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Genesis Klassik

Ray Wilson & the Berlin Symphony Ensemble

GENESIS Klassik: Live In Berlin

First the facts: Live in Berlin is Ray Wilson's fifth live album. Previous offerings include Live And Acoustic (2002), Live (2004), An Audience And Ray Wilson (2005) and Ray Wilson & Stiltskin Live (2007). GENESIS Klassik: Live In Berlin differs from the other live albums, especially in its concept. 

The planning phase

Discussions about a new show concept for Ray Wilson began in late 2008. The idea was initially to play concerts with a full or half an orchestra. It soon became clear that such a move would be very expensive and so it was decided to have a bigger band with string sections and a pianist. The first GENESIS Klassik concerts took place in summer 2009, with Ray and his band playing mainly open air gigs. A radio concert for Berlin radio station 88.8 on August 13, 2009 was the exception, and it was at this concert that the CD was recorded. 

The Band

The line-up of the band changed for these shows. This „only“ meant that the band grew, the familiar faces of Ray Wilson's live band were still onboard. An interesting addition was the return of Steve Wilson on guitar. Steve had not been in the band since summer 2006 (read our 2006 interview with Ray about this).

Ray Wilson: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Ali Ferguson: Lead Guitar, 12 String
Lawrie MacMillan: Bass, Backing Vocals
Ashley MacMillan: Drums, Percussion
Steve Wilson: Godin Acoustic, 12 String and Backing Vocals
Filip Walercz: Piano
Kristin Sy: Violin
Steffi Hölk: Violin
Nora Bösel: Violin
Tobias Unterberg: Cello, String Arrangements
Ivonne Fechner: Violin

There were originally no plans to use the radio concert for a CD release, but the positive feedback and the quality of the performance prompted Ray to release the show on CD. A DVD version was planned, but has been at least delayed. The CD contains thirteen tracks with twelve songs:

No Son Of Mine

The ticking metronome at the beginning almost suggests I Can't Dance. It takes a bit longer until the bass drum comes in. The elephant sounds move into the background so that the song is carried by Ray's voice and the string section. The piano brings a special flavour into the song. The aggressive, disturbed, desperate atmosphere of the Genesis version all but vanishes with this instrumentation. Now the song has a resigned mood. People who are not familiar with the lyrics might even describe it as romantic.

Land Of Confusion

Onwards with another worldwide hit. Genesis, incidentally, played the songs in the same order on their We Can't Dance tour. Land Of Confusion sounds softer than the original, though it still has lots of power. The synth attack and the guitars from the verses are replaced by strings, and so is most of Tony Banks' keyboard work. It is the piano that changes this song most, though the guitar is the dominant element in the middle. Land Of Confusion turns out to be a light-footed, compact classical version.

At the end Ray addresses the audience for the first time, joking that he looked like Phil Collins with more hair, though less money. He also mentions his problems of pronouncing 88.8 correctly [try for yourselves: acht-und-acht-zig komma acht]

That's All

Ray introduces the song as one he regrets never having played live with Genesis, which is not quite true. That's All was played at the dress rehearsal / press performance 1998 at Bray studios.
After a normal beginning with lots of piano the strings come ins slowly. While That's All sounded very edgy and sparse with Genesis its full atmosphere comes out here. Ray also uses his voice as an instrument, imitating Louis Armstrong the way he occasionally does at his live shows. 

coverNot About Us

After three songs of Genesis' commercially most successful era the band now proceed to play Not About Us. Ray did not only sing this song on Calling All Stations but he also co-wrote it.
He springs a big surprise on the audience. Not About Us is preceded by a longer piano intro that does not give away what song it will lead to. It is only the acoustic guitar that finally reveals that it's Not About Us.
The song has lost nothing of its class in the last twelve years. There are lots of versions – Ray has almost played this song to death – but few of them can live up to the studio version. Perhaps his live version with RPWL or his own live band can, but now he has refined the song into a beautiful classical version. It seems as if Ray freed the song from all the artificial sounds and lets it be what it should be, a ballad full of styles and natural sounds.

Carpet Crawlers

This Genesis classic is another fixture in Ray Wilson's live shows. He even played it with Genesis on the Calling All Stations tour. As opposed to Genesis Ray always plays the full song including the first verse Tony Banks described as an introduction in our interview (which is also the reason why Genesis have never played that part of the song since 1975).
Just the piano and Ray's voice – this really shows why Genesis picked Ray Wilson in 1996. The strings come in very inobtrusively for the chorus, followed by the dominant drums. One also realizes how badly Ray's live band lacked a decent keyboarder since Irvin Duguid left the band in 2007. Filip Walcerz does an excellent job. The same goes for Steve Wilson on the guitar.


