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Duke - SACD-Hybrid / DVD - 2007

Tracks on the SACD / CD:

Behind The Lines
Guide Vocal
Man Of Our Times
Turn It On Again
Alone Tonight
Please Don't Ask
 Duke's Travels
Duke's End

DVD content:

full album in Dolby Digital 5.1 (audio only)
full album in dts Surround (audio only)
Making of Duke - 2007 band interviews
Turn It On Again (music video)
Misunderstanding (music video)
Duchess (music video)
Live At The Lyceum London 1980
World tour programme 1980 (gallery, 16 pictures)

Technical information:

The music videos come in stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts sound (as on the Video Show DVD). All other video content is Dolby Digital 2.0. There are no subtitles. 

Duke in its historical context

Duke, the album with which the 80s began, was not really a new beginning, but a transitional album. The sound was for the most part still firmly rooted in the 70s, but musically there were new ideas that came about because the band consolidated themselves as a trio and also because they soaked up the current musical zeitgeist. “Punk” lay in the past, “New Wave” was still hip. Gary Numan, The Jam, Blondie, The Boomtown Rats and the Buggles’ prophetic Video Killed The Radio Star had recently ruled the UK charts while the first “New Romantics”, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and ABC were getting ready. Two years had passed since And Then There Were Three, and much had changed. First the band had been busy touring the U.S. Europe, North America, Europe again, the U.S. again and finally Japan. This kept them busy in 1978, so 1979 became a year to kick back and relax. Phil needed a break for personal reasons, but that did not keep him from going into the studio with Brand X. Mike and Tony were also busily working on their solo debuts, so that Rutherford’s Smallcreep’s Day, Banks’ A Curious Feeling and Brand X’s Product all came out virtually simultaneously. “Drei Alben, die bei keinem Genesis-Fan fehlen dürfen” (three albums no Genesis fan may miss) was the headline of an extra sheet that accompanied the German first edition of the Duke LP – on the back there was a competition to win two tickets for the Lyceum show on 07/05/1980.
The highly successful ’78 tour had reconciled many ‘old’ fans who felt disappointed with the rather weak And Then There Were Three, but expectations for the new album were still not very great. The new and particularly the female fans Genesis had won with the single chart success of Follow You Follow Me were looking forward to a new album far more eagerly because they had felt out of place on the shows. They hoped for simpler hits with radio potential. They would get them.

When Collins returned from Canada in late 1979 the band began to think about the new album. Banks and Rutherford did not bring as many completed songs to the table as for previous albums because they had used most for their solo albums; Collins, on the other hand, had begun to write his own songs. And So To F (on Brand X’s Product) was an instrumental, but a piece he had written on his own. His failed marriage provided him with ample material for songs that ended up on his solo debut Face Value for the most part. It has never really been established whether In The Air Tonight, Phil’s later solo hit, was or was not available as a demo for the Duke album. Collins insists on having played it to his band mates; Banks denies that. Rutherford feels they would not have rejected the song if it had indeed been played to them. – In the end Misunderstanding and Please Don’t Ask were chosen. These two songs are rather unsual for Genesis in that they are rather simple, but extremely personal with (at least for Please Don’t Ask) very sad lyrics. Banks and Rutherford brought “classic” prog to the album that follows in the vein of later 70s Genesis.

Luckily they all remembered that the few moments they had developed together on And Then There Were Three were the more interesting ones. So they pooled sketches and ideas and spent long jam sessions with Dave Hentschel as their producer in Polar Studios, Stockholm, where they kneaded these ideas into individual songs. Collins brought in the Roland CD-78 drum machine he had first used on Wal To Wal on Brand X’s Product. This left him with his hands free so that he could focus on the singing for the sessions. The songs that developed in this manner – Behind The Lines, Duchess, Turn It On Again, Duke’s Travels, Duke’s End – did not only become the backbone of the album but also a pattern for their future mode of working: All their later hits would have come out of this modus operandi. With Banks’s short composition Guide Vocal spliced into the middle these songs became the Duke Suite. When it was announced as such on the Duke tour and played as one continuous item rumours appeared that these songs were originally meant to be a single long track that would take up one side of the Duke LP, just like Supper’s Ready on Foxtrot. Nick Davis recently refuted this – the order in which the songs are on the multi-track tapes does not support that theory. The individual lyrics have not much in common, either. The story of Albert (the character by Lionel Koechlin on the cover of the album) Phil Collins would tell to introduce the Duke suite live contained, besides lots of absurd obscenities, the note that this story had “nothing whatsoever to do with the music that follows”.

Duke soon became the most successful album in the history of the band and their first #1 in the UK album charts. It went gold immediately after the release and went to #11 in the U.S. album charts. Turn It On Again made the UK Top Ten while Misunderstanding became a Top 20 hit in the Billboard charts.

Sebastian Wilken has written a comprehensive review of the album that you can read here.

