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More Fool Me
on 22 September 2009
OK, after the sound and fury about what might have been, what is the box actually like?
Well, first off, the packaging and box are good. There's a nice essay about the band live through the years, accompanied by broad brush comments from all but Peter Gabriel. Album graphics have been spruced up and are much more vivid than before. This particularly benefits Genesis Live, with the front cover coming alive - as much as any distant balcony shot of 3 blokes sitting down, their heads buried in their instruments while another bloke wanders around the stage with a red cardboard beak on can be said to come alive, that is.
Seconds Out is singled out for special treatment, with a gorgeous cardboard sleeve and mini booklet with the original close up shots that accompanied the lp. There's also a short essay on how fabulous, powerful, brilliant and exciting Al Murray finds the album. Thanks Al.
The sound quality improves on each disc largely in proportion with its age. So while The Way We Walk is little different to its original release quality, Genesis Live is far clearer and less echoey, with the faster passages on The Musical Box and The Knife sounding more alive and exciting. The extras tracks on Genesis Live are - mystifyingly - 5 out-of-sequence Lamb songs from concerts recorded two years later - all of which are already available on the Archive box set. The superb BBC and Belgian TV recordings from 1972 - as well as the Supper's Ready recorded at the same gigs - would have been far more appropriate - both to the musical era, as well as this listener's perception of value and rarity.
Aside from sound quality improvements and 5:1 mixes of 3 of the 5 albums, the main bonus of this set is the band's 1973 Rainbow gig. Five of the seven tracks have already been released - again on the Archive box set. The disc does however contain my highlight of this set - a Peter Gabriel era Cinema Show. Gabriel seems to have mellowed since the Archive release and not only has he not felt the need to re-record his vocals - as he did on much of the Archive Lamb - he has also allowed his original 1973 Supper's Ready vocal track to be reinstated it seems. Both are superb performances, although comparing each Rainbow track to other sources, something has definitely been lost in the sound production - the tracks sound a little sanitised and flat, lacking the sparkle, dazzle and atmosphere of the unofficial recordings of this gig. All stage announcements have been dropped, which is a shame - I personally loved Phil's awkward explanation that he was wearing a jacket to look less like a painter prior to `More Fool Me'.
Other observations: Dancing with the Moonlit Knight is an extended version - longer than both unofficial and Archive versions; Watcher of the Skies is inexplicably only present on the DVD of the Rainbow concert - despite the band bemoaning the quality of the Genesis Live version in the booklet; Seconds Out and Three Sides Live have not been fleshed out with other 1976-80 material. Thus no Entangled, Burning Rope, Deep in the Motherlode, Ripples, Fountain of Salmacis, Your Own Special Way, Inside and Out, White Mountain, Eleventh Earl of Mar, In That Quiet Earth, One for the Vine, Fly on a Windshield, All in a Mouse's Night or The Knife, to name a few (so much for the patronising comment in the accompanying booklet that 'The completists can be happy').
There is some logic in not messing with the original albums too much - it'd be hard to include Fly on a Windshield on Seconds Out for instance, without wanting to insert it after a 1976 Lamb Lies Down - which would mean losing the glorious 1977 segue into The Musical Box. Some of the missing late 70s tracks are on Archive II, it's true, but it seems a shame that a box set that notionally gathers together live Genesis should omit, er, live Genesis. Perhaps the obvious step would have been to give us a full late 70s concert - there are plenty of superb recordings available. That way, we could have all the extra tracks from those tours in one place - akin to augmenting Genesis Live with Live at the Rainbow.
Not the most imaginative compilation then. It's a lot of money to ask for 2 new tracks, the odd new vocal, some 5:1 mixes and a sonic brush-up on discs that were previously marketed as 'definitive' editions. Just rest assured that if the present fairy does send it your way, the music is outstanding.