on 11 December 2014
What to say about 'The Lamb' that hasn't already been said? It's a bit like trying to review the Mona Lisa. Never mind, here goes.
Anyway, first off, you should start with the vinyl version, if only for the cover. You really can't get the same impact from a CD.
A first look at the almost-monochrome sleeve tells you that this is something ... different, perhaps disturbing, certainly not ... ordinary. "Keep your fingers out of my eye" it says. And what about those photos? What's with the animals in the corridor? What does it all mean?
But enough of the cover, that story is just bizarre, nonsense really. You don't expect that sort of crazy stuff on an album cover, certainly not nowadays. So, what about the music?
It starts, the story of Rael, with the faintest tinkling of the piano keys, almost demanding that you turn up the volume control.
Then with the very first line "And the lamb lies down on Broadway", that's it, no messing about, you're in. And it doesn't end until after about 90 minutes of the most amazing audio/imaginatory experience ever committed to tape, with the tale's denouement in the final words of 'In the Rapids' -
"That's not your face, it's mine - IT'S MINE!"
Except that's not all. After creating the Mona Lisa, Genesis have the audacity to paint on a moustache, in the form of 'It'.
Just because they can.
This isn't music, really. It's something more than music. It's ... almost better than music.
If all that sounds pretentious, I apologise. WHat I mean to say is that 'The Lamb' is an extraordinary piece of work from start to finish, which still sounds fresh 40 years on (full credit to the contribution of co-producer John Burns). As for the songs themselves, they're individually never less than very very good, but it's the album as a whole that counts. You could spend a great deal of time discussing the quality of the Mona Lisa's eyebrows, but it's not really the point. We're talking works of art, of genius.
You may actually hate it. But it's still the best album ever made.
Finally, I have acquired all of Genesis' studio output and listening to this album, I have started to get to understand what the group was on about in it (it has taken three listens to appreciate its qualities).
This was the last album with Peter Gabriel as lead singer and yet, to my ears represents a huge leap in style from Selling England by the Pound and its predecessors. It feels closer musically to its successor albums, Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering.
Peter Gabriel wrote nearly all the lyrics and devised the concept of the Puerto Rican street kid, Real. This was a departure for the group which had been more collaborative when it came to writing lyrics. Also Gabriel was becoming disenchanted with Genesis and his mind was preoccupied with the difficult birth of his first child. The actual musical execution of the band's sound on the album was carried on independent of him.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway divides opinion. Some fans consider it as the group's masterpiece while others consider it overlong and pompous. I have sympathy with both views. I love the title song with its "Mendelssonian" piano playing and vocal harmonies. In the Cage has real tension and drama and there is considerable beauty in Carpet Crawlers. There are plenty of truly gorgeous songs and there is so much that is worthwhile on the album.
There is also plenty of variety of song styles so it is rarely ever less than interesting to hear. I have some reservations at the length and the rather downbeat ending.
I think that this is in many ways a slow burner of an album. Even after 3 listens, I don't feel I have really taken the album to my heart as I have other Genesis albums. hence the 4 stars. However, it is growing on me.
This renowned prog-rock concept album from 1974 is the culmination of the Gabriel-era Genesis, different in character from anything the band composed before or since. It's Peter Gabriel's creative magnum opus, similar in concept to Pete Townsend's `Quadrophenia' in that it tells the story of a schizophrenic young man, though here the protagonist is a young New York graffiti street-artist named Rael (anagram of `real' - get it?) in place of Quadrophenia's young scooter-riding Brit-mod Jimmy. As with The Who's epic, the cover-art of `The Lamb' tells the story in stylish monochrome imagery.
Gabriel explores themes dark, surreal, sci-fi and quasi-religious through the lens of an outlaw, graffiti-strewn urban street realism. The story is very weird to say the least; a journey through the underworld of the psyche with an eventual happy - or at least optimistic - ending, of sorts.