Duke - the new stereo and surround mixes

The 2007 confirmed that the instrumental first part of Behind The Lines is an excellent opening song, and it works just as well on the album. The sound is full, bombastic, with lots of volume and the full frequency range – from the deeped Taurus bassed to the synth brass – now also in surround out of all six speakers. The following part (released as Behind The Lines part 2 on the Turn It on Again single) is a bit simpler. Most of the action, except for the keyboards and few other instruments, takes place between the front speakers. Phil’s lead vocals sound much stronger and more aggressive than in the original mix by being isolated in the centre speakers. While the songs ends in the front speakers the Roland CR-78 comes in through the right rear speaker and opens the sound again.

Through this trick Duchess – the first Genesis song ever to feature a drum machine – gains a big atmosphere. Small details like the fantastic drum roll in the beginning really stand out. Suddenly you hear those tiny guitar arpeggios during “and on the road where all but few fall by the wayside”. The backing vocals come in through all speakers which makes it easy to identify them.

Guide Vocal brings the first part of the Duke Suite to an end. It offers a great contrast by simply relying on beautiful piano and vocals. When the analog synth strings come in through the rear speakers the first shivers will run down your spine.

Man Of Our Times has an impressively big sound again, mainly thanks to the organ that makes the surround speakers vibrate. Collins’ voice is doubled with a harmonizer and transposed down an octave. One wonders whether this could be heard as clearly in the original mix. You hear it here, anyway, and it explains the threatening atmosphere of the song. At times it makes one think of Pink Floyd’s Welcome To The Machine, though it is never as intensely claustrophobic. Interestingly, this prototype of progressive rock written by Mike Rutherford was never played live. Man Of Our Times is a classical Genesis song, though.

Misunderstanding was hailed as Phil Collins’s coming-out as an songwriter and composer; it fits the album well. The shuffle rhythm and the introductory riff may be a bit unusual by Genesis standards, but it obviously pays homage to R&B; certain similarities between this song and Sly And The Family Stones’s 1969 song Hot Fun In The Summertime are no coincidence. There is, on the other hand, not much that the song has in common with Led Zeppelin’s Fool In The Rain, though a connection between them has frequently been alleged – any denouncements of plagiarism are quite absurd. Attentive listeners may miss a certain guitar solo in the new mix that became more pronounced towards the end of the song. According to Nick Davis this was not on the multi-tracks, so it must have been a later addition to the stereo master that was therefore not available for the new mix. One does not miss it too badly, though.

Heathaze is a beautiful, calm, perhaps also unobtrusive ballad of Tony Banks’s. He offers some great piano moments, has very high vocals and a fine surround sound – the keyboard carpet spreads out through the rear speakers.

Turn It On Again follows the concept of vinyl albums to place another good opener at the beginning of the second album side. Compared to the other songs on Duke, yes, even compared to anything Genesis had released before, Turn It On Again is absolutely new: Genesis goes rock! The song starts strongly, with distorted guitar power chords, smashing (and comparatively straight) drums and a synth bass that plays lots of quavers. As an excuse for all these simplicities they add an extra-beat every three bars as soon as Collins begins to tell of his media habits. This lengthens the usual 4/4 to an unusual 5/4. It is a device that makes the rhythm stumble a bit, thus effectively banning the song from the dancefloors but keeping it interesting to this day. The surround distribution focuses on the front speakers; very little happens in surround. The Eastern synth intermezzi stand out a bit more because they come out of the rear speakers. The line that has always been missing live – “I – can see a-nother face – I can see another face” – is also in the rear speakers.

Alone Tonight is another beautiful ballad in the Afterglow vein, though it was written by Rutherford, not Banks. Moving the electric guitars with their almost acoustic sound to the surround speakers makes them stand out clearly even when Tony goes berserk all around them on the keyboards.

Cul-De-Sac has never been played live. This Tony Banks song anticipates the Abacab album, particularly in the sound during the verses and the middle section. The reviewer never realized this parallel until he listened to the SACD. The chorus is typical Duke again. Tony’s CP-70 is the dominant instrument; it is so well-distributed across the speakers that it seems to hover in space. The drums sound as on Me And Sarah Jane, except the cymbals are a bit distorted.

The piano stays in the surround speakers for Please Don’t Ask. It sound really fabulous while Phil spreads out his life crisis in a subdued voice. Note Mike’s outstanding bass lines and the brief guitar fills in the blues tradition of call and response. The chorus is a real hit, even after 28 years, and definitely in surround sound. It is hard to see why this Collins song was not favoured over Misunderstanding as a single or why it was not played live at all.

