on 20 February 2010
I used to hate Genesis, in many ways still hate the "idea" of Genesis. In the mid-70s I was not alone in wanting the mega-selling, pretentious boring fart, proggy rocky bands to just fade away, as Townshend might say. Punk and the New Wave offered promise of a better world to come. Now that I can look back with maturity and forget about things like "street cred" I feel I can begin to judge the music fairly...finally. Shock, horror - many Genesis albums were rather good! In fact this album is somewhat superb. Strangely, in the folly and contradictions of youth I had liked Peter Gabriel but shunned the band that made him famous. Peter is in inspired form here and both his singing and lyrics are excellent. But Stephen, Tony, Phil and Michael are also musically superb throughout and the combination of this band's playing and song-writing talents was at times quite stunning. This is not a concept album as such but there is certainly a strong theme of Englishness, and the eccentricities of being English, throughout the album and while Genesis can certainly rock, musically there are echoes of Early English music - the flute, sitar and oboe mix with 12-strings, keyboards and traditional rock-solid drumming from Collins. Hackett, Banks and Rutherford shift musical tempo with ease, moving seamlessly through everchanging moods and creating the perfect atmosphere to suit Gabriel's sometimes searching, sometimes satirical lyrics. As they say on those awful TV talent shows these days...it's quite a journey. Let's be clear - this is an English masterpiece and a perfect antidote to the nausea any true music fan felt after the Brits' ceremony. If you always liked Genesis, time to say I told you so. If, like me, you've been a sceptic put off by the pretentious tag or the worst excesses of the Collins' band, here is a chance to reappraise and listen without prejudice. You might, like myself, like what you hear.
Produced before Genesis were a singles band, 'Selling England By The Pound' hasn't got as many (if any) really well-known songs (with the possible exception of 'I Know What I Like'), but don't let that put you off. At times, this is Peter Gabriel's Genesis at their best. Note-perfect throughout and full of Gabriel's surreal humour, the lyrics are a real strong point... infact the album's title was taken from a Labour Party manifesto, which claimed that the Tories were 'Selling England By The Pound', and this theme is taken up (immediately) at the beginning of 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight' (which is effectively the title track)... it begins the album brilliantly, with Gabriel singing unaccompanied "Can you tell me where my country lies?"
Ironically, "I Know What I Like" was Genesis' first 'hit', but didn't pander to popular taste (as they later would do frequently). Rather, it's as eclectic and weird as anything that Gabriel's Genesis are famous for. With crazy lyrics ("There's a future for you in the Fire Escape trade...") and an incredibly catchy chorus, it remains a staple favourite of Genesis fans. But at a mere 4 minutes, (a more conventional song length), it was unusual territory for a band still prone to 8-10 minute tracks.
"Firth Of Fifth" showcases the talents of the musicians in the band, specifically Tony Banks on piano (and keyboards) and the brilliant Steve Hackett on guitar. For me, this is the stand-out track on the album, and summarises what pre-Collins Genesis was all about. "The Battle of Epping Forest" is a typical Gabrielesque tale, but is a tad overlong and takes away some of the impetus of the album. "More Fool Me" is a prelude of things to come, with Phil Collins coming out from behind the drums to lead vocals. IMO, this is the lamest track on the album, and is too delicate for my liking. Rutherford's picky guitar and Collins weak vocals don't make for a particularly accomplished song, especially when stood right alongside the epic "Firth of Fifth". It's a bit like hanging a child's painting next to a Van Gogh.
'Cinema Show' is a bit of a disappointment, and doesn't hold your attention for it's whole 11 minutes, but the album does end on a humorous high-note, with a reprise of the opening track called 'Aisle Of Plenty' (another play-on-words from a political manifesto of the day).
Overall, this is a great album, with the REAL five-man Genesis of old, firing on all cylinders for the greater part of the album, and no self-respecting prog-rock enthusiast should be without it.
on 27 July 2014
I'm assuming anyone interested in this disc is going to know the music already so this is simply a review of the first of the new format that I bought.
I have the 2008 digital remaster CD for comparison which is not a bad disc as Redbook CDs go.
My sound system is mid to high end with a universal disc player going through a matching AV receiver, distributed to a subwoofer, 2 large floorstanding main speakers with a small double at the centre and small singles at the back and rear.
The packaging of this disc is pretty basic with nothing more than was on the CD really. The leaflet inside seems to have been put together in haste and with cost in mind (see if you can spot the mistake in the lyrics) and there's no detail about the content other than lyrics and one basic track listing. A bit disappointing.
