I once heard an interview with Peter Gabriel where he was talking about the musical inspirations for Genesis. To my surprise, he said he wanted the band to sound like Otis Redding.
This comment came to mind as I listened to "Turn It On Again," "No Son Of Mine," "Hold On My Heart," "No Reply At All," "Misunderstanding," and several other hits from this 2-CD retrospective. Though Gabriel was long gone and into his solo career by the time these songs came along, his idea of Genesis channeling the Stax soul man was still present. Strip away the high gloss production, occasional measure of 5/4 and prog trappings of Tony Banks' classical keyboard riffing and many of these tracks could be reinterpreted in simple R & B arrangements.
As a singer and songwriter, Phil Collins was always more direct about his intentions than Gabriel (compare the lyric of "I Can't Dance" with "Carpet Crawlers," one of five Gabriel tracks here). In the late '70s, when Phil took over lead vocal duties, he gradually navigated the band out of the colony of slippermen and into pop-friendly AOR waters. The amount of hits Genesis had in the early '80s is startling, and as they come at you, one after another, you'll be thinking, "Oh jeez, forgot about that one."
But to my ears, the most satisfying Genesis music came during their transition from shoe-gazing art-rockers to multi-platinum stadium titans. Represented here by "Afterglow," "Your Own Special Way," "Pigeons" and the wonderful "A Trick Of The Tail," they found a very melodic, almost Beatle-esque way of mixing their fanciful lyrics with more down-to-earth sentiments. For those wanting to dig deeper, you can't go wrong by picking up a copy of A Trick Of The Tail.
This release heralds a world tour by the reunited Genesis (Gabriel was asked to participate, but reportedly his schedule didn't allow). If we're to believe Collins, it may be the last chance ever to see them. But for those fans who really miss the old Genesis, there is a fantastic tribute band out there called Musical Box. Check out their videos on YouTube (including one where Phil Collins sits in) and be amazed.
For those who prefer their music at home, this set is a vital mix of all that's good about post-Gabriel Genesis. And while you're listening, remember it all started with Otis Redding.