Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ripples Never Come Back

My friend Erik commented about my picking up The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway on vinyl and how it was getting a lot of play on his iPod. That makes sense. Erik is a helluva a keyboard player and Lamb is very much a keyboard record. Sunday night I turned off the lights, put on the good headphones, lit a candle and gave it a full attention listen. It really is a spectacular record. Take "The Carpet Crawlers":

It's just a soaring song, especially when part of the story as a whole. It becomes almost holy the way the chorus soars. It's a great harmony between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.

Genesis is a fascinating band in terms of evolution. I can't think of band that evolved as organically as Genesis. With Gabriel at the fore they started as a very British art band, culminating in his masterpiece. He left the band because he felt the band structure couldn't offer him anything more; that he needed to go in different directions. Most of us have seen the Behind The Music and before long Genesis found their singer behind the kit. Happily, the split was amicable.

And the split changed the band, but it did so over time. The first post-Gabriel record, A Trick of The Tail is in many ways a miracle in how good it is. Songs like "Dance On A Volcano" and "Squonk" and "Entangled" and "Ripples" are fantastic. The follow-up to that Wind and Wuthering is not as good to me, at least I don't enjoy it as much. At this point guitarist Steve Hackett left for similar reasons to Gabriel, feeling confined within the band and wanting to move on to other things.

How many bands could lose their singer and guitarist and replace them not by hiring new people but by assuming the role internally? I can't think of any. And not only did they continue, then continued to make great music. And Then There Were Three was the first as a trio and is outstanding. "Burning Rope" is one of their best songs; "Snowbound" and "Undertow" and album opener "Down and Out" are all exceptional. The last song on the record hinted at where they would go: "Follow You Follow Me."

The next record, Duke, is one of my most favorite records of all time. And it's another miracle in plastic in how good it is. It's without a doubt more radio friendly than the Gabriel days, but it still retains many of the progressive bonafides. There's the hits "Misunderstanding" and "Turn It On Again." Then there's the non-hits but songs that are amazing: "Duchess" and "Man Of Our Times" and favorite of mine "Please Don't Ask" and the very proggy conclusion with "Duke's Travels" and "Duke's End."

Abacab and Genesis followed in the pop trajectory. That and Phil Collins pop solo career led to the monster that was Invisible Touch. It's very easy to forget what a great drummer Phil Collins was. A seriously fantastic drummer. The knock he gets for turning Genesis into a pop act is unfair. Listening to the post-Gabriel records the change is there but it is natural; Lamb does not give way to IT but evolves there. Some might say devolve but whatever.  I don't begrudge them moving more towards pop. It's their art and they get to choose what to do with it.

The resiliency of the band, their ability to grow and mature and evolve is fascinating. It is a testament to what exceptional musicians Phil Collins and Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford were (are).

If you've forgotten, or maybe never knew, what a great band Genesis could be, here's one of my favorites:

1 comment:

  1. While I really embraced Yes and King Crimson, I could never get into Genesis - and I tried mind you...it just felt too precious...too British perhaps...Likely an oversight on my part...

    I agree that Phil Collins simply does not get his due as a drummer...I think that is largely due to the fact that once Genesis took a more pop turn (same for his solo records) his playing reflected what the songs needed which is decidedly un-prog and not the pathway to renown as a player. Drummers get excited about the Pearts and Portnoys and it isnt always because they are tasteful or giving the songs room to breathe...Collins was brave enough to do that and should be commended...Listen to Robert Fripp's solo record "Exposure" for some additional examples of Phil Collins playing more like a Neil Peart and less like Don Henley...

    I think that Gabriel's departure wasnt as amicable as they let on...they were all gentlemen about it and kept their friendships intact but it wasnt as clean as they let on. IIRC "Solsbury Hill" is Gabriel's take on the breakup...What was good for each camp is that they each actually became more successful post-break up.