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Genesis - …and then there were three…


…And then there were three. They did not start out as ten, but when their exceptional guitarist Steve Hackett left it was the next loss Genesis had to cope with after the departures of founding members Peter Gabriel and Anthony Phillips a couple of years before. Hackett’s position, like Gabriel’s, was not filled with a replacement but by the band itself. Bass player Mike Rutherford took over the part of the lead guitarist. He had played the guitar before (and done well) but the lead guitar had been the privilege of Mr Hackett. It seems nobody could imagine how Mike Rutherford could replace his former colleague at all.
And he did not. Over the years he has developed his own style as a guitarist. On …And Then There Were Three… Rutherford shows his hidden talents. Sometimes one may be tempted to believe that someone other than Mike Rutherford had played the guitar. Perhaps he put in some extra effort because Steve Hackett left big foot steps for him to follow in. The album has guitar sounds that appear hardly ever again in the Genesis music to come. Rutherford is certainly no Hackett, and it shows not only in the way the instrument is played, but it is also evident that the band had lost a songwriter, too. That meant less complex songs, but also stronger concord and a new directness and compactness that would pave the way for their later world-wide success. All this happened before Phil Collins’ influence on the band grew and before the trio became a team of three equal musicians and songwriters.

Let’s look at the individual songs:

Down And Out

A big bang at the beginning: A typical opening song that revives the power and aggression of old. The keyboard intro is terrific, the rhythms complex yet driving. Its mood resembles Watcher Of The Skies, though that is a completely different song. Only the vocals get drowned a bit in the structure of sounds but the keyboard solo more than makes up for it. It is almost beyond comprehension how someone can play such a good solo over that kind of rhythm.

Undertow

A stark contrast. While the opening song was pure power, this one prefers delicate sounds.  Tony Banks lays the foundation with his beautiful Yamaha CP-70-Sounds, and Phil Collins shows that he was indeed one of the best singers of the 70s and the 80s. The quiet verse passages and the bombastic chorus are strokes of genius.
At this point the drum sound and the way Collins plays should be pointed out. Bits of it could already be heard on the previous album Wind & Wuthering, but here is where the recognizable Collins drum sound really emerges.

Ballad Of Big


This is one of the weaker songs on the record along with Follow You Follow Me because verse and chorus do not really fit. But this song embodies the changes in the band: While the verse is complex, the chorus has developed more into pop.

Snowbound

An interesting piece penned by Mike Rutherford who mightily proves his abilities as a songwriter. It resembles Banks’ Undertow a bit; Collins presents a lovely unobtrusive melody that moves into a heart-warming chorus. The transition between verse and chorus shows Collins’ growing vocal qualities. Warm keyboard sounds à la Hairless Heart from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and some fine clean guitar picking provide the backdrop. The 2006 remaster improved the sound of the drums so that the chorus stands out very nicely.

Burning Rope

This song is something like the longtrack on the album. All other songs, The Lady Lies and Down And Out excepted, are shorter than five minutes. Phil Collins seems to drum away his frustration at the beginning of the number. Burning Rope indicates that, from And Then There Were Three onwards, the drums would move a bit to the fore.
It also shows the terrific way Genesis know how to lend dynamics to a song, play with different moods and not lose the general direction. While the beginning is a bit hectic, the chorus seems lighter and more melancholy. The verses are somewhat happier before the song turns dramatic again when it moves into the chorus.
Watch out for Mike Rutherford's guitar solo. Never again would he play such a strong, voluminous and intense solo – that alone makes this song very special.

Deep In The Motherlode

The keyboards introduce the main theme that pops up all over the song and alternates with a pounding rhythm for the chorus that resembles Back In N.Y.C. or In The Cage. The odd softer middle part is the emotional core of the song, and the transition from there back to the initial motive is unabashedly pompous. It is a common characteristic of the songs in the second half of the album to fade out.  And the things the gentlemen get out of their instruments – it is almost like a session in progress.

Many Too Many

Genesis spread pure melancholy. Collins's begging voice, the sad piano chords and harmonic changes and the fine guitar solo at the end combine to one of the most beautiful ballads Genesis have ever recorded. The calls for “mama” on this album did not bring the big success yet. That would have to wait until 1983.

Scenes From A Night's Dream

Another keyboard intro to an uptempo song with few surprises. Note the groovy little breaks after the choruses and the interesting rhythms in the fade-out. One can clearly hear the fine background choirs Collins would use frequently and successfully in years to come.

Say It's Alright Joe

Dynamics – that all that counts! This song moves from one extreme to the other like no other song on this album. The abrupt switch from quiet and storminess makes this song special. Mike Rutherford definitely wrote interesting songs back then. Great! The instruments fade out in a very cleverly improvised way. What can we say but “Shine on!”

The Lady Lies

The album's second longest track (slightly over six minutes) is a bit hard to get into initially. It resembles Robbery, Assault And Battery. The keyboard solo and its underlying pumping rhythm make this song a gem. If you take the bass lines into account the gem becomes a jewel. Just focus on the bass: Mike Rutherford performs with virtuosity here.

Follow You Follow Me

Their first world-wide hit (#8 in Germany) and the song that made Genesis' music accessible for the ladies. This song may be the reason that the stadiums were filled in 2007 not only with men but also with sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, girl-friends and so on. The success of this single brought Genesis onto the road towards world-wide fame.
Curiously enough, the song sports a keyboard solo that is rather long for a hit single. Such a “flaw” would certainly be punished with a cut these days.

...And Then There Were Three... is, all in all, an interesting mixture of challenging rock and pop. The album is neither too shallow nor too complex, and that is probably what made the album reach #2 in the German charts – Genesis' highest position to that date. Of course, many more and higher positions were to follow...

by Marcus Dörr
translated by Martin Klinkhardt


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