.
As with much of progressive rock, this music is for the listener who likes a variety of progressive rock, particularly the kind created by groups such as Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and the Moody Blues, among others. While the music is somewhat mellow, there are places where the guitars take over and pull the music along. The lyrics are sufficiently cryptic to challenge anyone attempting to decipher them. This album is a progressive rock classic from the early 70s, setting the stage for next Genesis progressive rock album, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway."
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 1999
In late 1973 the post-Beatles British Rock movement came to its climax. Among the albums recorded and released at this time are ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery," King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic," and the greatest of them all, Genesis' "Selling England By the Pound." Where other post-Beatle bands chose to soar into the journey of the soul, or to explore apocalyptic anti-technology themes, Genesis stayed here on Earth, specifically Southeastern England, to record the collapse of the British nation into political, economic, social, and cultural nothingness. The songs on "Selling England" reflect the destruction of folklore, of history, of social meaning in post-War life. Tapping on literary sources from early English poetry, Edmund Spenser's equally lyrical "The Faerie Queen" (1590) to T.S. Eliot's equally bleak write-off of Industrial/Captialist Culture "The Waste Land(1922), Genesis created a vision of Shakespeare's "Scepter'd Isle (Richard II) transmogrifying into a corporate "Aisle of Plenty."
Muscially brilliant, moving from A-cappella cris de coeur to searing guitar solos, flowing keyboard lines to inventive bass and drum work, Genesis never bore, even in the long instrumentals that give weight to "Selling England." A cohesive work far surpassing other post-Beatle concept albums (including their own misguided "Lamb" disaster), the classical and European avant-garde influences blend seamlessly with Genesis's own visions to create something wholly new, wholly Western, and wholly post-modern.
A work of sorrow, rage, and shock, in its way, Selling England By the Pound" is the upper-class equivalent of "Never Mind the Bollocks," and far more genuine. Gabriel, Banks, and Rutherford were all well-educated members of the Upper Class, trained at Charterhouse, Collins was a child-stage star, while Hackett was one of the many middle-class kids seduced by rock and roll.
The 1973 oil-shock and subsequent world depression destroyed post-Beatles rock, and after "Lamb" Genesis dumbed itself down to the point of non-existence.
As a sharp rendering of that brink moment when all of Western Civilization came crashing down into a post-modern late-capitalist heap where no artistic statement is important, and where the commodity of humanity is worth less than the money humans might have to spend, "Selling England by the Pound," like all great works of art, borders on prophecy.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2010
I am a bit dismayed with tastes now-a-days... I am not too old, not too young. This album was originally recorded, mixed and mastered a couple years before I was born and I hate to say it, but those efforts were way more sublime and appropriate for this album, an album of delicate and articulate material.
It seems some of the original tracks could not be found for this remix. The most beautiful and endearing vocals ever delivered by Gabriel open the original mixes of this album. But on this version those a capella opening lines are very noticeably different form the original mixes and here on this remix sound more like a patch work of two or three takes. Overall very weak and enough to ruin this re-presentation of Selling England By The Pound for this listener.
As seems to be the case with all of these Nick Davis re-mixes, the stereo mix definitely took the back-seat to the surround mix. Sometimes the mix feels congested, nasal in the mid-range, sometime vocals are in that mid-range jumble and sometimes they jump into you lap. I dare say I think ONLY the 5.1 mixes were created or even cared about in this very ambitious Genesis re-mix project. Most likely an automated, computer decided upon, stereo mix-down is what we are left with, those of us who still prefer 2 (or 2.1).
Nick did a good job on the definitive remasters, especially with The Lamb... I would suggest sticking with those if you want to hear nicely EQed and cleaner versions of the original stereo mixes of any/all Genesis albums. A lot of what was done by the original engineers and producers of those albums really did enhance and solidify Genesis' in-studio presence and overall musical presentation.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 1999
Complex classically inspired music combined with fantasy lyrics conjure up wonderful surreal images on this extraordinary work from 1973. DANCING WITH THE MOONLIT KNIGHT opens the ablum with Peter Gabriel's distinctive voice and sets a high music standard for all that follows. I KNOW WHAT I LIKE is a catchy pop song that is also Dali-esque in its nature. FIRTH OF FIFTH features a stunning piano solo by Tony Banks, which is then later complemented by Steve Hackett's powerful guitar. MORE FOOL ME is a haunting ballad sung by Phil Collins long before he became a superstar. THE BATTLE OF EPPING FOREST is an odd song about gang warfare that is the only cut I'm not that crazy about on the disc. AFTER THE ORDEAL is an interesting instrumental with some nice guitar work by Hackett and flute work by Gabriel. Banks and Gabriel reportedly wanted this cut off the album because of a concern about the overall lenth of the LP, which is of course a moot point now. I'm glad they left it on! THE CINEMA SHOW/AISLE OF PLENTY is in my opinion the highlight of the Gabriel-Genesis period. A pretty open, strong lyrics, incredible playing by the entire band climaxing with another haunting theme. Why doesn't anyone write music like this anymore?
