By Cal Meacham
3 Essential: Genesis Pt. 1
Read Pt. 2 here – Link
Before Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel went on to blistering solo careers they were 2/5 of the early incarnation of Genesis. Along with Steve Hackett’s guitar chops, Mike Rutherford’s bass lines and Tony Banks’ synth runs they started to mold into a prog rock monster with the release of their 1972 album Foxtrot.
By most accounts the band’s 1971 album Nursery Cryme was a prog rock paint by numbers that was recorded and produced very poorly and really lacked punch. Yes had released two great records in ’71 and all other bands of the genre were playing second fiddle both writing and success wise, so Foxtrot was a chance at redemption.
The album opens with one of the best Genesis songs ever written. Watcher of The Skies with a mellotron piece evoking a dramatic entrance fit for a king and it slowly makes way for a driving guitar line and a marching drum beat. Steve Hackett’s writing showed maturity as his licks started to seat themselves a lot more within the framework of the narrative. The 7 minute length seems to fly by because of the songs ability to flow like a play with distinct parts and highs and lows. Watcher Of The Skies really sets the tone for the rest of the album and each musician shines at different moments in a cohesive blend of pop and prog.
The 6 tracks can seem a little off putting to purchase a full lenght album but it never feels short as the two longest tracks really anchor the piece at each end. The middle tracks including “Get’em Out By Friday” and “Can-Utility And The Coastliners” are the peppiest songs with their prog-pop theatrics and make the band more accessible to non-fans of the genre. They are songs less focused on stop/start jolts and more tuned into the idea of building a grand arc for the album’s themes. The last 40 seconds of “Can-Utility” sounds like a band that has learned to have fun and not take their genre label too seriously with a moment that Peter Gabriel almost sounds as if they caught him right before a laugh.
Tony Banks seems to have studied well when listening to Fragile as you hear specks of the style and cadence reflected in “Supper’s Ready”, the albums closer. Clocking in at a gaudy 23 minutes, the song has several distinct parts beginning with an acoustic opener that would have fit well on a later Led Zeppelin record. You also hear some of these same sounds return at the 14:13 mark, as if Steve Hackett is paying his tribute to “Stairway To Heaven”, but these tributes seem all together original, not rip offs. There is even a Lamb Lies Down On Broadway synth tease if you listen closely to the 3:37 mark. The song shifts from peaks to valleys countless times and could have just as easily been split apart into its own mini-album and even with its length it is still a great song.
It is hard to not think of this album as a direct response to Fragile and while Foxtrot didn’t reach the Fragile level of commercial success, it started the string of amazing albums that define Peter Gabriel era Genesis and the band’s best work. You can hear each band member discovering their own unique voice and taking all the energy created from the other bands of the era to carve out their place.
Score – 8.5/10