Posts by Diogenes

    I'm not so convinced you're in a small minority in preferring Three out of the first two trio albums.

    It was a very impressionistic comment that I made. Just a sense I get from hearing and reading stuff over the years. In particular, there's a long thread on this site about ATTWT. I remember reading through the comments and being struck by how many people were critical of the album.

    I absolutely agree with you that we all hear things differently. We also all hear music in different circumstances and contexts. My affection for ATTWT is probably tied up with the fact that it was the first Genesis album that I heard as a young lad. It was music for grown-ups but it was also accessible enough for me to get into. By the time I heard Duke, on the other hand, I was heavily into all that 'classic' '70s stuff, so Duke felt like a let-down.

    Over the last few months I have been writing an occasional blog about Genesis, based on well-known bootlegs. I don't for a minute claim that the blogs say anything that would be unfamiliar to longtime Genesis fans. The blog about the Duke tour, which I have just uploaded, is a bit different, however. Duke was the first Genesis album to be released when I was actually a fan (I was thirteen at the time). Some of what I have written is therefore a bit more of a personal perspective. Those bits may be of interest to anyone else who was around at the time. I have pasted them below. If you're interested in reading the full thing (as I say, I am not claiming to say anything new), it's here: London 1980: Genesis Bootlegs

    What I thought as a young lad ...

    Forty years on I look back on these years — 1978 to 1980 — as a time of transition, a staging post on the journey to the brave new world of commercial success. Duke continues along the more accessible path mapped out by And Then There Were Three. But both albums also contain more than a few moments for even the most diehard fan of ‘old’ Genesis to savour — extended instrumental passages, soaring choruses, lyrical references to maidens fair and foul. An alluring mixture of familiar fragrance and flavours strange, you might say.

    But it didn’t feel like that at the time — at least, not to this young fan. It actually felt like a huge and hugely unwelcome change of direction. It was as if they were forsaking their roots. Selling out.

    Even the artwork — the cartoon figures, the childlike scrawl of the lyrics — reinforced these thoughts. It was all a bit too lightweight, too direct, too commercial. I avoided the new single (Turn It On Again), unlike my friend and fellow compulsive record-buyer Dave. Also a Genesis fan, he was generally more open-minded about chart music than I was. I probably picked up Duke, belatedly and grudgingly, a few weeks after its release.

    And then, as Genesis transformed themselves during the early-‘80s, I took refuge in Foxtrot, Wind and Wuthering and the rest, leaving my doubts about Duke to fester and grow. To this day Duke strikes me as the weaker of the two ‘transition’ albums, a judgement more to do with the overall sound than with the quality of particular songs. Where Tony’s lush keyboards on And Then There Were Three wrap the listener in a warm embrace, Duke tracks such as Alone Tonight, Cul-de-sac and Heathaze sound colder and thinner to this (untrained) ear.

    On this I am doubtless in a small minority. Genesis fans generally seem to regard Duke with huge affection. It was certainly a big seller at the time. Tony himself describes it in Chapter and Verse as his favourite album. Only relatively recently — perhaps after finally buying a copy of Tony’s A Curious Feeling five or so years ago, perhaps a little earlier — have I really made an effort to listen to Duke with fresh ears.

    No, I don’t think it is their worst.

    I heard Congo a couple of times when it came out, I think, and took an immediate dislike to it, not least the cringeworthy attempt at an arty, politically on-message video. Middle-aged men desperately trying to look cool doesn’t do it for me. On the back of that, I gave Calling All Stations one cursory listen, decided I didn’t like it and parked it for the best part of twenty years. I dusted it off a couple of years ago just out of curiosity and gave it a few spins. At first, only two or three standout tracks grabbed my attention, but then the whole album really started to grow on me. I gave it another good listen last night before writing this.