But to the music itself. The options on the disc are:
2.0 stereo LPCM
2.0 DTS Master Audio
5.1 DTS Master Audio
I listened to all 4 versions back to back using one track only - The Cinema Show, as I feel this has the most variety of sounds and instruments.
I like to play all my audio discs (CDs, SACDs, BluRay) using analogue out from the player but because of the way this disc is set up, I had to launch it using HDMI out in order to get the menu on screen and then switch back to analogue. The normal colour button navigation does not seem to work for me on this disc and in the absence of any help from the inadequate sleeve notes, it was the only option.
Firstly, any one of these versions is a marked improvement over the CD with noticeable improved detail, separation and clarity. To my ears, there is no audible difference between the LPCM and DTS MA 2.0 versions. If pushed, I could say the DTS is everso slightly warmer but I think that may have been auto suggestion.
The real difference is in the multi channel versions. Again, no real sound difference between LPCM and DTS MA except, and this is important for anyone who like me has a 7.1 system, DTS maps the back speakers signal to the 6th & 7th rear speakers as well which I believe is what it's designed to do as this makes sense in a home cinema system. This might work OK for some people with certain music but for this disc it's very odd having a hi-hat sounding right behind you or the occasion backing vocal whispering in your ear. For this reason, I favoured the LPCM which is strictly 5.1 and makes more sonic sense to me and my set up.
I'm not sure whether this is a true 5.1 separation. For the most part what seems to be going on is that the centre channel is kept reserved for Gabriel's vocals or occasionally a Hackett guitar solo with the other tracks generally distributed around the sound stage. With the increased detail and separation, this is usually very pleasing. Occasionally a backing vocal might pop up in the surround but apart from that, there are no tricks as such like on the Yes Album Blu Ray for example.
What you get with this disc is without doubt a much improved listening experience over the CD. The aforementioned clarity and separation is very tangible indeed. For example, in the instrumental interlude in Cinema Show, previously it was hard to hear where the oboe left off and the flute took over but now you can hear two clearly separate instruments and what notes they are playing and with all the other sound effects, you can close your eyes and really lose yourself in the sound world that Genesis probably intended. In the quiet passages you can actually hear Gabriel's breathing. With the subwoofer on, Rutherford's bass and pedals are quite thundering at times but never overpowering. All in all, it's a really good effort, I just took a star off for the disappointing package.
I hope this new format takes off and we get to see some more titles soon. I can see the logic in the idea - "OK, 30% or more of the population has a Blu Ray player so are interested in Hi Definition; it stands to reason that a fair portion of them must be open to HD audio as well" - but what I don't understand is why it's all been so low key (I came across the format by accident). And why are virtually all of the releases from historic recordings and not recent ones which could really show off the format. I hope it doesn't fizzle out like SACDs because I for one am dismayed that whilst we've moved to ever increasing quality visually, on the audio front we've sleep walked into low definition rubbish and that's got to be reversed for the sake of all music.
on 18 November 2009
Although I was a little disappointed with the 76-80 Genesis SACD releases, which I did think suffered in varying degrees with unwelcome compression and E.Q. boosting, these earlier disks are a different story altogether and are practically flawless in my opinion.
From the moment Gabriel breathes out the opening line of the album, it is obvious that levels of clarity, spaciousness and tone are greatly increased. The perceived soundstage is huge; expansive and deep. Detail is resolved perfectly right into the back of the mix. Bass is deep and rich, extending subtley to all instruments including voice, acoustic guitars and piano, adding real presence and weight. High frequencies are also perfect; cymbals in particular are flawless without a hint of splashiness. Bank's piano introduction to Firth of Fifth now has the air of a classical recording; beautifully played and with a newly revealed delicacy, it had me wondering for the first time if it may have been his response to Hackett's Horizons from the previous Foxtrot. Listening to Cinema Show, the thick tangle of six and twelve string guitars is now deliciously separated, and even Gabriel's doubled vocal can now be heard as two distinct entities. The more you listen, the better the story gets.
Of course the SACD is only half the package, and the DVD contains DD/DTS 5.1 mixes of the entire album, plus some good classic concert footage (although as another reviewer has pointed out image and sound quality is only fair, and has in fact been hit and miss throughout these new releases). The interviews are excellent though, with all members making some pretty candid observations.