The real highpoint of the Duke album comes at the very end: Duke’s Travels / Duke’s End begins with elements from the Far East and slight borrowings from Los Endos (from the Trick album). Then there is a furious drum solo – or rather a drum duet, for there are distinctly two drum kits, one coming out of the front, the other out of the rear speakers. The percussion elements are very dynamic and like to move around. While Banks and particularly Collins’ drums are very much in the fore, hardly anything can be heard from Rutherford until shortly before the Guide Vocal reprise when first the bass and then the solo guitar make themselves heard.

Duke’s End picks up the instrumental motives of Behind The Lines and Turn It On Again and melts them into an outstanding epilogue. A fan or an air condition is gently buzzing in the transition between two parts. Nick Davis springs another surprise on the listener by putting the drums almost completely on the surround speakers when the theme of Turn It On Again is reprised (mainly on guitar). After that the song ends too soon.

Unfortunately the master tapes have been pushed into saturation – louder parts have audible issues. This is just the same on the 1994 CD, but the superior transparence of the 5.1 mix makes it more obvious.

The 2007 SACD mix compared with the 1994 Definitive Edition Remaster
A back-to-back comparison of the 2007 stereo mix with the 1994 “Definitive Edition Remaster” shows a huge improvement. An analysis reveals some significant changes; Duchess was used as a sample song. The following curves indicate the frequency response of the album. The yellow lines indicates the distribution of peak levels while green lines represent average levels. The lighter lines are for the SACD, the darker ones for the 1994 DER version.

FrequenzIt is instantly obvious that the dynamic range has not changed much. The interval between peak and average levels is nearly the same, as the values for average and peak (given on the top right) confirm. Had the 2007 mix had stronger compression – as many people have unjustly claimed – the interval would have been smaller there. Overall levels have been raised by an average 4-6dB; there has been a significant raise at 64Hz where the basses have become another 8dB louder. The rest of the curve follows almost exactly the hills and valleys of the old master, which indicates how precisely Nick Davis has managed to reconstruct the overall sound. The stress on the bass levels for Duchess has been a conscious decision that has not been made for other songs. This way the drumbox does not sound like a cardboard thingy  and the Taurus pedals have a stronger sound. If you listen to both mixes back to back (with corresponding volumes) you will still have the impression that the new mix has been raised in the upper frequency ranges – which is obviously not the case. If you switch between DER and 2007 stereo mix it is as if a muffling curtain was pulled back every time the newer mix is on – the instruments and vocals stand out tremendously clear.

DVD bonus content
The bonus videos comprise the three promo videos for Duchess, Misunderstanding and Turn It On Again and an 18 minute reissues interview 2007 in which the band talk about the development of the album. The virtual copy of the 1980 tour programme does, unfortunately, not use the full screen size so that you can hardly make out any details. The highlight is the 39 minute Live At The Lyceum London 1980, a part of the second Lyceum show on 07/05/1980 that was filmed by the BBC for their famous “Old Grey Whistle Test” programme. The quality is okay, the images (in 4:3) slightly fuzzy but with a strong contrast and clean. The stereo sound is mainly loud, but also clean. The bootleg version EFDVD made available shortly before the boxset came out is still slightly better because it has nearly the same quality but retains the opening and end credits of the BBC programme along with the charming presenter.


The reproduction of the booklet in the SACD/DVD set could have been better. The pages are full-colour, but the designer did not realize that Lionel Koechlin created illustrations that go with certain songs. His drawings are distributed at random in the new booklet: The first four pages are completely empty (except for the lyrics), then the vase for Man Of Our Times is suddenly accompanied by the TV set from Turn It On Again. The “tree with rustling leaves” grows next to Alone Tonight instead of near Heathaze, and the noble Duchess of the second song arrives late in the picture for Please Don’t Ask. Disappointing, really.

The credits mention Tony Maylam as the director of the Lyceum video, which is certainly wrong, because he only filmed the 1976 Genesis In Concert. The original Charisma label with the Albert character running around the center is a nice touch. Unfortunately the cutout for the inner circle is a bit large and just barely misses the track list, which does not look quite intentional.

At the end of the day:
It is interesting to see how little this album has aged. Polar Studios with their state-of-the-art equipment had not been too good for the sound. Many songs sounded overproduced, un-spontaneous and extremely polished – many reviews at the time used the word “sterile”. Nick Davis has done a whole lot for the SACD. The 5.1 mix of Duke sounds, like the new version of Wind & Wuthering, spectacular, strong and big; Nick Davis has managed to improve the sound quality and the transparency of the music while staying  tasteful and faithful to the original.

It is remarkable how well the atmosphere of the original was preserved. On the one hand you never feel as if you were listening to an unnecessarily bloated remake, on the other hand the SACD sounds as if it had been recorded only yesterday. At least, if you ignore that the performance of Duke’s Intro, Duke’s Travels / Duke’s End and Turn It On Again has been far more tired in keys and speed than the 1980 original that shows messieurs Banks, Collins and Rutherford at an early peak of their creativity.

by Tom Morgenstern
English by Martin Klinkhardt