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RAY WILSON & THE BERLIN SYMPHONY ENSEMBLE

Genesis Classic – Live in Poznan


Ray Wilson's Genesis Classic project as a 2CD/DVD set


July 08, 2009 saw the premiere of Ray Wilson's new project: Genesis Klassik was born. Ever since the split from Genesis some of their songs have been part of Ray's solo shows, but this project was the first time since the European tour 1998 [with Genesis] that Ray would sing almost exclusively Genesis songs with the number of his own songs reduced to a minimum.

The first show took place in Salzgitter, Germany, and met with a lively interest from the fans. Only two shows later they played a radio concert in Berlin (for the local radio station 88.8). This was released on CD on 13/11/2009 and went on sale on Ray's homepage and his shows. Because over the big success of the project Ray Wilson continued Genesis Klassik and played mainly ensemble shows with a changing line-up.

The show in the Aula Uniwersytecka of Adam Mickiewircz University Poznan, Poland, on 18/12/2010 was recorded for a CD as well as filmed by a film crew for a release on DVD. While the first Genesis Klassik CD aims to provide an impression of a brand new concept in special surroundings, the new CD presents a well-oiled band and an expanded set list that have both been honed and refined over a year of touring. 


These musicians were on stage in Poznan:

Ray Wilson (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, congas & tambourine)
Ali Ferguson (lead guitar, 12 & 6 String acoustic guitars & vocals)
Filip Walcerz (grand piano & keyboards)
Steve Wilson (vocals, Godin acoustic & electric guitars)
Lawrie Macmillan (bass guitar & bocals)
Ashley Macmillan (drums)


The string ensemble consisted of:

Kristin Sy (violin 1)
Steffi Hoelk (violin 2)
Nora Boesel (violin 3)
Tobias Unterberg (cello)


Nach mehreren Verschiebungen aufgrund diverser Probleme, unter anderem mit dem Filmmaterial und einer fehlerhaften Verpackung, erschien das 2CD/DVD-Set Anfang Juli 2011 – vorerst nur erhältlich über Ray Wilson’s Homepage und bei den Live-Konzerten der Band.


The release had to be postponed several times for various reasons such as trouble with the video footage and faulty packaging, but in the end the 2CD/DVD set came out in early July 2011. It is currently only available from Ray Wilson's homepage or from the merchandise stand at live shows.

The set comes in a very attractive Digipak decorated with many impressive photos from the performance. The booklet, too, and its professional design convey the feeling of a wonderful concert. Apart from the great pictures the booklet contains the credits and special thanks from the band. Only a slipcase may have made a better visual impression, but that is pettyfoggery and actually a question of personal preference.

Collectors who are particular about the packaging of a release will be interested to note that the first edition of this set does not yet have the (rather large) logo that contains the rating (which is legally required in Germany) for the DVD. It is to be hoped that there will be a sticker solution once the set becomes available in regular stores because the rating symbol would take away a lot from the very attractive cover design.

The CDs are mixed exceptionally well and offer strong and clear acoustics. The mix really conveys a fantastic live atmosphere – and the Polish audience were absolutely out to enjoy themselves that night. 


Disc 1:

Turn It On Again

The opening follows the suggestion of the 2007 Genesis tour (if you disregard the instrumental Duke intro, that is) and moves Turn It On Again from the end of the set (as in the Berlin radio concert) to the very beginning. A good decision as it helps get everybody into the spirit.
Ray Wilson's vocal performance in this song is remarkable. With strength and confidence he carries off this Genesis classic and proves that he has really got the Genesis spirit. In 1998 he already proved he is a worthy replacement for Collins, but here he is at his best – great! The band is much tighter and better attuned to each other than on the Berlin CD. An accomplished presentation.


1That’s All

The next song follows without any ado. They remain in the 80s and play a classic Ray left out with Genesis in 1998: That's All. And he shows that it was the wrong decision not to play the song back then, for his version of it is as attractive as the original. This night, Ray sadly left out his Louis Armstrong shtick. One could say, though, that that made the version much more mature.


Carpet Crawlers

The show continues with an indispensable highlight from the Gabriel era. Ray's voice unfolds in a breathtaking manner on Carpet Crawlers. The rough voice makes this song very special, and the band play so well that this version is up there with the original. A real treat.


