Selling England By The Pound Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, Import
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Selling England By The Pound (Original Recording Remastered)
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|Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, January 5, 1995||
Audio, Cassette, Original recording remastered, October 4, 1994
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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 it's 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
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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.
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.
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The quality of the audio engineering really shows off how accomplished Genesis is as a band (sophisticated rock, accomplished...Read more