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2005
Until recently, my knowledge of Genesis did not expand past Duke, so I never knew them for being anything but a trio. Though I do enjoy the quality of their music. I've never been a huge fan of 80s synthesizer pop, but I still enjoy The Invisible Touch, due to the way Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford actually make synth-pop intelligent and engaging. But anyway, my point is that for the longest time, I never knew there was this other side to Genesis that reared its head between 1967 and 1975, a side that established the band as masters of progressive rock, and would serve as an inspiration to numerous bands in the late 70s and 80s.
This was the first album I bought from the "Peter Gabriel era," and at first it confused me. But now, after listening to it several times (as well as buying both 1971's Nursery Cryme and 1972's Foxtrot), I look upon it as an album worthy of standing alongside such progressive masterworks as Yes's Fragile, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and Rush's 2112.
Although there are moments of brilliance on both Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, I feel that the two albums suffered from bad production. The musicianship of the band members is excellent, but the production is only sub-par, which ultimately means that the two albums are not as good as they could be. Selling England by the Pound solves this problem. The band finally found a competant producer in John Burns (and the fact that band members themselves co-produced probably also counts for something). The sound is crisp, and not a single track is over or underscored when it shouldn't be. The four epic pieces on this album transition better than epic songs written by the band in the past, making for a downright entertaining experience for the listener. And the fact that every member of the group is in top form helps, as well.
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight is a beautiful opening track, starting simply with Peter Gabriel's vocals. Right off the bat, we can see that Peter Gabriel has matured in his penchant for role-playing. He shifts from the "uniform" to the "queen" to the "paperboy" without sounding like he's fumbling, while the hauntingly bardic melody of Steve Hackett's guitar slowly fades up underneath it. As the tale continues, we hear Phil Collins's drums begin to fade up as well, and then suddenly, in a rush, we are overwhelmed by the mellotron of Tony Banks, the explosive percussion of Collins, and the sudden shift in Gabriel's vocals from soft and low to edgy and raucous. The song moves through several phases, first allowing Hackett to display his expertise, and then the sudden bursts on the keyboard from Banks. But the transitions in the song or neither ugly or noticable, as on earlier epic songs such as The Musical Box. Finally, the last two minutes of the song are like the musical equivalent of a good wine: it must be listened to with the volume up to capture all the subtleties. We have the fanciful melody being played on the keyboard (underscored by what I think might be a 12-string from Hackett), while Gabriel's flute rises and falls and we hear the occasional jingle of low-key cymbals from Collins. It's absolutely gorgeous.
Moving right along, we have the shorter I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), one of the few Gabriel-era songs to make it onto 1999's compilation album, Turn It On Again. Honestly, I wish this was one Genesis song the radio played more. It's easy to listen to, and it also provides a wonderful gateway into the band's more progressive period. The tale that accompanies the song is easy to relate to, and is really just a colorful way of saying that ignorance is bliss. Here, we have Gabriel assuming the role of a simple lawnmower named Jacob, who is content with his job and his place in life and just wishes that all the supporting characters would leave him alone ("I know what I like and I like what I know"). Gabriel's switching from character to character is more sudden than in the last song, but he still holds his breath well enough, especially during the long-winded second verse. It's catchy, but it's also got a higher degree of musicianship than the band's later singles (especially during the last half).
Firth of Fifth is simply a masterpiece, and probably as close as the band ever comes to channeling Yes (in fact, Tony Banks on the piano reminds of Rick Wakeman's work on Fragile). Each musician is in excellent form: the grand, sweeping poetry of Gabriel's lyrics, the almost-classical tone to Banks's keyboards, the soft but striking notes of Rutherford's bass, the crispness of Hackett's guitar (not to mention the way he makes it twist and bend like a leaf caught in a windstorm), and some of the best drumming Collins has ever done in his life. And I love the way it starts and ends with that classical piano melody.
I often find myself comparing More Fool Me to the song For Absent Friends: a short acoustic number to provide a rest in-between the prog epics. But here, I would have to say that Phil Collins, in his lead vocals, attains a contemplative softness rarely heard in his career, and I love the way Peter Gabriel graciously assumes the role of backing vocalist, underscoring Phil perfectly.
