Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mr Mike's High School Record Collection: Genesis - Genesis (1983)

The latest round of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been released and to my surprise Genesis is included this time. And Abba. Really? Really Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Abba?? Don't get me wrong, I like Abba generally and grew up enjoying "Take A Chance On Me", "The Name Of The Game" and "The Winner Takes It All" (killer divorce song) as much as anyone else but how this legendary pop group qualifies for rock and roll I just don't know. Why not induct Neil Sedaka too? Next year's inductee will be Bruce Willis for "Respect Yourself".

Well, back to Genesis. Prog rock usually gets short shrift from the Rock and Roll critic crowd because it was considered overblown, pretentious, to use a British term wankerish. I have to assume their induction is because Peter Gabriel was a member who established a ton of artistic cred after leaving the group. He had it with Genesis too but that respect for his art shot through the roof well before his breakthru So album. Because without Gabriel the Hall of Fame would have to admit they just let in a band fronted by Phil "Against All Odds" Collins. Which brings me to today's post.

I like Peter Gabriel and have heard some of his Genesis stuff (I have Selling England By The Pound somewhere in my CD collection) but for me Genesis is Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. That's just the lineup of Genesis I knew from the time I started listening to music, the idea of Gabriel or Steve Hackett being there was abstract to me because I hadn't seen or heard music from that lineup until a few years ago. It does form a favorite piece of music trivia for me though, because I can't think of another successful band that lost its lead singer and lead guitarist that became more commercially successful without replacing those band members. Usually the loss of either is a kiss of death for a band that has "made it". Not replacing them is unheard of.

Oops, off on a tangent again. The first Genesis record I bought was their self titled disc from 1984, just before No Jacket Required shot Collins (and Genesis) to the next level of pop stardom. Now we go back a quarter century in time to the Genesis of...Genesis (you know I was going to go there).

1. Mama

Spooky, smoky, atmospheric and haunting are adjectives. Adjectives that help describe this song that I could not figure out if the "Mama" in question was a 70's reference (back when men called women "Mama" the way they would say "Babe" or "Sugar t*ts" - wait, that was Mel Gibson typing) or his literal mother. Hopefully not the latter because "Mama" is psychologically tortuous, Collins alternately snickering and pleading with himself like the inner dialogue of Hannibal Lecter. All I knew was I liked how it sounded, it's creepy and weird with that mechanical beat and Banks heavy synths. Ha HA Ha...Oh.

2. That's All

Genesis' first Top 10 hit and a worthy one at that. Collins attributed the 80's success to the group's music becoming more emotional and hey, I'm sure he was right because it was love songs like this that catapulted him into super stardom. As far as Genesis ballads go, "That's All" was the first and least generic. It had that upbeat piano and a bit more beat than the other slow songs. My favorite part is the slow section where Collins goes "But I love you...more than I wanted to..." and goes all crazy with the drums in the background. He's one of my favorite drummers and to have that much drum work in a ballad and make it fit is pretty impressive to me.

This was introduced as a song about ghosts when performed live, no matter how successful they got Genesis never stopped showing love for the Prog. Probably a carry over from the earlier days of the band, Collins was good at acting a part inside a song. On "Mama" he was dark and psychotic, "That's All" he was wistful /resigned and here he's desperate on the verge of panic. Musically it has that cool distinctly 80's sound where you could visualize a Miami Vice montage happening as this plays in the background.

Like the long version of "Abacab", "Home By The Sea" goes into an extended instrumental letting keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist / guitarist Mike Rutherford cut loose. Now without words you can really practice your Miami Vice with no singing to get in your way. I wanted to be like Edward James Olmos minus, you know, the face (sorry Commander Adama). Have that gravelly dramatic voice and all. Press play on this track and then in a Batman like voice say "The drugs are coming in from Colombia at 3:00. Ship is a freighter named the Santa Maria. Be at the docks in an hour." You won't regret it.

5. Illegal Alien

Proving that pre civil rights media did not have a monopoly on insensitive racial stereotyping, the trio takes a light hearted poke at illegal immigration. What makes this song semi offensive is that Collins (actor that he is) sings the song in a fake Spanish accent. Anyone who found Speedy Gonzalez or the Taco Bell Chiahuahua bad will not enjoy hearing Collins singing things like "Ah peenk one ah red one the collahrs u chewz." Genesis' sense of humor is hit or miss with me (I didn't care for "Anything She Does" from Invisible Touch but did like "I Can't Dance" from We Can't Dance) and this song does make fun of a situation that even back then was fatal for some. Just call me Buzz Killington.

Though "That's All" was the hit, it was this track that laid the template for future success. A classic Phil Collins soft ballad without much to get in the way of a sentimental melody. I don't recall this being released as a single but for years after I heard this on the radio of less talk more lite rock stations.

Funny, I thought nothing of this tune until it was used as a theme song for a short lived 80's tv series. I want to say it was called The Insiders but can't recall it, I think the show was about private detectives that were fashion photographers? Or were they spies that posed as photo journalists? I'm too lazy to look it up, it was some kinda Miami Vice rip off show right down to the Phil Collins atmosphere. Anyway, this jammin number with the rapid fire drums going bang became a favorite track for a while after I heard it on the tv show. The only version I could find on You Tube of this is a sped up recording so it is like the Chipmunks. Alvin!

What's the old saying, "You can take Peter Gabriel out of the band but you can't take the band out of Peter Gabriel?" No, that's not a saying actually...actually that sounds really wrong in so many ways. Nonetheless "Silver Rainbow" is Genesis in full on Gabriel mode and is a pretty dope track. By dope I mean fly. By fly I mean blowin' up. By blowin' up I mean...forget it, it's a good song.

Still in Gabriel mode with the epic keyboards and reptilian vocals. A nice almost spiritual uplift to this track.

The success of Genesis followed by the blockbuster Collins solo album No Jacket Required set the stage for the trio's complete cross over to pop on Invisible Touch. On this record, the group still retained a strong Prog sensibility and a more unique character. Should I go for it? Ok, I will. Like the album cover Genesis reaches for Perfection. Glad to get another bad pun off my chest. OK, to wrap up Genesis = Rock and Roll Hall of Fame = congratulations to a classic Prog band.

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