Congo

For a long time Ray made it a point not to sing Congo live anymore because he found the song too simple and just not to his liking. Which is a dilemma because Congo was the first and most successful single from the only studio album he recorded with Genesis, Calling All Stations. Massive reconstruction was needed – and achieved! The band has turned this into a real rock song with powerful drums and a great guitar solo by Ali Ferguson. The overly smooth keyboards from the original have given way to the very fitting string ensemble. Never before has Congo sounded so right! The audience rewards the great performance with thundering applause.


Another Day In Paradise

A brief announcement precedes the first song that is not by Genesis, Phil Collins' Another Day In Paradise. A very minimalistic acoustic version lets Ray's voice shine. The ballad is enhanced by the string group without getting schmaltzy – quite the opposite: It adds a special flavour to the song. Phil Collins will probably be thrilled with this version.


Constantly Reminded

Ray announces the first of his own songs and also mentions the upcoming Stiltskin album. The strings add to this personal song. Band and vocals work very well together. In fact, this version sounds even better than the ones one could hear on previous Stiltskin shows. Ray then points out that Mike + The Mechanics have a new album and are also on tour – and introduces one of their hits.


Another Cup Of Coffee

You could pick many songs from the large catalogue of Mechanics hits for a cover version. Another Cup Of Coffee seems to be a favourite of Ray's because he has never yet played another Mechanics song live. This one, however, he has been playing for years – rightly so, as this version shows. The song becomes more acoustic and seems more lively than the Mechanics version. Ali Ferguson plays an excellent part in this song, and the backing vocals Ray's brother Steve Wilson provides are a real asset. This second voice is perfect for the song. 


Jesus He Knows Me

An ironic Jesus He Knows Me is next. Ray has never sung this one live with Genesis, either. At the time the band argued that this song was too closely linked to Phil Collins – probably because of the satiric video in which Collins showcased his acting talent. The song does not need the video, though, the lyrics are satiric enough. Though the song seems to be in a bit of a hurry Ray and the band deliver an uplifting performance.


Calling All Stations

Ray has always found the title track from the Genesis album most challenging. He often compared it to Mama, as they were equally difficult to sing. Ray always gives his best, but his voice frequently could not live up to the high standards of the studio version. Sometimes it was even struck of the setlist on tour because Ray's voice did not permit singing this song. It is all the more courageous that they decided to do this song at a show that would be recorded – and does Ray ever deliver here! Every single note is spot-on. The vocals are fantastic – so touching that they are almost superior to the studio version. Respect! The song also gains impetus from being played out instead of being throttled into a fade-out near its climax. This CD definitely contains the supreme version of the song. 


In The Air Tonight

The first part of the show ends with a minimalistic version of a Collins classic. This version of In The Air Tonight is particularly entertaining because the audience sings its part only reluctantly. Ray wonders aloud what Phil Collins must sing when he sees this performance on Youtube - “what has he done to my song?” The song does not unfold its full dramatic potential because of the interruptions and conversations with the audience, but Ray shows that In The Air Tonight does not depend just on the drum fill: It works perfectly fine with an acoustic guitar, too.


Disc 2:

Shipwrecked

The second half of the shows begins in a very tasteful manner with a brief piano intro by Filip Walcerz. Shipwrecked does not suffer from an overload especially of keyboard sounds like the studio version. This one has been arranged much more carefully and, as a consequence, it is less obtrusive. “Less is more” - this is a good start into the second half.


tracksRipples

The next song is a calm piece from Ray's favourite Genesis album, A Trick Of The Tail. It begins very low key, but turns into a revelation in the middle: The well-known instrumental part is performed by the string group, which works exceptionally well. Band and strings work well together and make this a unique version. All the musicians are given an opportunity to shine. Particular praise to the string group, Filip Walcerz and Steve Wilson and his backing vocals. Just close your eyes and enjoy.


No Son Of Mine

The show gathers momentum with what used to be the opening piece of the early Klassik shows. Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks have often praised Ray's performance on this song, and many critics and fans attested that Ray sang this with more empathy than Phil Collins. It turned out a real indispensable highlight.


