If one had to pare the prog-rock story down to a handful ofessential albums, this would undoubtedly be one of them. SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND was the culmination of all that Genesis had been striving for since their late-'60s inception, the refinement of the vision that developed on TRESPASS, NURSERY CRYME, and FOXTROT (somewhere in the world, there's been a second-wave prog outfit named after every one of thesealbums). The fusion of a complex classical mind with an electrified rock heart and pastoral folk spirit defined Genesis' anatomy, and never more effectively than on SELLING ENGLAND. Peter Gabriel's startlingly unpretentious tale-spinning is at its best on "The Battle of Epping Forest". Tony Banks's elegant, sophisticated keyboard work is a vital element of nearly every tune, and the electric/acoustic guitar tapestry woven by Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford is the perfect icing on the cake. Somewhat anomalous but entirely welcomeis the Gabriel-era band's catchiest, quirkiest song "I KnowWhat I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", the tale of a somewhat daft gardener. Phil Collins's lead vocal on the gorgeous acoustic ballad "More Fool Me" paints the shape of things to come.If you only buy one Genesis album, make it this one.
Often overshadowed by its immediate successor--The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
--this 1974 album features Genesis concert favorites such as the baroque "Firth of Fifth" and the epic "Cinema Show." It yields the group's first British hit, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)." Singer Peter Gabriel's heady mixture of dark drama and cryptic commentary is tied to some of the band's most stunning arrangements: Steve Hackett's violin-like guitar melodies on "Firth of Fifth," Tony Banks's synth arpeggios on "The Battle of Epping Forest," and crisp, tight drumming throughout from Phil Collins. Collins makes his Genesis lead vocal debut on the acoustic "More Fool Me." The complex structures and poetic risks taken here may throw fans of later Genesis hits such as the cute "Abacab," but it's well worth coming along for the ride. --James Rotondi