Musically the band was at its zenith, firing on all cylinders with a confidence born of knowing they're now a class act and can push the envelope. It's full of memorable songs: it rocks, soothes, is in turn harsh then mellow then complex/challenging (in a good way), has light and shade, is well-crafted though not everything coheres. Reportedly many sections were composed by the band as instrumental pieces, only to have Gabriel record vocal tracks over the `finished' music, to the general disgruntlement of the other four band-members.
`The Lamb' was always designed by Gabriel as a stage show, a performance extravaganza and the band took it on tour as such in 1974-5. However even after 40 years it stands up quite well as a musical symphony in its own right, without the visuals. The youth-in-an-urban-nightmare-landscape theme was used again by the Punk movement for years afterwards and is still, decades later, being revisited by rap artists: Gabriel's visionary odyssey was the first to open the window on this bleak panorama and it's still contemporary in the 21st century.
The 2008 re-mix is the equal of the original 2-disk vinyl release (still in my record collection); good, but not a noticeable improvement. This is probably not the best introduction to Gabriel-era Genesis; if you're a young music fan maybe you should work up to it via `Foxtrot' and `Selling England'. `The Lamb' is too dark and intense to be my favourite Genesis album, but I acknowledge that in sheer musical ambition and execution, it's probably the greatest.
on 5 January 2013
This expansive work from Genesis was the last to feature Peter Gabriel on vocals. It is strange that this album is still revered after all these years, yet "Tales From Topographic Oceans' by Yes continues to receive mixed acceptance. The Lamb reached number 10 in the UK album charts when released in 1974, yet Tales went straight to number 1 that same year. Both albums are excellent, yet it is the Genesis album that still gets the thumbs up. But this is not the place to compare them. People reading this are wanting an insight into this Genesis masterwork. It is a patchwork of brilliance, with musicscapes ranging from bombastic progressive rock to Kabuki theatre, by way of the Theatre of the Absurd. This album has a range of experiences and styles within it, yet it all hangs together to tell a tale of Rael. Peter Gabriel's outlandish paw prints are all over this album and the outcome is a work of extraordinary breadth and genius. Of course, it's way over the top, but these are gorgeous snippets of rock exploration. Some of them are commercially catchy ('Counting Out Time', 'Carpet Crawlers', 'Riding The Scree'), whilst others are just flowing pieces of wonder like the early works of Pink Floyd ('Ravine'). This album is a high water mark in progressive rock and is a must for anyone who wishes to explore the genre (I would also put 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' in that category, but that has larger and perhaps more indigestible chunks). Gabriel left after this album and Genesis fans thought the game was up until Phil Collins took up the mantle of vocalist for the excellent 'A Trick Of The Tail', released in 1976 (that reached number 3 in the charts). Gabriel went on to develop his extraordinary solo career. This album was a wonderful way for him to sign off his time with Genesis and is a testament to his genius, as well as to the gifted members of the band. Highly recommended.
on 4 November 2011
I'm sure other reviewers will comment on historical/musical context and sound quality better than me so I'll just stick to why I bought the CD 30+ years after buying my second hand vinyl copy.
Well, it's the classic Genesis concept album with the original line up (ie Gabriel, Hacket, Collins, Rutherform and Banks) and you can't have a Genesis collection without it. Musically, Gabriel singing In the Cage is hard to beat - it has a rough earthy quality that works so well. Other favourite from the album: Counting Out Time (for its humour) and Carpet Crawlers. The latter is great on later live albums with Collins, but this version has that edge and hint of desperation to it that makes it so good. I also love the instrumental build up into the 'finale' on the second album - Riding the Scree. In the Rapids, and It (especially Banks on keyboard).