Well, it turns out the wait was worth it in the end, and luckily the best job was made of the earlier classics. How unfortunate that Seconds Out and the other live Genesis albums are now no longer to get an SACD treatment.
Nice to see that the cover has at last been reproduced correctly with the pea green border by the way.
on 4 August 2004
When I was young it was always the 'Lamb lies down on Broadway' for me. I loved the surreal, Sci-Fi element. However age has brought me to re-apparaise this fine album. In terms of production, and musicianship, this is probably where Gabriels Genesis peaked, despite NOT being their last album with him. This album is very English, very eccentric and sits quite comfortably between prog rock wierdness and pop sensibility, never, for one minute risking the accusation of being a 'sell out' High points are the fantastic 'Dancing with the moonlit knight' a fussion of rock, jazz, folk, medievel melodies and a tranquil accoustic guitar outro, allowing you to catch your breath before 'I know what I like' comes in. This was their first hit single, it reached 21 in the singles chart in '73, and was inspired by the artwork on the cover of the album. Other hi-lights are 'Firth of Fifth' and 'The cinema show', both showing off the bands rich musical literacy. A must! Enjoy..
The highlight of the Gabriel era, this will appeal to the later fans of the 'Collins era' as much as the Gabriel traditionalists... and it's also the most accessible album of that period for the general public.
"Firth of Fifth" has to be the greatest track Genesis ever did... a favourite live for Genesis and also re-done by Hackett in later years and re-worked for the Archive vol 1, buy this album for THAT guitar solo alone! But more than that, the melody is cleverly re-worked as a keyboard piece, then on flute, then finally on guitar for the big finish.
"Dancing with the Moonlight Knight" is a gentle opener beginning with Peter unaccompanied, and was itself an intermittent live favourite, resurrected during the Ray Wilson tour.
"I Know What I Like" was perhaps the track responsible for bringing Genesis to a wider audience which is a very tongue-in-cheek attempt to explain middle England and 'Englishness'.
If "Firth of Fifth" is Hackett's showcase, then "The Cinema Show" is Banks's highlight as he lets go on a breathtaking keyboard instrumental finish to this beautifully written number.
Also, this album is noteable for a lead vocal performance by Phil on "More Fool Me".
A youthful 5-piece Genesis at their peak.
on 25 April 2002
I started listening to this again after recently seeing a couple of Genesis tribute bands, and it reminded me just why I spent most of my youth listening to just one band - Genesis.
"Firth of Fifth" and "Cinema Show" are (IMHO) two of the best tracks written by any band ever. "Battle of Epping Forest" is (by the band's own later admission) a bit of a mess. But apart from that, it's one of my favourite albums.
Having said that, you can get great versions of "Firth of Fifth" and "Cinema Show" (together with the superior live version of "Supper's Ready") on the live album "Seconds Out".
And, just to disappoint many of the other reviewers here, "More Fool Me" was NOT Phil Collins' first lead vocal appearance for Genesis. Listen to "For Absent Friends" on the 1971 album "Nursery Cryme", and you will haer Phil Collins singing lead vocals there, too - although he wasn't given a credit for it on the record sleve (hence the confusion)!
I remember buying this album on vinyl in 1973 and seeing the band live at Brighton Dome - an experience which was totally overwhelming. But it's only now that I have been able to buy a surround sound mix that re-creates what I heard at the concert, when Genesis had such an impressive sound system.
Pure Audio Blu Ray seems to be gathering momentum now and a lot of people already have a home cinema system for films/movies that allows you to hear these discs in 5.1 surround sound, but like me have never had an SACD player. This album is particularly suited to surround sound, as there is a complex sound picture, with many layers of acoustic guitars and keyboards, as well as percussion and Peter Gabriel's flute and oboe (sounding very good here).
There are in fact, four mixes on this single disc - two in stereo and two in surround. I sampled the others, but I much preferred the Master Audio surround and this certainly makes the disc worth buying. Bass response is huge - I remember from the live concert that Mike Rutherford played bass pedals at times and these really shake the floor on a few tracks. In fact I had to turn the sound down to avoid the bass frequencies moving objects in the room.
The more complex tracks really benefit from being heard in surround - there are little guitar riffs that spring out from around you, that were buried in stereo mixes and you can really hear the depths of the arrangements. "Firth of Fifth" has never sounded better and "Dancing with the Moonlight Knight" also reveals a lot more in this format. The "hit single" - "I know what I like", has that famous lawnmower sound that moves all around you and shifts timbre across the sound-stage; becoming much more than a background effect.