Then we come to the last half of the album. The Battle of Epping Forest is just about everything you would expect from a progressive epic. But here, the band reaches new levels of achievement. I enjoy how unlike past epics, we are not immediately thrown into Peter Gabriel's vocals, but rather we start with a militaristic tune (Phil Collins rolls out like an army drummer boy, while Gabriel accompanies on the flute) that slowly fades in and then out. This sets the stage wonderfully for what's to come. This is one of those songs that demands a great deal of attention from the listener. From a musical standpoint, one could enjoy this while working or driving the car, but it's also ideal for sitting at home, where one can read the lyrics as the tale unfolds. First of all, the band achieves a level of cynical humor here. The lyrics are inspired by an actual news article, involving rival London gangs fighting over East-End protection rights. There is a certain irony here, especially in lines like "these Christian solders fight to protect the poor" (anyone who knows anything about protection rackets knows that store owners pay gangs to protect their stores from the gangs themselves) and "the shops that need aid are those that haven't paid," as well as a tragic humor in the way the violence is intended to be civilized ("there's no guns in this gentlemen's bout"). Especially interesting is the way the band seems to divert right before the final battle into a side-story involving the church, and one of the gang leaders (Bob the Nob). Is the band speaking of the hypocrisy that's always been present within the leaders of the church, or is it trying to heighten the metaphor that this gang-war is a modern day crusade, the gangs themselves like Knights Templars? Ultimately, that's up to the listener to decide. For some reason, this side-story involving the church is listed as being the lyrics to After the Ordeal in the CD Booklet, when the song is really an instrumental. I've always looked upon After the Ordeal as an epilogue to the violent gangfight we've just been witness to (mopping up the "morning goo," as it were). In fact, I can almost picture it as music that might accompany the ending credits to a film. Very appropriate.
The album wraps up with two songs that fade into one another, something not seen on the rest of the album. The Cinema Show is an interesting story of the Greek myth of Tiresius, perhaps in a modern setting. It's a bit less edgy than the rest of the album, especially with the synthesizer solos, but I enjoy how Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford manage to keep the hectic rhythm of the drum and bass tracks going for the final six or seven minutes of the song. Then, we leave with Aisle of Plenty, which almost seems a reprisal to the lyrics of the first song. But here, the overdubbing of Gabriel's lyrics (as well as the key with which he sings the lines such as "see the deadly nightshade grow"), always gives me goosebumps, especially when accompanied by the synthesized choir and Banks's eletric piano. It's short, but I think it serves as a fitting end to the album.
Much as I admire the band's accomplishments under the direction of Phil Collins, I would have to say that Peter Gabriel's Genesis is, in the end, more engaging. The band members were at their musical peak in Gabriel's time, and I only wish that more people knew about early-70s Genesis. Anyone who wants to know should start with this album. It is a spectacular accomplishment in the field of progressive rock, and hopefully will give a whole new meaning to the Genesis most people know.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2002
This is an *excellent* collection, and any attempt to put it into words will almost certainly fail miserably. To me, this is a bit more complex than 1972's _Foxtrot_, with even more literate-based landscapes, extended instrumental sections, tricky time signatures/rhythms, and imagination in general, yet concisely arranged and tight throughout.
It starts with "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight," which starts in a nighttime lullalby fashion; this track has a gleaming twinkle in sound that shines as bright as the Moon. From there it goes from mellow stylings of folk and r&b-guitar, which eventually explodes into a collage of idiosyncratic, yet theatrical vocals, operatic mellotron and then heavy rock. The theatrical quality and overall sophisticated sounds of this track pretty much foreshadow the kinds of sounds you will hear throughout the entire album. "I Know What I Like," is based on the cover artwork and is pretty easy listening; probably the most "straightforward" track on the album. "Firth Of Fifth" is another epic on here with more storytelling. Once again, the extended instrumental chops, especially Tony Banks' keyboards, shine brightly. Listen to some of the tricky rhythms on here
"More Fool Me" is a soft and pretty ballad. This time Phil Collins does the vocal duties, against the backdrop of the complex chords of Steve Hackett. Some would say that this track foreshadowed what would come of Genesis in the 80s.
"The Battle Of Epping Forest" is based on a news article about two gangs fighting over land or something of the like. (Note: If you read the lyrics in the sleeve to this song -- for this remastered edition -- you will notice that a certain section in this song is listed as the lyrics to "After The Ordeal," which is an instrumental, so keep that in mind.)
Anyway, "Epping Forest" is probably the most quirky on here fearuring Peter Gabriel using a series of different voices to portray many different characters, almost like a mini-play. As always the music is very intricate, with loads of drama, and time changes (again, try to listen to the rhythms here, and work out the time signatures that this band uses. Very unique and interesting.)
"After The Ordeal," is an ethereal and absorbing instrumental, as I've noted earlier. "The Cinema Show" is arguably the highlight of the disc. Definitely the climactic point. It's divided into two halves. The first features the romantic, imaginative and dreamy soundscapes (and lyrics), and features some mythological references. It clocks in at nearly six minutes. The last half is the all out instrumental jam in 7/8. This instrumental jam is right up there with Apocalypse in 9/8 from _Foxtrot_'s "Supper's Ready." This features creative and tasteful drumming from Phil, complex chord changes from Steve Hackett, solid, anchoring basslines from Mike Rutherford, and of course the spotlight belongs to the leads of Tony Banks. The keyboard playing on here is phenomenal, and full of atmosphere, eventually bringing it to an eerie keyboard reprise of "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight," which is followed by Steve Hackett's classical guitar. This now becomes "Aisle of Plenty" with Peter Gabriel's quirky vocals.
This album is *unbelievable*, and as mentioned above, words alone couldn't do it justice, and even then, how could I really describe it? It's one of my *absolute* favorite albums in rock, period. I would recommend this to prog-rock fans who don't already own this, as well as people who like original, challenging and imaginative music.