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Genesis - Selling England By The Pound CD (album) cover

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.63 | 2953 ratings

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Dreamer of Pictures
5 stars What makes this one Genesis album stand out? Peter Gabriel's whimsy.

Looking back at the Genesis recordings prior to Selling England, Gabriel's unabashed take no prisoners lyrics dominated. He hit us over the head with Fang, the Giant Hogweed, the Knife, the Watcher, real estate developers, public suicides, and so on. Often the subject was dark. Not everybody enjoys that viewpoint, at least not at the industrial strength so often found in Gabriel's lyrics and performances. It did make Genesis stand out from many of their contemporaries in the prog tidal wave of the time.

Selling England largely gave the world a break from that dark approach. In Epping Forest we found much to enjoy in a deadly gang skirmish. In Cinema Show we chuckled at the universality of first date jitters and opportunities. Towards the end of that tune, in an extended instrumental break, we even find what I recall to be the first Genesis jazz material. In I Know What I Like we recognized that some of us do indeed lack the motivation to move up the economic ladder (and cannot spend meager disposable income on recorded music).

Still, Gabriel did not forego his fascination with the dark completely. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight opens, a frantic spin across a challenging night on the moor until it ends in a far calmer and more charming place in early morning light. Firth of Fifth, with lyrics as strident and commanding as any by Gabriel in Genesis, is my favorite in this collection, a wonderful concoction of melodic themes and variations that perfectly demonstrates why prog mattered then, and still does. Firth was composed for the Foxtrot album, and benefits considerably from the synthesizers added to Tony Banks' arsenal after Foxtrot.

After the Ordeal, an instrumental, is another great example of melodic themes and variations. In the 21st century we have all but forgotten that Peter Gabriel was once a woodwinds player; this along with Firth and Cinema Show are places where his woodwinds make terrific contributions.

After Selling England, the next and final studio album with Gabriel, the story of Rael, was a study of dark absurdity and abandoned the gentle good humor lyrical viewpoint dominating Selling England.

Five stars is justified for Selling England. Few other bands have delivered so strong and steady a product.

On my phone: Dancing, Firth, Epping Forest, and After the Ordeal. I will probably add Cinema/Aisle as a single track in the near future.

Dreamer of Pictures | 5/5 |

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