There is a glossy booklet with all the lyrics and photos from the original album, as well as a coupon that allows you to download the music in high quality. But really for me - the big reason to buy this, is to hear these tracks in surround sound and it doesn't disappoint in this respect. This is almost like a demonstration disc for the benefits of surround and along with Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", this is a "must have" for fans of surround sound.
on 9 February 2006
I first heard this as a young man in a car driving through central France in the summer of 1979 and it evokes the fondest memories. Beautifully articulate, eccentric and quite, quite different to anyone else aspiring to the so-called (and much maligned genre) "prog-rock". No blues influence at all, hard edges curiously softened - arguably a delicate, feminine quality - and utterly English. I spent many hours learning Firth of Fifth's piano introduction (much to my tutor's irritation! She did seem to appreciate its demanding quality once I'd mastered it). I still find it hard to recognise any clearly definable musical influence on these guys from Nursery Cryme to Wind and Wuthering. Music which defined itself with no recourse to fashion or pandering to popular tastes; I guess that's why it still sounds brilliantly inventive after all these years
on 2 March 2007
This is the very peak of Genesis' output. Gabriel's lyrics, the instrumental arrangements, the incredibly clever song structures, the great melodies, all combine to create something utterly moving and magic. The whole mood of this album is quite unlike anything else - a mixture of mythical, medieval and modern; bombast and humour, but above all, beauty.
This is the album on which Tony Banks creates his most magical keyboard soundscapes (but not forgetting to add plenty of fresh, exciting piano), Hackett gets the biggest chance to shine that he ever would on a Genesis album, and Gabriel writes some of his funniest, cleverest and most interesting lyrics, delivering them as only he can. There are some of the most emotionally devastating instrumental moments here on any Genesis album - any album FULL STOP, in fact - for example; Hackett's gut-wrenching guitar solo in 'Firth of Fifth', and Banks' extended keyboard solo at the end of 'The Cinema Show', where his keys create a swirling mass of colourful sound that envelops the listener and seems to come straight from the heart. And amongst all this, Gabriel draws you in with his commentaries on the degeneration of modern England, as well as transporting the listener back to the mythological England that never was.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the opening track, 'Dancing with the Moonlit Knight', a song with so many twists and turns that you're left gasping for breath at the end, or at least you would be if there were not a two-minute outro of soothing, plucked acoustic guitars and textural sounds from the keyboards and flute.
Next we have 'I Know what I Like (In your Wardrobe)', with another winner of a lyric from Peter and a stomping beat, giving the band its first minor chart success.
'Firth of Fifth' follows, and what strikes you about this track is how intelligently written its instrumental section is, taking the listener along many different musical landscapes, and building tension until culminating in the aforementioned Hackett solo.
Following this is 'More Fool Me', a pretty little acoustic ditty from Phil Collins about a broken down relationship, that does not fit in with the rest of the album at all, but in a way makes it all the more appealing for this little idiosyncrasy. Anyhow, it breaks up the album between two lengthy compositions, much like 'I Know what I Like' and 'After the Ordeal' do, so that taken as a whole it is not too overwhelming.
Talking of which, the next track, 'The Battle of Epping Forest' is the longest on the album at 11:46. It is about a gang battle for rights over land in East London, and Peter Gabriel goes all-out with his theatrics, assuming the roles of so many different characters, and putting on so many different voices, that you can't help but laugh. There's also the strange interlude in the middle of the track about goodness knows what - something to do with a reverend - that seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of the song, but does a great job of keeping the listener's interest (much like 'Willow Farm' in 'Supper's Ready').
Next up we have the instrumental 'After the Ordeal', with some beautiful piano and guitar work from Banks and Hackett respectively; I often get a sense of freedom when listening to this, as indeed I do when listening to most of the album.
After this we have 'The Cinema Show', combining, like 'Firth of Fifth', lyrical sketches with extended instrumental passages, including, of course, the again aforementioned Banks keyboard solo. This leads back into one of the main themes from 'Dancing with the Moonlit Knight', but shifted across the bar, which in turn leads into 'Aisle of Plenty', a reprise of a small section of 'Dancing with the Moonlight Knight' but with different lyrics and a haunting mood, to make you feel complete at album's end.
This is not only my favourite Genesis album, but probably my favourite album of all time, and one of the best musical works (classical or otherwise) that I have heard.