I Love Calling All Stations (And It Only Took Me Twenty Years)

  • Calling All Stations. That divisive album from 1997. A dark post-script to a glittering career.


    I remember well the dull thud of its arrival and how, only halfway through the first song, I was thinking "How would Phil sing this track?". Long before the album was over, I was feeling less than thrilled. As the final track faded out, I thought "I've just paid over ten quid for a coaster".


    Nevertheless, I went to see them on the subsequent tour. This was Genesis, after all, and I wasn't so fickle as to just dessert them after all these years. Sadly, the show that I saw (at Manchester's MEN arena) did little to change my mind that, for Genesis, it was all over bar the shouting. As with the album, Nir Z came out on top. I thought then - as I still do - that he was a top notch drummer with a sparse and dynamic style. But if Ray was limited as a singer on the album, then as a front-man he was truly woeful, shuffling aimlessly from one side of the stage to the other, constantly running his hand through his greasy locks and telling dull stories in-between songs.


    Well, that was a long time ago and, to quote one classic Genesis lyric, "time is a healer". Having recently got hold of the 2007 remix I have been pretty much turned around on my original negativity. Now, as I haven't revisited the original mix since my recent purchase, I can't say for definite if my change of heart has anything to do with the new version or if I've simply changed my mind after two decades of listening to the album (on average, I'd say I've listened to Calling All Stations once every year since 1997). The reason for my newfound love, though, is purely academic. It's more important to me that I now rank the album a lot higher than I ever did before, finding it to be a perfectly natural progression from the previous records.


    Of course, Ray is still a lesser singer when compared to Phil and Peter. He has a limited range and has little in the way of soul and emotion in his vocals. But there are moments where he's singing at the limit of his range (as on the title track and the B-side Run Out Of Time) that are really quite appealing. And while Tony and Mike's arrangements are notable for the lack of swing that Phil brought to the music, their multi-layered musical tapestries contain many delights that were hidden away on the original mix. The 2007 mix also seems to breathe a little bit more - the version from 1997 felt claustrophobic and airless.


    Does anyone else feel the love for this album? Are there fans here who have loved it from the start?

  • Since the album came out, I thought, that it was good. Not their greatest, but really good. I liked Ray`s vocals right from the start. It seemed impossible anyway, that an album, made by the likes of Rutherford and Banks could be bad. I was very disappointed, that they didn't carry on after CAS. They should have brought a full time drummer into the band, who would play both on the albums and the shows. They should have given Ray the chance to put some more of his own input into the songs. It could have been a new era for the band. I don't understand, why this didn't happen, but I certainly regret it. Interestingly enough, CAS is one of my wife's favourite Genesis albums, mainly due to Ray`s vocals.


    The Dividing Line, One Man`s Fool, Not About Us and There Must Be Some Other Way are my favourite tracks from the album.

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -

  • I think CAS still feels like a good demo. It's not Ray's voice in particular, it's just that the bits that make up the songs sound good on their own, but something is lacking in the finish result. Maybe the bits are not elaborated enough, maybe they do not fit together. A sense of direction, of orchestration is lacking and that was one of Phil's major input. He used to make suggestions that would change a song. Unfortunately, from what I've read, by the time they made CAS, Tony and Mike would pretty much work on their own, they wouldn't even bother to arrange the songs to match Ray's voice. In sum, it sounds just like a good demo.

  • The Dividing Line, One Man`s Fool, Not About Us and There Must Be Some Other Way are my favourite tracks from the album.

    Oh indeed.


    The Dividing Line, with its socially aware lyrics and that thudding synth bass. Not to mention Mike's searing guitar lines and Nir Z's drum break. A true highlight of the album.


    One Man's Fool is clearly a Tony Banks lyric. In discussing the thinking behind it, he said that it occurred to him that when a bomb goes off as an act of terrorism, while the rest of the world are outraged, there's someone sitting watching it on tv and saying "Yeah, good job". Not only does the lyric address the madness of terrorism, it also addresses the broader issue of people who fight because of their religion and the issue of "drawing lines upon the sand...and dying to defend them". A very astute observation from Mr Banks.


    When Not About Us started, I thought "Oh no; it's Oasis" but Genesis know more chords than Noel Gallagher, which soon became evident. There's a live CD from Ray Wilson where he performs the song with an orchestra. That version has a beautiful piano opening which I liked so much I've edited it into the album version for my own indulgence.


    There Must Be Some Other Way has what must be one of the all-time classic keyboard solos from Tony. It still moves me immensely.


    I would also mention Uncertain Weather as a strong moment of the album - a sombre Tony Banks lyric about the death of a soldier - as well as Congo and the title track. Of the B-sides, I love the two instrumentals Phret and 7/8, Anything Now and Nowhere Else To Turn.