The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Let us keep it short: The vocals for The Lamb are not par for the course. It is hard to grasp why this would happen after the excellent performance he has given so far, but he is off key several times in this song. He seems like a different person, and his brother Steve has to support him with the high notes towards the end. Quite regrettable, for Ray has proven – not only this night, but often enough – that he is an accomplished singer. Only Ray knows what has gone wrong here. On a positive note, the recording is at least authentic. Other artists would have 'fixed' the problem in post production or left out the song altogether. The band, on the other hand, play very well. At the end of the song Ray moves on to an amusing introduction for Follow You Follow Me and makes up for the earlier problems.


Follow You Follow Me

Ray sings a great version her. The Genesis classic that brought the women to see the shows is performed in an arrangement similar to the 1998 version. The strings replace the keyboard in the solo. A fine performance all around.


Change

The second solo song this night. The band shows itself finely attuned. Ray has played this song on each of his countless live performances since the release of the eponymous album in 2003. It adds to the show and it a kind of classic in itself.


Not About Us

Filip Walcerz's intro to Not About Us captures the wistful atmosphere of the song. An acoustic number, it is one of the best songs on Calling All Stations and an asset on this CD. The string ensemble vastly adds to the quality of sound – compare the monotonous, sterile keyboard sound on the original. The rest of the band come in and make the song more lively. Well done!


Land Of Confusion

Land Of Confusion is another latecomer to the Klassik shows. The song sticks to the original and adds subtle string elements. It will always be a kind of party-booster.


I Can’t Dance

This is the song that differs the most from the studio version. Ray Wilson used to turn this song into a really catchy rock blues right at the beginning of his solo career. The audience really appreciates it and sings along during the chorus. The solo parts of each band member are a real bonus, particularly Ray's harmonica part. It is a great ending for a show that also had two encores.


Solsbury Hill

A classic from Peter Gabriel's solo repertoire, and a song Ray frequently plays in this shows. The Klassik version is a most enjoyable highlight. A great performance, though the Klassik version from the radio concert CD is just a tad stronger.


Inside

Attentive listeners will have notices that Ray's most important solo song has not appeared yet: Inside. It would have been bad taste to end the show without the Levi's song. Inside is a real  hit. It begins with a string interpretation of the original intro and develops into a smashing rock song. The band give it all again and really let loose. A superb end for a wonderful evening.


coverDisc 3 (DVD):

The DVD caused the biggest worries about this album. It was the reason why the release date was pushed back several times. The original idea was to publish the whole concert in a separate release. However, this turned out to be impossible because the footage was not very good and the lighting was terrible, so the best parts of the footage were added on a bonus disc to this set. It is a bit of consolation for the disappointed fans who have been almost begging for a DVD for many years. Their wish has been fulfilled, but to Ray's regret it has been fulfilled only so-so – though Ray does not like music DVDs and prefers his fans to come see his shows. It is nice to be able to watch at least part of the performance at home. The DVD cannot live up to the standards of major DVD productions. The sound is stereo, the video comes at least in anamorphic widescreen. The songs can be selected individually. They are introduced by subtitles that prevent total immersion.


The DVD contains the following songs:

Congo
Jesus He Knows Me
Calling All Stations
In The Air Tonight
Follow You Follow Me
Not About Us
Solsbury Hill
Inside


Certainly not the full-scale DVD production the fans would have loved but a very fine bonus to enjoy.


All in all...

Live In Poznan is an almost perfect live document that ought to make every fan happy. One could debate how “classic” this project is, since the string ensemble supports the band proper rather than playing like an orchestra. Ray Wilson had originally planned his project with a full orchestra, but had to change plans because of the enormous financial and logistical effort it would have caused. Such a project would be desirable, but unfortunately Ray Wilson does not have the means Peter Gabriel or Sting have at their disposal. It would simply have been too risky for him to undertake such a tour. What he has made of this project is, however, most remarkable. This is a finely attuned band and Ray Wilson, a singer who lives for this music and gives his all in every song. A great, authentic CD/DVD set that ought to be in every collection. Genesis lives on in Ray Wilson!

There have been contradicting statements as to whether Genesis Classic Live In Poznan is to replace the current Genesis Klassik Live In Berlin CD. Both recordings have their place. The three-disc set Genesis Classic Live In Poznan, currently available only from Ray Wilson's website and shows, will soon become available in regular stores. When the new Stiltskin album Unfulfillment comes out on September 9 there will also be another set called Genesis Classic vs Stiltskin. It will contain both the Genesis Classis set and the new Stiltskin album.


by Marco Düfer

English by Martin Klinkhardt


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