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Kevin Holm-Hudson -

Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Ashgate popular and folk music series, Aldershot and Burlington, 2008

172 Seiten, ISBN 978-0-7546-6147-4

Much has been written about Genesis. From Armando Gallo's great publications to the easy-to-read inaccurate glossy brochures whose main purpose lies in celebrating the band with new fans, from countless concert reports and album reviews on the fanclub website to the memories of those really involved in Chapter & Verse – that is the range of reading material, and we have not even mentioned special interest publications like directories of Genesis collectibles. Oh yes, much has been written about Genesis. And in 2008 they received academic accolades: Kevin Holm-Hudson, composer and professor at the University of Kentucky has devoted 160 pages to dissecting the influences of, basically, the world and its current affairs had on the development of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and also on the history of the reception and the influence that the album has exerted since its publication.

CoverIn the introduction Holm-Hudson outlines how Genesis and The Lamb must have appeared to concert-goers in 1974/5 and also details the musical and social context of Genesis' opus: An underground band play a set on their live tour that consists of new material only and tells a most peculiar story that is hard to follow – before the accompanying album had actually been released and after prock rock giants Yes had failed impressively with the very same concept on their Tales tour. The fact that the appreciation for The Lamb grew over the years is ascribed to the bizarre story that is open to all kinds of interpretations: It may be read as religious allegory, as an intriguing psychological case study or even as a historic document that mirrors the economic and political issues of the time in which it developed.

The book examines six different aspects of the album. Holm-Hudson begins with discussing the change of the music publishers into a real industry, the effects of the energy crisis and the Watergate scandal as a backdrop for the decline of progressive rock. The second chapter describes the actual development of the music and the lyrics. It contains a synopsis of Gabriel's various presentations of the plot (from the lyrics, the story and interview statements). In the third chapter Holm-Hudson offers something completely new – a detailed analysis not only of the lyrics but of the music itself. The book's reviewer pleads utter ignorance of the theoretical and analytical aspects of music and professes his gratefulness towards the author that he managed to keep this academically most exacting part of the book easy-ish to read and more or less comprehensible even to laymen; this is, after all, the core of the book, and Holm-Hudson does a very good job explaining how important text sources for the album (e.g. the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and C.G.Jung's books) affected the lyrics. He also points out that the allusions to other pieces of music (e.g. Needles And Pins by The Searchers), that are in themselves a novelty in Genesis' work, are, in fact, intentional and have a function in the context of The Lamb.

A brief chapter on the reception of The Lamb is followed by a very instructive one on possible interpretations of the story. Holm-Hudson freely admits that many interpretations Genesis fans posted on the internet helped him put together this chapter. He focuses on possible religious and psychological readings of the lyrics before he describes how The Lamb influenced the career of Peter Gabriel, of Genesis and of other progressive rock (tribute) bands in the book's last chapter.

Genesis' magnum opus may never have reached the position of an album like Dark Side Of The Moon or Tales From Topographic Oceans outside fan circles, but, as Holm-Hudson astutely puts it, The Lamb „manages to encapsulate both the zenith of progressive rock and […] economic constraints [that] began to curtail […] progressive rock musicians.“

Genesis And The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a scholarly publication. It is therefore a more demanding read than Chapter & Verse or Armando Gallo's book. If you take up the challenge you will discover many new aspects about Genesis'  concept album and perhaps see some songs and lyrics in a different light. Perhaps the biggest attraction of this musical gem is that you will keep finding intriguing new facets on this diamond – particularly when the very light of its own origin shines on it.

by Martin Klinkhardt

| Kevin Holm-Hudson's CV on the homepage of the University of Kentucky
| The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – review
| The Musical Box – reports of Lamb Lies Down shows