Friday, September 4, 2020

Genesis 19: Archive

With the band all but over, the longtime members of Genesis convened to compile a box set of rarities. Rather than cram all their incarnations into a single sprawling compilation, Genesis Archive 1967-75 wisely concentrated on the Peter Gabriel years. In an eccentric move, but ultimately a method that enhanced the listening experience, the program went backwards, kind of. (We’ll explain.)
The first two discs are devoted to the only professionally recorded live performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The sound is terrific, the rhythm section and keyboards tight, and Peter’s occasional song introductions attempt to shed some light on the work’s thick plot. Because many of the songs as originally performed had less-than-stellar vocals due to the costumes he wore onstage, Peter re-recorded an indeterminate portion of the vocals specifically for this set. Steve Hackett allegedly redid some of his guitar parts too. Because (they said) the tape ran out for “It”, that song is included in its studio incarnation with all new vocals.
The third disc begins with five songs from a 1973 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre—four from Selling England By The Pound, plus “Supper’s Ready”, the latter supposedly with new vocal parts as well. A BBC performance of “Stagnation” with the then-newly recruited Steve Hackett and Phil Collins is excellent. Three rare singles fill the rest of the disc. “Twilight Alehouse”—originally from the Foxtrot era but eventually released as the B-side to “I Know What I Like”—is unsettling in its portrait of an ordinary yet disturbed man (as opposed to fantasy or mythological creature) finding solace in alcohol, but the instrumental break is worth it. The standalone “Happy The Man” single sounds almost like a parody of Cat Stevens (despite the alarming rhyme “like a nun with a gun”). The drastically re-arranged, re-recorded single version of “Watcher Of The Skies” cuts out the entire Mellotron intro, sticks to the verses, and fades on a chant.
The fourth disc is the most challenging, simply because it goes way, way back to when they were just kids starting out, before Steve and Phil. Some of these are more historically than musically interesting; good luck enduring “Let Us Now Make Love” without cringing. A strings-less mix of “In The Wilderness” suggests that a stripped-down version of the debut might be of interest, as are such demos as “Dusk” and “She Is Beautiful”. A few tracks recorded for the BBC and nowhere else are also unique in that Peter shares some vocals with Tony Banks and Anthony Phillips. The bulk of the disc predates the first album, and includes even more straight pop and love songs than anything they’d do until the ‘80s.
Coming at a time when Peter was supposedly hard at work on his next album, the Genesis Archive reminded people who’d given up on the modern version of the band where they’d come from. It didn’t do Phil Collins any favors, unless you listen closely enough to the drums.

Genesis Genesis Archive 1967-75 (1998)—3

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