Friday, June 5, 2020

Genesis 18: Calling All Stations

Few bands that have achieved success with one lead singer go on to find success with another after the first one leaves, for whatever reason. AC/DC did it after Bon Scott, Pink Floyd kinda did it after Syd Barrett, and Genesis did it after Peter Gabriel. So once Phil Collins went solo for good, Genesis founding members Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford intended to carry on, and why wouldn’t they.
This time, however, they were replacing a singer who also happened to be their drummer, and an active collaborator for over two decades. The new singer would have to be pretty damn impressive to keep these guys in gold records and sold-out shows; a drummer wasn’t as important, as they’d used Chester Thompson to supplement Phil on tour for years. Virtual unknown Ray Wilson was certainly competent in the vocal department, but that’s about all he brought to the table as evidenced by Calling All Stations. (Two drummers were used throughout the album.)
Part of what helped Genesis move forward after Gabriel left was their existing brand: the music still sounded like the Genesis of recent years, and Phil had not only contributed vocals to earlier songs, but was able to get into the spirit of the melodies, if not the characters. By 1997 the Genesis sound had become most synonymous with him, to the point where keyboards and guitars weren’t as prominent as before. Furthermore, Banks’ multiple solo projects were sales duds, and any success Mike + The Mechanics had was usually down to whoever was singing, especially if it was Paul Carrack.
Without looking at the label of the CD, would anybody know this was Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford? Worse, would someone think this was the new album by the band that still called itself Bad Company, but sounded nothing like the lineup with Paul Rodgers? That’s what makes Calling All Stations so inessential. There’s nothing embarrassing about it, except maybe the rhythms on ill-advised first single “Congo”, or the baffling “Alien Afternoon”. “Small Talk” is pretty dopey, though “The Dividing Line” sounds enough like recent Genesis until the vocals start.
As usual for the time, the album is way too long. The new lineup toured Europe and promptly called it quits. Calling All Stations is still in print, and we thought it had not been part of any reissue or expansion program, but it turns out we were mistaken.

Genesis Calling All Stations (1997)—2


  1. It was reissue along with the other albums in 2017. They remixed and reissue the whole catalog. The only exception was "From Genesis To Revelation".

  2. I’d still rather listen to this than “We Can’t Dance”. That doesn't mean that it’s that much better.

    When I first heard the record, my first thought was: “Silent Running”. That’s a Mike and The Mechanics song trying to be a Genesis song. The whole album sounds like that. One big reason is the choice of Wilson. He has a solid voice, but it totally lacks any distinction at all. On the album, he’s not much more than a session vocalist.

    That isn’t his fault. Tony and Mike made a serious error in thinking they could replace Collins with an outsider who would be totally subservient to their ideas. Genesis, either with Pete or Phil, was a band, with their lead singers key to the writing, playing, songwriting and arrangements. Trying to turn Genesis into a dour, humorless Banks-Rutherford version of Steely Dan was not going to work.

    The other things they didn’t consider was that during the preceding six years, Nirvana had irrevocably altered rock radio in the USA. “Boomer” acts were having increasing difficulty getting new material on the air, even without major personnel changes. I had no idea the album was released until I saw it in my local record store.

    A live video of a show in Poland proves that Ray was a strong, confident front man. However, he looked out of place alongside of Tony and Mike. Again, when performing the old stuff, they sounded like Mike and the Mechanics covering Genesis songs.
    Rutherford, especially, seemed to be chastened by the album’s bombing out in the USA and refused to accept Genesis downgraded to playing theaters. This marked the end of the group, except as a nostalgia act. They finally hit an artistic dead end.