There's loads of great bands out there now, but 30 years on, I still listen to this and I am still captivated. Is it the best Genesis album? I couldn't say as I tend to think of the albums in terms of moods. This one is certainly unique. However if you have come straight from the post 'Duke era' you may need to work backwards more slowly - I'd go for Trick of the Tail first with Collins on vocals to 'ease' your way in. The Lamb takes a bit of listening to but boy is it worth it.
on 7 December 2006
Ok this genre is alot less known in these modern days than it used to be in the 1970s but it has not yet died out (im 14 years old). This album is stunning and has some perfect examples of classic prog rock: weird and wonderful melodies and delicatley enticing harmonys all swirling around in perfect musical fusion. To put it bluntly this album deserves a medal!!!
on 12 September 2009
Peerless, still in my top 5 after all these years. It has it all, stunning melody, angst, aggression, passion, lyrics, rhythms a plenty, a rawness, a softness, a mysterious unreachable air, Gabriels vocals, Collins unbelievable percussion, Banks, Rutherford and Hackett too boot. This was Genesis at their undoubted peak. There is the storyline too, with its many interpretations. There is hardly a bad track on it. Repeated listening will be rewarded. How I envy those who still have its pleasures to discover for the first time.
on 20 July 2005
This is a very odd album. It is the last of the early Peter Gabriel's Genesis recordings and has the air of a coming down to earth experience following albums with Greek myth, fairy story and dream songs on them - even "The Battle of Epping Forest" was mainly humerous. This isn't a funny album at all as Gabriel explores the experiences of a New York street punk, an obviously hallucenogenic drug abuser, called Rael. The loud bits are the best, "Back in NYC" especially, making this more like Who's "Quadrophenia" - as is the story; switch from London and pills and gin to New York and mescal or acid and you've got the same search for the real self - here the all pervading "IT" of Indian mysticism instead of Townshend's God of Love. I'm sorry if I seem to undermine the originality of the record, no one else has mentioned the parralel to my knowledge before - but I mean to praise "Lamb".
Gabriel's vocal performance is one of his finest ever, the music is distinctively Genesis - as differant from any other band as you can get.
But above all "Lamb" is an exercise in Rock Theatre. At a time when David Bowie and Alice Cooper, among others, were doing largely theatrical shows this came with weird costume changes, props and a back-of-stage movie presentation.
When they played it in the States the audience were so spellbound that they often fell silent - misinterpreted as a dislike by some music critics and this was a time when, slowly but surely, Genesis were just beginning to become popular in the States - they have since become one of the biggest bands in the world and "Lamb" is regarded universally as a prog. rock masterpiece.
If you like this get the, later, "Duke" album and the "Foxtrot" album with the extended "Supper's Ready" number - but it doesn't really compare musically with any other rock groups' works
on 13 March 2007
The often overlooked apotheosis of their career. On this album there's absolutely everything, melodies that are maddengly catchy, lyrics that are at times almost unberarably profound and songs that just make you feel glad to be alive. Unlike other double concept albums of the time, there isn't a single item of filler - a policy that some current prog artists would do well to observe. Genesis weren't above flaunting their technical virtuosity but on this album the musicianship always serves the music. It's 90+ minutes of perfection given an otherworldly gloss by Brian Eno's production. 25 years after I first bought it I still know every word off by heart and 'It' still makes me smile while it raises the gooseflesh on my arms.
on 24 September 2015
You'll never read a objective review of this album, and mine will be no different; it's a personal view of the climax of Genesis's early career.
I first bought this album in about 1981, by which time I had become heavily into Genesis. It was one of my stock, take it everywhere, albums as I travelled the world for the next 10 years, after which, for some strange reason, I put Genesis aside. In a flush of nostalgia I bought this copy recently, to listen to in my car. What most amazes me now is how extraordinarily good it is on so many levels; as a concept album that weaves a story, as a piece of creative music, with melodies and lyrics to die for, and as a showpiece of musicianship, to name a few. Make no mistake, this was Genesis at the top of their game, each and every one of them had by this point become superbly good musicians.
Debate rages about whether this remastered version detracts from the original. I've subsequently played it side by side with my original vinyl copy and for me, it doesn't. It sounds cleaner and sharper in places, with greater separation of instruments. This allows you to hear and appreciate just how good Phil Collins was on percussion, hear more of the nuances of Peter Gabriels performances, and the utter sublimity of Steve Hacketts guitar work.
Like other reviewers I could go on for ages, but won't. If you've got this far and haven't yet heard the album (unlikely), just buy it, it's even better than you hope. If like me you fancy revisiting something you once loved, just buy it, it's even better than you remember.