And like many fans of the prog era of Genesis, I’ve been waiting impatiently for "Genesis: 1970-1975," a 13-disc set that brings together the five real Genesis releases with Gabriel. Rhino has been rereleasing all of the band’s albums in deluxe box sets for the last 19 months. First came "Genesis: 1976-1982" back in April of 2007, then "Genesis: 1983-1998" in October of 2007, and now the Holy Grail is upon us.
Before Phil Collins, there was Peter Gabriel. And this set clearly illuminates why Genesis is the best progressive rock band of all time. To hear the group’s journey from the English folk-inspired "Trespass" to the full-on bombast of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway," which is this music critic’s favorite album of all time, is simply astounding. Yep. I just said that.
Listen, I’ve been waiting for a set like this for forever, for long before Rhino started this three-box series. Oh sure, most of these records were released in a remastered version in 1994, but all those did was change the equalization to make the mix louder; they did nothing to improve the overall sound quality, which is obviously not that great since these were recorded more than 30 years ago.
That all changes here. "Trespass," "Nursery Cryme," "Foxtrot," "Selling England By The Pound" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" have all been lovingly remastered for this set. In some cases, like on "Back In N.Y.C." from "The Lamb," you’ll hear backing vocals you didn’t know existed. I could mention 100 more examples of things like this. The members of the band all had input with how these were done over, and the carefulness of the mixes shows that.
What do you get with this set besides the five records? Well, each album also includes a second disc, a DVD-A, that includes different 5.1 mixes. This makes the music perfect for surround-sound systems, and the results are chilling and startling. You also get a bonus disc of unreleased material, plus tons of video and audio extras.
Let’s look at this album by album:
Easily the worst of this bunch, "Trespass" is actually the sophomore release from Genesis, coming after "From Genesis to Revelation," which many don’t consider a proper record. What’s odd is that "Trespass" held up a whole lot better than I remembered when I listened for what must be the first time in five years. Tunes like "Stagnation" and "White Mountain" really work next to the classic "The Knife."
EXTRAS: Besides the requisite DVD-A, the only addition to this record is a 40-or-so-minute interview from 2007 with all the band members discussing the album. It’s fun to hear from original lead guitarist Anthony Phillips, and listening to guys reminiscence about the process is pretty cool.
"Nursery Cryme" (1971)
I’ve heard people maintain that this is the best Genesis record. It’s an argument that could be made since "Nursery Cryme" includes my favorite Genesis tune ("The Musical Box") and some hidden gems like "Seven Stones" and "For Absent Friends," the first song to feature Phil Collins on vocals. And speaking of Collins, this album is the first with the amazing Phil on drums and guitarist Steve Hackett.
EXTRAS: Like "Trespass," this one only includes a lengthy interview with the band members. You get to hear Collins talk about his first days with the group. Also, hearing the guys speak about the writing process and how Gabriel evolved the live act is quite interesting.
It’s here where Genesis comes into its own. "Foxtrot" includes what many believe is the band’s strongest moment, the 23-minute "Supper’s Ready." But this also has "Can-Utility and The Coastliners," "Get ’Em Out By Friday" and so many more gems.
EXTRAS: Besides the reissue interview, this is where we start getting some good stuff. A 1972 Belgian television performance is included, as is part of a show from the Piper Club in Rome. We get songs from "Foxtrot" and the previous two albums performed in a live setting. It’s really cool to see such old footage of the band. The video quality isn’t always perfect, but it sure is pretty good for being from 36 years ago.
"Selling England By The Pound" (1973)
Many will also argue for this album as the band’s best, but "Selling" is clearly the group’s most overlooked too. It doesn’t have a "Supper’s Ready" or another epic favorite, and it is clearly Genesis’ most British album. The band returns to a lot of its 12-string-guitar roots with more mature and understated killer songs like "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," a song the guys still perform live.
EXTRAS: We get the interview and two very good live performances. The footage taken from an Italian studio in 1973 might just be my favorite extra in the entire set. To see the band at what many believe is its creative peak is simply astounding. Gabriel commands a stage quite amazingly.
"The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" (1974)
I’m a little biased, but this two-record album is simply amazing. It’s a joy to take it in on five speakers. In the two short weeks I’ve had this box, I’ve listened to this 90-minute album four times. I can’t get enough. While almost anything from 30-plus years ago sounds dated, "The Lamb" amazingly does not. A group like Radiohead could put out this album today, and we would call it expansive, experimental and forward-thinking. The guys were seriously ahead of their time on this conceptual work about a Puerto Rican youth in New York.
EXTRAS: We get the interview and a couple cool older performances, but no video of "The Lamb" being performed. It makes me cry.
The bonus disc includes six tracks that popped up on "Genesis Archives, Vol. 1: 1967-1975," from 1998, but they’re remastered here and you can never have enough versions of the classic "Twilight Alehouse." But the real key is the unearthing of the four songs that make up "Genesis Plays Jackson," an unreleased batch of songs from a soundtrack the band wrote for a show from painter Michael Jackson. You can hear the early versions of a lot of "Nursery Cryme" tunes being played without Hackett and Collins. It makes you realize Anthony Phillips probably should have gotten some writing credits on that disc.
Genesis may have experienced its greatest commercial success after Gabriel departed and Collins stepped out from behind the drum kit, but this set is just another example of how creative, how exhilarating and how revolutionary the Peter Gabriel years were. This is simply a must-own set for any even tiny Genesis or prog fan, or anyone who simply loves music.