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Critic's pick: Genesis, '1973-2007 Live'

© Critic's pick, by Walter Tunis

Genesis 1973-2007 liveOut to break the world record for most boxed-set anthologies by an internationally established rock band is Genesis, '70s prog-rockers-turned '80s pop stars.

The ensemble turned out two separate boxes beginning in 1998 devoted to archival material. Starting two years ago, though, all of its studio recordings (save the 1969 debut) were remastered to Dolby 5.1 specifications and repackaged with loads of DVD treats and unreleased goodies. That series ended last Thanksgiving with the release of 1970-1975, the collection that rightly restored the glory of the band's early adventures with a very young and very wild Peter Gabriel.

So what's left? Well, the band's concert recordings, for one. Thus we now have a big black box titled 1973-2007 Live. The title is something of a lie, though. The box stops at 1992, after Phil Collins' final tour with Genesis (chronicled on the lopsided two-disc The Way We Walk). Live Over Europe, which documented a 2007 reunion tour, isn't included, although there is a space conveniently reserved for it in the box along with a card stating that the album is "available from all good retailers."

But 1973-2007 Live isn't the inessential indulgence suggested by such a marketing ploy. Three of its five albums wonderfully recall the band's most creative era.

Genesis Live and the previously unreleased Live at the Rainbow capture the primitive glory years. The liner notes claim that both albums were pulled from concerts in February 1973, which doesn't seem possible. Genesis Live relies mostly on darker material from the early-'70s albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, while Rainbow, save for the epic Supper's Ready, is exclusively devoted to the breakthrough Selling England by the Pound.

The Gabriel-era discs are wondrous stuff for the die-hards. But honestly, the disc with the richest musical voice is 1977's Seconds Out, which comes from the initial tours with Collins at the helm.

1981's Three Sides Live is more troubling for veteran fans, as it delves more into Genesis' MTV period (but nowhere near so as The Way We Walk). Still, autumnal relics including Me and Sarah Jane and Duchess satisfy, as do recreations of such earlier wintry delights as One for the Vine and The Fountain of Salmacis.

Again, Seconds Out is the standout here. Its mix of Gabriel-era greats (Firth of Fifth, The Cinema Show) and early Collins gems (Afterglow, Dance on a Volcano) along with some of guitarist Steve Hackett's most sublime recorded playing and an already brilliant sound design that the 5.1 mix heightens even more, qualifies it as the greatest stage document in this mighty black box.

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