Today, Nov. 18, marks the 40th anniversary of Genesis' landmark concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which was their last with original lead vocalist Peter Gabriel. Across 23 tracks over 94 minutes, the album tells the bizarre story of a Puerto Rican teenager named Rael who goes on a surreal journey through New York City to rescue his brother John.
Though the other two big rock operas of the 1970s, The Who's Quadrophenia and Pink Floyd's The Wall, close out with epic, hugely dramatic numbers, The Lamb finishes up with "It," one of the album's poppiest and most upbeat songs. The track is a highlight for guitarist Steve Hackett, who delivers the maddeningly catchy lead riff, and was often able to morph his guitar with brilliantly ethereal tones that often did not even sound like a guitar at all.
4. "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway"
Although The Lamb is perhaps the most challenging album Genesis ever produced, it also boasted more great pop songs than any other during their Gabriel era, starting with its opening title track. The bass line that runs through the verses is one of the most underrated in rock history, while the subtle blending of piano and synthesizer tones in the background give the song a dizzying atmosphere that perfectly sets the surreal mood for the rest of the album.
3. "In the Cage"
What set The Lamb apart from the other early Genesis albums was its emphasis on shorter songs rather than lengthy prog epics, though the tense, eight-minute journey of "In the Cage" is an exception. The band never sounded more paranoid and jittery than they do here, and few Genesis songs were ever allowed to have such a slow and steady build-up, opting instead to shift into brand new movements that sounded like different songs entirely.
2. "Carpet Crawlers"
"Carpet Crawlers" was one of the rare Gabriel-era songs that Genesis continued to perform in concert well into their '80s mainstream peak, and it is easy to understand why. The song's soft, dreamy melody is just the sort of thing Phil Collins excelled at singing. Not only is it the best melody on The Lamb, but it may also be the best melody Peter Gabriel ever wrote for Genesis.
1. "Back in N.Y.C."
For many people, Genesis came to define the British prog movement, but nobody else really sounded quite like them or even tried to. "Back in N.Y.C." is a song only Genesis could have written, with its spine-tingling synths, soaringly intense vocal performance and quirky yet vaguely frightening chorus — or whatever you would call the whole "As I cuddled the porcupine" bit. It is too dark for Yes, too musically complex for Pink Floyd and too emotional for King Crimson.
This is all Genesis.
What is your favorite song from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? What did I get wrong? Let us know down in the comments section.