It is curious that both their first and last albums, the bookends, feel little like anything else they did.
FGTR is naive. FGTR is often terribly compromised by the young band's desire and need to write and perform material that was pleasing to Jonathan King. To me, FGTR sounds like something that would have been better had it come out a year or two before Sgt Pepper....though it's still behind what The Byrds, The Beach boys and The Beatles were doing in 1965.....it's lack of sophistication in the lyrics and composition would have fitted in better with the pre-Pepper musical landscape.
The strings and horns are mixed too loud, too "in your face". I have always felt that the liner note about them being added with care was a joke by Peter Gabriel. If the notes played aren't always inappropriate as delicate backing, they're presented in such a way that any pretence at delicacy is blown out of the water with a huge torpedo.
Some of the music is too twee. But some of it is genuinely lovely. The lyrics are generally naive but that's not always bad. Songs like The Conqueror stand up quite well and could have survived into the 70s gigs had the band wished. Even the Bee-Gees pastiche "Silent Sun" is a competent pop song. Someone on the first page mentioned the band's personality not really coming across because they're writing for King's ear...and that is likely. There are moments though...the odd chord change here and there, Peter's vocals when he's being Peter, the interaction of Ant and Mike's guitars....glimpses of Genesis.
I don't often listen all the way through, but there are a handful of tracks that I like....some perhaps in the manner of a guilty pleasure but it all means the record is not entirely without merit. But under two years later they recorded Trespass, which is not just miles but a whole marathon up the road from this.
The unused tracks that we have access to perhaps suggest at the musical direction they'd have taken without King's controlling hand. But that said, they probably did need *someone* to shape the project and keep it from spinning off gods know where. I just don't think that King really understood or appreciated the musical direction they wanted to go in. If they'd had a Joe Boyd type figure, perhaps they'd have issued a stunning debut.
I'm glad it's pretty much always been available. I first heard it on a cassette on the Argo label in the late 80s, then bought one of the first CD releases which had some bonus tracks. My turntable has had the honour of playing an original mono Decca first edition but sadly the earliest I own is the first US pressing from 1974. While the constant re-releasing can be construed as King trying to fool people into parting for this music multiple times, at least it's been consistently available - often with B-sides and other bonus tracks. It's an important part of the band's history even if there's nothing here that made it even into set lists of 1971 or beyond.