Another live show staple from the Calling All Stations period. The string come to the front for the first seconds and repeat that motive in the verses. This adds a sad note to the song. No instruments can be heard during the first two verses except for the strings and an acoustic guitar, and (later) bass. This version barely differs from those Ray frequently plays alone as an encore.

Follow You Follow Me

Ray talks about how he fought with Mike and Tony over the setlist and his demand for something acoustic. During the acoustic set that became part of the Calling All Stations tour Follow You Follow Me would be played in an easy-going „camp fire“ version. Ray plays this song regularly live. For GENESIS Klassik the piano is given a bigger role. The strings provide a background that makes this song less easy but makes it a lovely ballad. As expected, the middle section is ruled by the strings.

Solsbury Hill

Ray occasionally likes to play a Peter Gabriel song or two live. Biko, the likelier Klassik song, is one of them, then there are Games Without Frontiers and Solsbury Hill. The Klassik version shows high spirits. Acoustic guitars, strings and the piano are the leading elements. The bass drum drives the song forwards after the second verse. The electric guitar can hardly be heard, as everywhere on the album.


The first song from Ray's own repertoire is the title song of his album Change, which was not only a radio hit in 2003 but also a staple of his live shows. Change was also a song in which Ray comes to terms with his time in Genesis, so it is a good choice for this CD.
The choice of instruments is interesting. Screeching noises from the string section make up the beginning, the piano comes in later. The acoustic guitar and the drums are the core instruments. The strings come further to the front after the first verse. They add some a certain degree of agitation to the song that subsides during the chorus. An intriguing musical idea. 

Short Story

"Tell your mom I got by job back“ - those who have seen Ray live recently know the story. If you haven't, buy the CD and enjoy the anecdote.

Jesus He Knows Me

This is probably the biggest surprise on the CD. Ray has played Jesus He Knows Me live here and there, but it is not necessarily a song that fits him – it is far too close to a typical Phil Collins number. The Klassik version replaces the guitars and parts of the keyboard with strings for additional dynamics. While the classical elements slow down the other songs they speed up this one. The instrumental bit before the bridge („won't find my practising...“) is particularly impressive.

Turn It On Again

The inevitable Turn It On Again has caught up with Ray Wilson. This is the moment where the classical elements least fit the song – or perhaps they have not been thought through. Turn It On Again is a typical stadium rock song; the Klassik version appears a bit helpless and misplaced.

Constantly Reminded

RRay jokes that he needed the loo, but couldn't go because of the live broadcast. He then plays a song from the recent Stiltskin album SHE. It is Sylvia Lampe-Dahm, a member of our fanclub, who whistles at the beginning of the song. She has also taken the photo used on the front cover of the CD.
Back to the song – this version is a great fusion of classical and rock elements. When the echos of „are you there?“ ebb away the band is introduced briefly before the CD comes to an end. 

All in all...

Many people will criticize this project, rightly so to a degree – many fans want more Ray Wilson and less Genesis in the live set. But the project should be regarded on its own. GENESIS Klassik is an ambitious venture that will certainly continue to evolve. Of course they are happy to use the name of Genesis for marketing reasons, but this new approach really works. This CD is just the beginning, a kind of appetizer. It is remarkable how much some songs gain from the classical rendition – and it would have been interesting to hear other songs frequently played by Ray such as Fading Lights, Lover's Leap, Entangled or Ripples in this new style. Additional songs from his own repertoire could work very well with a classical approach, too.

There may be time for this in 2010 – further Genesis Klassik concerts are planned (see the GENESIS Klassik tourdates) and the setlist may grow. We may perhaps also see the release of the DVD that was announced. For the time being GENESIS Klassik: Live In Berlin is an interesting, enjoyable live album with the promise of more to come.

GENESIS Klassik – Live In Berlin was released on November 13, 2009. It is currently only available from the merchandise stand at Ray Wilson's concerts or from the show of his official homepage.

by Christian Gerhardts
translated by Martin Klinkhardt

further information:
GENESIS Klassik – tour dates 2009/2010
Ray Wilson – tour dates 2010
Ray Wilson – Propaganda Man – CD review