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Genesis - 50 Years Ago (Download-Album)

Lately released new old material from the early years

The 50th anniversary of Genesis’s first joint recording session slipped by almost unnoticed by the public around Easter 2017. At the time of the recordings the band did not have a name and the formation of a new (school) band was not really on the cards. However, the session became
the founding stone for everything that was to follow. The tape recorded by the new songwriters’ cooperative got to successful producer Jonathan King who spotted their potential. He gave them the opportunity to record demos at first, then three singles and a full album. The boys were not
happy with King’s production efforts and since they were moving in a different direction musically from what King would have liked they parted ways soon enough. This is probably the reason why Genesis prefer to gloss over those early days. King, on the other hand, likes to
remember (and remind others of) that period, not least because he still owns all the rights in the recordings.

Countless reissues of From Genesis To Revelation, the debut album, have inundated the market under numerous titles with equally numerous artworks. They usually have the same content, though, namely the stereo mix of the album plus the non-album single tracks. It was the release of the Archive 1967-75 box set by Genesis in 1998 that we got to hear more from that period. It included many hitherto unreleased songs from the demo sessions plus several alternate versions of album tracks without the orchestral arrangements King added. For the boys had nothing to do with those. The original multi-track tapes were considered lost, and
with it the idea of being able to mix the songs from the album the way the band would have wanted. Many years later comes the surprise: According to King, these very multi-track tapes appeared in a storage building where hundreds of tapes were stored when the Regent Sound
studios were sold in the 70s. The person tasked with inventorying the stored material knew the link between Genesis and Jonathan King and got in touch. Steve Levine created new mixes of many songs with King in Levine’s Liverpool studio, the results of which are now on 50 Years Ago (available on iTunes worldwide).
CoverThe title is somewhat misleading, for the recordings of all but one track were made after 1967. The release includes all songs from From Genesis To Revelation (1969) as well as the tracks from both 1968 singles and a demo track from summer 1967. While the album was originally a concept album, the tracks were shuffled around here so that the brief musical interludes between songs are left out. This means that we have the songs with “proper” fade-outs. Which in turn means that the recordings used cannot come from the album master tape. It is not yet clear which tapes they found and used. The download album does not offer any liner notes by way of explanation. Let us take a look at how album used to be produced back then for a better understanding: Multi-track recordings were limited to four tracks. Musicians would either record band performances of the song or resort to a trick if they chose to record in batches: The first 4-track tape would record the band live but without vocals (e.g. drums on track 1, bass on track 2, guitar on track 3, piano on track 4). In order to be able to record vocals, backing vocals and strings afterwards a mono mix would be created from
the first four tracks and recorded on one track of a second 4-track tape with the other three free tracks available for other recordings (e.g. lead vocals on track 2, backing vocals on track 3, and strings on track 4). This procedure could be repeated several times, but it has a
disadvantage: Only the latest four-track tape could be used for the final mono and stereo mixes, and the previously created mono mix on track 1 could not be changed anymore. This means that there were only few ways in which the stereo panorama could be used. Peculiar
distributions such as all the music on the left channel and all the vocals on the right channel were merely the consequence of only four tracks available for distribution. “Ping-pong stereo” was frequently a just epitheton. However, stereophony was fairly irrelevant for producers
and consumers alike, and so all attention went to the mono mix.

Enter the photos of four-track tape boxes with hand-written notes. The tapes that were used as sources for the stereo and mono masters have the songs in the order in which they appear on the album but alternatingly: Tape one has the odd, tape two the even track numbers. None of the tapes contains the transitions, which suggests that the final mix was done in real-time, as it were, with a third mono tape machine that provided the interludes. Out of this procedure come the familiar master tapes for the stereo and mono releases of the album. But the tapes that were used for the current release go back beyond the master tapes, which makes 50 Years Ago rather attractive in terms of sound and/or mix.