    Eleven tracks, 67 minutes of music — and for me no obvious fillers. Even the more run-of-the-mill efforts — Small Talk, If That’s What You Need, There Must Be Some Other Way — are listenable and certainly no weaker than the run of songs on side two of the Genesis (1983) album. Abacab runs for 47 minutes and includes two of Genesis’s very weakest songs, in my opinion — Who Dunnit? and Another Record. Much of Calling All Stations might be a bit unadventurous, but the whole thing sounds good, there are some great hooks and instrumental passages dotted around, and Ray can certainly sing.

    I have just bought Banks Vaults. A Curious Feeling apart, I am hearing Tony’s solo stuff for the first time. Much of it is great, some of it is outstanding. I can hear echoes, particularly of his work on Still and Strictly Inc, all through Calling All Stations. I am not very familiar with Mike and the Mechanics, but If That’s What You Need is what I imagine a typical Mechanics song sounds like.

    When Calling All Stations is good, it’s great — and, like on We Can’t Dance, it’s nice to see some longer songs that move away from the standard verse-chorus-bridge formula.

    The Dividing Line sounds like they got Phil back on drums, and the keyboard runs are terrific (reminding me of The Serpent Said). Shipwrecked has a great chorus. If you know Morrissey’s stuff at all, the main keyboard riff sounds like a fairly obscure track called Lost (released in the same year, I think).

    Alien Afternoon is the quirkiest song on the album. It quickly settles into a fairly unremarkable groove: a humdrum tune with humdrum lyrics about a humdrum existence. I am not always great at making sense of lyrics, but something seems to happen to our narrator mid-song — a paranormal experience or alien close encounter of some kind. Ghostly voices ring out like an angelic choir — “We are home / We are your home / We are all your home” — with suitably unsettling and other-worldly mood music from Tony and Mike. Great stuff.

    Again, it very much reminds me of another song — probably my favourite Simon and Garfunkel song, The Only Living Boy In New York. Paul is fed up, stuck at home writing songs for the new album while Art is away in Mexico pursuing a film career. Then we hear Art’s heavily treated vocal calling from the ether — “Here I am” — as if he’s hearing Paul from afar.

    One Man’s Fool was the first song to catch my attention. The lyrics — written pre-9/11, of course — resonate more than ever. The song shifts gear after about four minutes and closes the album in style.

    I often find myself drawn to the darker Genesis lyrics dealing with pain, loss and loneliness. Not About Us sounds like classic Mike writing. It puts me in mind of Snowbound, a favourite of mine from And Then There Were Three. Along the same lines, Uncertain Weather is probably the best song on the album, though that’s perhaps partly because I always think of the loss of my parents when I hear it. The lines “All gone long ago / Leaving no trace / Disappearing like smoke in the wind” are goosebumps-good. Unfortunately, the spell is broken by those bloody awful spoken lines.

    My overall verdict? I should start by mentioning that I think of Trespass as the first album. It’s obviously nowhere near as good as anything from the ‘70s; it’s not as good as Duke; it’s better than Abacab and Genesis; and it’s probably on a par with Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance.

    There is nothing that I ever skip when I put a CD on, but I don't listen to anything pre-Trespass. I also regard their post-And Then There Were Three output as far more variable in quality compared with their earlier material, which I think of as being consistently very very good.

    The nearest I would come to saying 'songs I don't like' are both from the same album: Who Dunnit? and Another Record.

    This was the first Genesis album I bought, probably in 1979 aged twelve or thirteen. Genesis had first appeared on my radar via a school friend, who was obsessed with The Knife. That song was a bit too heavy (as in complex and serious) for me at first, but I liked the more accessible sound of And Then There Were Three.

    I agree with the comments about it being a transitional album - the shorter songs, the obvious push for radio play. Despite its flaws (and let's face it, Mike isn't in Steve's league as a guitarist), I am exceptionally fond of it. For me, it's the last great Genesis album, the last one to feature the classic sound they found on Selling England. As somebody else has written, Mike's and Tony's fingerprints are all over this album - what more need be said to recommend it?

    If I had to identify a particular highlight, I guess it would be the chorus of Undertow. Like Afterglow, it soars defiantly. One line, in particular, still moves me to tears whenever I hear it: "Spring must strike again against the shield of winter"