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Genesis - Gli Anni Prog by Mario Giammetti

The albums, songs and tours of the progressive years


"The progressive years - narrated in detail by Genesis themselves" it says quite temptingly to any fan on the cover of Mario Giammetti's latest book release, Genesis - Gli Anni Prog (The Progressive Years). For the writing of this 240-page-work, Giammetti, known as the founder of Italy's fan association Dusk and author of Genesis-related publications such as Musical Box - Le canzoni dei Genesis dalla A alla Z (2011), interviewed one by one the members of the group and re-listened with them the first six albums published from 1969 to 1974, which each constitute one of a total of six chapters.


The book starts off with an introductory word by Tony Banks and one by the author himself and moves on straight to what one might want to call a journey back in time to the very roots of the band, 1969's From Genesis to Revelation - even a bit further back, to the times of Anon and Garden Wall, which were still to merge to become Genesis.


Each chapter consists of two parts: The first one focusing on the album itself, the second one on live performances featuring the respective album. Almost every page comes up with rare photographs, concert posters and vinyl labels, many of which have never been published before. A particularly interesting part of the "Album" section of each chapter of the book is the "Songs" subchapter, in which each tune on the album is commented and remembered by the group's members themselves, giving a concise "behind the scenes" impression of the story behind each song. The "Cover" section which follows is quite short, but informative (From Genesis To Revelation was placed among religious records when first released!). The "Album" section of the chapter is then concluded by an epilogue with additional reminiscence of the album by the band's members.


A core part of the book is the second section of each chapter, "In Concert". It will be quite hard to find a more comprehensive overview of the album-related live gigs, giving details on pretty much every live session ever played, including set lists, enriched as before with ample mostly colour imagery, including concert invites and tickets, personal documents as well as photographies - on top of that, explained by the band themselves.


After the first chapter, covering From Genesis To Revelation, the chronological order of the chapters takes us to Trespass - an immensely interesting album, or, as Anthony Phillips puts things: "We were excited to break out of the strophe-chorus-strophe scheme". Even though Giammetti throughout the book attempts to avoid personally biased evaluations (which is virtually impossible), a certain preference for Trespass seems  quite evident. Although the author is certainly not incorrect stating that Trespass was "the album which gave birth to the sound with which they were to be epoch-making".


One of the most interesting aspects of the book opens the chapter on Nursery Cryme:  the personal relationships between the band's members, a factor which was particularly influential in the making of the album, being the first album after the departure of John Mayhew and Anthony Phillips. Being all in their early 20s, especially the advent of Phil Collins "was like two worlds colliding", as he puts it. Musically, the loss of Phillips caused what appeared to make Nursery Cryme "the most difficult album for the band", as Giammetti states, but the arrival of Steve Hackett was what would prove to be "an important addition" (Banks) for what was still to come.


The Foxtrot chapter in a way completes this period of Genesis as it continues to tell the story of the transition and integration of the new members.


As mentioned earlier, another big chunk of each chapter is constituted by the "In Concert" section. This is quite for a good reason with Genesis, particularly in the first years, being a band performing many live shows. The Selling England By The Pound tour, extending almost a year from September 1973, was the first tour with "a first class theatrical stage assembly" (Giammetti). Although by the time fitted with a massive song catalogue and staging for the first time even at bigger venues, the chapter also points out the advent of discord within the band, particularly due to Gabriel's omni-present, characteristic personality and live appearance, obscuring in a way the other musicians' performances. Nevertheless the author considers the band at this point in time "at the maximum".


The book concludes with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Especially the "Songs" section of this chapter is remarkable as it gives a good understanding of the single elements of what was Genesis' first (and eventually only) concept album.


All in all, there is only one drawback about Gli Anni Prog - that it is available in Italian only. Mario Giammetti has given the Genesis-related world a unique and unprecedented insight into what many still consider the period of "true" Genesis, primarily thanks to the first-hand account by the group's members and companions throughout the years. Apart from being a well-structured guide to the "early years", the book actually takes the reader by the hand and gives the opportunity to discover new facets of the album or even to re-discover them entirely. Giammetti succeeds well in subdividing the different aspects of each album into sections, which makes lecture entertaining and far from being dry or dull. The nice illustration and the rich treasure of photography and imagery, partly never released before, further enriches the reading experience.


In the end there is only one thing that could probably interrupt the reader from going through the book in one go - and that is the wish to chuck one of the brilliant LPs into the stereo.


Genesis - Gli Anni Prog
by Mario Giammetti
Editore Giunti, Italy
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN 978-88-09-77337-0
released: 8. September 2013

Author: Dominic Barz

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