We shall adhere to the original order of songs on From Genesis To Revelation for a discussion of the tracks (but mention the track number of the original release) and try to establish which tapes and tracks were used. We shall use the following designations:
4-track A (basis tracks)
4-track B (redux 4-track A + overdubs); this is labelled “2nd 4 to 4
MASTERS” on the tape box

tape“Redux” refers to the mono mix created from four tracks of the previous tape, “overdubs” are three tracks that were recorded on the tape that contains the redux mix. It is likely that some of the more complex songs have used a putative “4-track C (redux AB + overdubs” tapes. Since we cannot prove that, we will disregard it to keep it simple. The existing stereo and mono master tapes have obviously not been used for this new release. The 4-track tapes have been used to create three different kinds of new mixes:

Mono mix (redux 4-track B), labelled “mono mix”
Mono mix (4-track tape A + overdubs 4-track tape B), labelled “new mix”
Stereo mix (4-track tape A + overdubs 4-track tape B ), labelled “new stereo mix”

The combinations beg the question why not all mixes that use 4-track tape A were created in stereo. After all, there were seven discrete single tracks to be used, four from tape A and the three overdub tracks from tape B. We can but speculate on the reason. However, other
recordings from that period (notably from The Beatles) often had several instruments recorded on the same track. Like the later redux mixes, they could not be separated again. Creating a stereo mix from multi-instrument tracks might have ended up sounding like “ping-pong stereo”, which the producers tried to avoid.

08 Where the Sour Turns to Sweet
[mono mix] (3:25)

This is almost identical with the original mono mix on the mono version of the 1969 album. The mono album version was a bit longer than the stereo album version, and this one here is yet a bit longer again.

23 Where the Sour Turns to Sweet
(New Mix) [mono w/o strings] (3:29)

This version goes one step further back. It has no strings, and the song is a couple of seconds longer.

21 In the Beginning (New Mix) [mono] (4:23)

This mono version does not have the “drone” intro, but includes the piano bridge to Fireside Song that has so far been regarded as the into to that song. A version without the intro has only been found on one acetate of the album.

22 Fireside Song (New Mix) [mono w/o strings] (3:38)

The piano intro has been left off as it has been assigned to In The Beginning. This new mono mix also leaves out the string arrangement. It is therefore similar to the Rough Mix of the acetate album. The song is some ten seconds longer than the well-known stereo version since the transitional music to The Serpent is not used.

13 The Serpent [mono mix] (4:02)

No transition music at the beginning and a full fade-out at the end make the song a couple of seconds longer.

14 The Serpent (Vocals) (3:57)

This a capella mix uses only two tracks, the lead and backing vocals on 4-track tape V. You can hear the playbacks the singers would hear in their headphones (though the music was cut out when they are not singing). No fade out here, the vocals continue to the end of the recording.

12 Am I Very Wrong? [mono mix] (3:02)

There is no difference from the mix on the mono album. The piano transition is left off, though, and the song fades out a tad later.

19 In the Wilderness [mono mix] (3:23)

This is a mono mix of the album with the infamous string arrangement; instead of the well-known cross-fade into the piano outro in flat the song is half a minute longer.

16 The Conqueror [mono mix] (3:27)

The mix is the same as on the mono album, albeit with failing bass sounds. A full fade-out makes this version a few seconds longer.

In Hiding Cover06 In Hiding (New Stereo Mix) (2:38) (SINGLE!)

This is where it gets interesting. This new stereo mix is only possible if both multitrack tape A and B were used. The music can be heard in a stereo panorama that would not be possible otherwise. Add two tracks with vocals. The track with the string arrangement has been left out.

01 In Hiding (Vocals) (2:35)
An additional a capella version that uses lead vocals and backing vocals from 4-track tape B. In the background you notice the music from the headphones.

02 One Day (New Stereo Mix) (3:29)

This new stereo mix has been created from the original 4-track tapes A and B. The music has fine stereo plus the vocal tracks minus strings and brass; the closest known version is on the acetate. The intro has been left for this mix, with no fade-in.

10 One Day [mono mix] (3:22)

For comparison we get the mono version with strings and brass; unlike the mono album version the recording here as a full-stop ending.

20 The Window [mono mix] (3:34)

Usually just styled Window. The piano intro has been left off. The coda is 20 seconds longer with a fade-out.

