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Genesis - Turn It On Again: The Hits

It is just in time for the Christmas season 1999 that our heroes are releasing their first official hits compilation. It is certainly not the first compilation of Genesis songs at all, but compared to the Vertigo compilation of the same title that came out in 1991 an attempt has been made to really bring all the hits of the band together. The only similar approach was the Greatest CD that was published in 1998 in Japan only.

It has to be said that the 1992 live album The Way We Walk – Volume 1: The Shorts bundled their major hits, but those were not the original studio versions, of course. This time only successful singles were put on the CD. It will hardly surprise anyone that these are almost exclusively from the period when Phil Collins was the singer with the band.

The other three songs seem a bit out of their musical context for that reason. I Know What I Like (1973) is the only selection from the Gabriel era and exactly five years (and four studio albums) senior to what is chronologically the next single, Follow You Follow Me. Congo is the only song from the current Genesis line-up with Ray Wilson. The new recording of the (commercially unsuccessful) single The Carpet Crawler (1974) that was originally planned as a contribution to the first Archive box set will now be released as a single to bring the song the recognition it deserves. It was decided to used edited versions of some piece in order to be able to fit as many hits on a single CD as possible. Thus it was not the single version of Mama that was used but an edit where a verse had been cut away at the end and which had only been available on a UK 7” promo. Abacab, too, comes as the single edit without the instrumental that was released on vinyl only. The version of No Son Of Mine is a new edit; the intro was shortened and some vocals at the end of the song were removed (but it is not to be confused with the version on the rare US promo CD!). The single edit of Tonight Tonight Tonight (shortened intro and no instrumental) is the one that was put out on the CD single. Neither the album nor the single version of Congo were used but the video edit. It leaves out the second middle section and the keyboard solo (like the single), but retains the intro. The single mix of Jesus He Knows Me – full length here – merely accentuates backing vocals and several keyboard sounds. Far more interesting than the various shortened versions is a piece that has become much longer than the original: A new recording of the Genesis classic The Carpet Crawlers from their concept double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974), their last album with Peter Gabriel.

While they were planning the Archive project the (ex)members of the band had to rework some of the (live) tracks that were to be used. It was during this time that they had the idea for this unique reunion of the classical line-up with Gabriel, Collins and Steve Hackett. Unfortunately the recordings were not completed for the deadline of the Archive box, and so they had to find another way of releasing it. The second Archive boxset will contain only Collins-era music, though, and so they decided to put the recording on the Hits CD without actually intending to release it at first. When the song received lots of airplay and favourable comments Virgin decided to put out a single to accompany the compilation. This was the first time the band worked with famous producer Trevor Horn, whom many may know from his work with bands like Yes or Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Another innovation was the involvement of other musicians, the so-called “additional players” – if you disregard the Phenix Horns on Abacab and the orchestral parts on Genesis’ first album. These musicians are from Trevor Horn’s current team that also worked on Seal’s recent album Human Being; their efforts helped to make Carpet Crawlers ’99 a good remake. The new version focuses more on rhythm than the original, a quality it shared with Gabriel’s and Collins’ recent solo releases, and it is full of musical surprises realized with lots of careful attention to details. Collins and Gabriel share vocal duties.

This album is worth buying for the new recording alone, unless you decide to get the single. A double CD with the complete singles’ collection or a real “best of” compilation of all Genesis classics from all periods might have been a better alternative. It is also a bit strange that Misunderstanding was included and the UK Top Ten hit Paperlate and another successful single, Match Of The Day, were left out. This new release will certainly fuel the fire of speculation about the line-up of possible Genesis activities to come. Things remain interesting.

by Steffen Gerlach
translated by Martin Klinkhardt