  • Unfortunately, from what I've read, by the time they made CAS, Tony and Mike would pretty much work on their own, they wouldn't even bother to arrange the songs to match Ray's voice.

    I think Tony and Mike wrote the arrangements before Ray was brought in.

  • I sort of like it, it is not their worst in my book but I believe they made some strategic mistakes. The big problem is obviously Phil was simply missed. He, his vocal lines and the way he and Tony interacted, the spark that came from Tony throwing chords at him and he generating vocal lines and melodies. I omit his playing because at that stage imo there wasn't anything particularly thrilling going on. The drumming served the songs which was OK and the songs didn't require much more than that. Ironically we have a drum solo on CAS. I was OK with Ray, although a limited singer but a fine voice. Still, it seemed to me Tony couldn't get over Peter. I heard then, that the choice came down to Ray and David Longdon and I truly wish they had gone with the latter whom I find a better singer and better suited to sing both Peter's and Phil's material. Still, I enjoy the album but there's a sense of a missed opportunity.

  • David Longdon`s voice is very similar to Peter`s. Choosing a singer, that didn’t sound like either Phil or Peter seemed a good idea, as it opened new musical possibilities and paths. Just think of Steve Hogarth and Fish. Two voices (and personalities) as different as can be. It worked really well for Marillion.

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -

  • I hesitated to buy the album after hearing part of the title track, but eventually I picked it up. After just one listen I was glad I did.


    Sure, it ranks pretty low on the list of Genesis albums, but only because most of the others are so good!


    StillCan'tDance: I'm not surprised that it might take someone a while to warm up to the album. I know a lot of music has taken time for me to warm up to it. For example, it wasn't until I had my third copy of Tony's A CURIOUS FEELING -- about 30 years after I first heard it -- that it finally "clicked" with me.

    Monsieur Neddy wears spectacles in bed, that he may see dreams more clearly.

    -- "Dream Gerrard," Traffic

  • David Longdon`s voice is very similar to Peter`s. Choosing a singer, that didn’t sound like either Phil or Peter seemed a good idea, as it opened new musical possibilities and paths. Just think of Steve Hogarth and Fish. Two voices (and personalities) as different as can be. It worked really well for Marillion.

    I have to disagree. I find Ray's voice much more similar to Peter's and David's somewhere in between Peter's and Phil's. Not to mention the fact that David has a much wider range.

  • It took me at least three months before I started warming up to the CAS.

    One of the great strengths of Genesis, for me, was the distinctive and appealing vocals - Peter's and Phil's individually or together. The band was blessed in that respect.


    In contrast, I felt Ray's voice was generic and bland.

    And to some degree I still feel that way today even, though I have long overcome the impediments that arose from me comparing him to his predecessors..

    That was the key. I had to try to listen to CAS in isolation and stop weighing its merits against other Genesis albums.


    So I thought: What if this wasn't Genesis album? What if Tony and Mike teamed up for a solo project and hired Ray to sing these songs, what would I think?

    Right off the bat, I thought, well it would be the best thing Tony has done outside Genesis since A Curious Feeling and the best thing Mike has done since Smallcreep's Day - and I love those two albums.

    And that immediately opened the door for me to listen to that album in a different context and evaluate it on a different level.


    I know it sounds like putting blinders on but once I redefined what CAS was in my mind, I could start judging it on its own merits.

    At the end of the day, I don't think it's anywhere near the class of great Genesis albums - but within the context of other albums that have come out of the Genesis camp, I would place CAS up there among the best.

  • I think from a marketing point of view it took them too long to release the album. Whatever interest Phil's departure generated was gone by the time CAS came out and the scenario had changed a lot.

    Financially, it was ill-advised to plan a tour, thinking it was going to be of the same scale of the previous ones. In some younger fans' minds Genesis was Phil's band and commercially speaking, they should have known they were bound to suffer a lot, particularly in the States.

    Musically, they should have picked ONE drummer and rehearse with him. They learned when they found Phil how important a drummer is to a band.

  • I immediately liked parts of the album, and that's how it's remained. My opinion has stayed on an even keel ever since. I haven't grown to like the bits I didn't like at first. And it remains a frustrating album for me. This is embodied by Congo. I think it gets off to a great start - the fade-in with the chanting, phasing in the keyboard line then the full break into the song. I think it's probably the single most effective bit of business on the album. Good strong verse and chorus but then it goes downhill with a really naff keyboard mini-solo, then a pretty brutal fade-out. It's like a deflating balloon in song form.