11 In Limbo [mono mix] (3:27)

Same thing here: no piano intro, but 20 extra seconds of coda without (!) a fade-out. The trebles seem to be stronger here than on the mono album.

05 The Silent Sun [mono mix] (2:14)

The twelfth songs on the album is not from the album sessions. It was released as a single in 1968. This mono version does not differ much from previous releases, and there is considerable doubt whether the track was newly copied from a tape.

15 The Silent Sun (Alternate New Mix) [mono w/o strings] (2:13)

Things are different here: This version of the first Genesis single
leaves off the notorious strings.

09 A Place to Call My Own (New Mix) [mono w/o strings/brass] (2:22)

A new mono mix has been created from the closing song of the album. Somebody counts them in at the start. The string and brass tracks have been left off. This version is 20 seconds longer than the familiar stereo version and 15 seconds longer than the mono version.

04 A Place to Call My Own (Vocals) (1:03)

As a treat, we get Peter Gabriel’s lead vocals a capella without backing vocals. This would come from 4-track tape B.

This is all the tracks from the album. But we also have new recordings of the 1968 singles. We have mentioned The Silent Sun but there are also these tracks:

18 That's Me [mono mix] (2:37)

This mono version is not much different from previous releases. It may be doubted that this tracks was newly created from the tapes, though we have the impression that the song has been pumped up, as it were.

03 A Winters Tale [multiple mono takes with studio chatter] (7:38)

A real special track that concerns the second Genesis single. The play time suggests an unknown long version, but it isn’t. It documents the work in the studio: We hear the band and the producer talk in the studio while the band begins and breaks off the song several times. Only the last take is complete, and only the last take has Gabriel’s vocals. This mono version is a little bit slower than the single version we know. Apart from that they are fairly identical

07 On The Trail Of The One Eyed Hound (New Stereo Mix) (2:39)

The flipside of the A Winter’s Tale single has been known as One Eyed Hound so far. The song title given here may have been cut because it would have been inconveniently long to print on the 7” labels. A couple of things are different: There is a count-in and several things have
been mixed in a different way: There is a mono track with the basic playback, while lead and backing vocals and a second (electric) guitar have been newly mixed.

17 Image Blown Out [alternate demo version] (2:48)

This is an odd one out. The recording is from the first demo the band recorded for King in summer of 1967. It has little to do with the later album. The song was recorded again for the album sessions, but the material was not used. It only surfaced on the first archive box set.
The version on this recording first appeared as a bonus track on the Edel 2CD version of the album. We could not spot a difference from that release.

All in all:

Who would have thought that? The cover of this (currently) download-only release suggests merely another reissue in the long chain of reissues of the first Genesis album with identical content. Closer inspection reveals that this is a treasure trove. If you found the unattractive sound of the original stereo album with all the unpopular string and brass additions annoying you might want to listen to this here. This is not a polished remaster of the stereo or the mono album, though that would be interesting, too – the superior mono mix has not seen a CD release yet. This release takes one step back production-wise, which is a step ahead sound-wise, and gives us the songs without the transition overdubs (in 8 of 13 tracks). It takes another step and rids the new mono mixes of the string/brass elements (5 album tracks) or offers completely new stereo mixes (2 album tracks). Add to that two a capella mixed, a glimpse at the recording process of a single, a new stereo mix of that single’s flipside and a rare demo track that has only been available in one release so far.

Still, a couple of questions remain: Why download-only? Why has the tracklist been jumbled around? Could they have created new stereo mixes of all tracks or have they not found all multi-track tapes? What about the outtakes from the album sessions: Visions Of Angels, Build Me A Mountain and Image Blown Out? Have the numerous musical transitions also appeared in a (more) complete fashion? Well, Jonathan King may have been wanting to check the market for the 50th anniversary. Perhaps he will surprise us with further treats in 2019 for the golden anniversary of the album? There are, after all, many demos that still await their first release.

By Steffen Gerlach with support from Tom Morgenstern
English by Martin Klinkhardt

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