    My favourites more or less match others mentioned above - the title track, Dividing Line, There Must Be, One Man's Fool. I have a soft spot for Shipwrecked with its nice Banksy-sounding riff, Not About Us is okay, as is Uncertain Weather with its big chordy breaks. One of my absolute favourite moments on the album apart from that Congo opening is the intro to Alien Afternoon, a genuinely great bit of slightly off-centre atmospherics, but then I'm brought crashing back to earth with the utterly lame song it leads into. At best, the big dramatic closing section maybe lifts it a bit but not enough to redeem it.


    If That's is sort of okayish and Small Talk isn't worth any talk in my view.


    So I find it a mixed bag but my main issue lies beyond the album. Not that there is anything beyond the album as it was their last, but that's the issue. I said on the previous forum, it sounds like the bridge to another album that never happened. I think they were on to something, you can hear it in that Congo first half and other parts of the album. They recognised that things had shifted in the music world and to some extent left them behind. They probably twigged that too late to save that album but I wish they'd then sat back and thought about it more and worked out how to react to it, instead of giving up. You could tell there was a path for them to go down, of producing darker, sparser, edgier music, having allowed RW to settle in and maybe start to make his mark, contribute to the writing and become more of a presence. Settle on the drummer, as Fabrizio said, get him properly integrated. Be more realistic about touring expectations - Banks said that he could see disaster looming in the states and pleaded with management to only book a handful of theatre shows first, but they insisted on a full arena tour and so suffered the ignominy of a cancelled tour. That must have been a bitter blow for a band of their previous standing in the US. Maybe that was the blow that proved too big for them to get past and carry on.

    Abandon all reason

  • PS Again I remember saying this on the previous board but I just find David Longdon really annoying. It's unfair, I admit, the guy hasn't done anything wrong and he's a perfectly serviceable singer but it's one of those cases where someone just irritates you for some reason you can't pin down.

    Abandon all reason

  • I agree that the marketing of the album was not what it should have been. Why on earth did they decide to release the first single after the album had already come out? Madness!


    Who is this David Longdon everyone's speaking about? I'd heard that the choice came down to either Ray or some teacher from England (is that who David Longdon is?) and that they decided on Ray because they preferred someone who had experience of being on the road.


    Whilst not denying any of the negative criticism that's been raised, I think I've made my peace with this album now. Were Mike and Tony being naive about believing they could carry on without Phil? Of course. They were replacing a singer, drummer, arranger and frontman who also just happened to be one of the most successful solo performers in the world at the time. But they wanted to carry on and I applaud them for not giving up. Should they have done another album? Of course but none of us can possibly know what it must have been like to be faced with the crushing blow of cancelling an American tour after spending so many years building up a fanbase there (when Genesis were interviewed at the time of We Can't Dance for Vox magazine, it was claimed that Genesis at that time were the third biggest concert draw in America after a Led Zeppelin and Beatles reunion).


    As a final album, replete with its B-sides, Calling All Stations is a fine double album upon which to end the Genesis story. It showed that the band still had more to give and, with songs such as The Dividing Line, Congo, There Must Be Some Other Way, One Man's Fool and the title track, that they could still pull the rabbit out of the hat. Better to end when you still clearly have more to say than when you're tired and exhausted and can only offer a lame repeat of what you've said before.

  • Congo. I think it gets off to a great start - the fade-in with the chanting, phasing in the keyboard line then the full break into the song. I think it's probably the single most effective bit of business on the album. Good strong verse and chorus but then it goes downhill with a really naff keyboard mini-solo, then a pretty brutal fade-out. It's like a deflating balloon in song form.

    I edited it with Audacity, extending the outro so that it didn't end quite so suddenly. My version clocks in at around eight and a half minutes and sounds much better for it in my opinion.

  • it's one of those cases where someone just irritates you for some reason you can't pin down.

    Nor you have to, it' happens and it's OK. One thing I forgot to mention: I think CAS is Mike's best guitar work on a Genesis album ever, that said though, considering they sort of reverted to a musical darker place, wouldn't it have been a wonderful coup de theatre to have Steve on board again?

  • Nor you have to, it' happens and it's OK. One thing I forgot to mention: I think CAS is Mike's best guitar work on a Genesis album ever, that said though, considering they sort of reverted to a musical darker place, wouldn't it have been a wonderful coup de theatre to have Steve on board again?

    I agree that Mike has a great guitar sound on the album but Nick had proved on We Can't Dance that his approach was much more sympathetic to the guitar than Hugh Padgham had been. As for Steve? No thanks; that's an area where we'll have to disagree I'm afraid.

  • Who is this David Longdon everyone's speaking about? I'd heard that the choice came down to either Ray or some teacher from England (is that who David Longdon is?) and that they decided on Ray because they preferred someone who had experience of being on the road.

    Big Big Train's lead singer. Give their album The Underfall Yard a listen.