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Genesis - Trespass CD (album) cover

TRESPASS

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.16 | 1597 ratings

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4 stars In the Court of the Crimson King

OK, so J.K. kept the rights to the songs on "From Genesis to Revelation". But then he had to let them go and play with the big boys where they belonged, and spent the rest of his free life telling the world how he had discovered them. I bet that smarted just a bit.

After that, Genesis spent many a happy evening spinning the magnificent debut from the other Crimson King, and getting inspiration, not to mention revelations, about where the music was going to take them next.

Keeping their roots firmly entrenched in folk music, leaning more towards the off-the-wall 12-string driven sound of the ISB, Genesis nevertheless liked the hard rock sound and apocryphal walls of synths so much, that these too had to be incorporated.

This, coupled with Gabriel's confidence in his articulate delivery of lyrics that approached real poetry, with their themes of fantasy and nostalgic pastoral times of yore, meant that there was no sophomore jinx for this band - they had arrived, and this can truly be seen as the debut.

Having got rid of drummer John Silver, they had, unfortunately, replaced him with the eminently sackable John Mayhew, who clearly had about as much understanding of the pathos and drama in Genesis' music as someone who didn't, and as much co-ordination behind the drum kit as a learner driver.

Personally, I love the production on this album - even if I do hate the drumming. The feel of nostalgia is just as strong as the King Crimson debut, if not more so, and that underlines the lyrics very well, and brings out something almost mediaeval in the music - a pretty good job for an electrified folk/rock band, if you ask me!

Exposition

And as for the music, well, if you require a definition of what exactly constitutes good Prog Rock, then here it is. Not a masterpiece of the genre - the drums let it down too much, and there are other, far less glaring flaws besides - but a fine and solid example that should be in every Progger's collection.

What exactly is so good about it?

"Looking for Someone" puts us in the mood straight away - that a capella vocal entry (a trick later re-used on "Selling England by the Pound") is a wake-up call, as well as a statement of intent. Banks drifts eerie keyboard lines, and Phillips gently entwines contrapuntal guitar lines - and the first thing we notice is the soothing absence of the pentatonic scale.

Soft sixths and minor sevenths are the order of the day, along with slightly rambling melody lines that are a huge relief from the multitude of scale practitioners that were around then and, sadly, seem to have increased in number to this day. This creates a feeling of expectation that is gentle, punctuated and illustrated by watercolour softs and shades of musical dynamic.

Formally, we have a reasonably standard song structure of "verse1", "verse2", "chorus", "verse3", up until the instrumental bridge, but despite the contrast between "verse" and "chorus" sections, we do not feel the chorus aspect - it feels more like a refrain:

The lyrical structure is clearly not designed as a singalong - more as a reflective meditation, with the contrasting music providing balance in the structure that helps this song feel like no rock song ever recorded before - like a continuing narrative with subtle dynamic, rather than a "hit".

Technique

The words are superbly coloured by the instruments, not in any predictable literal sense, but through little devices such as the harmonic movement from F -> B flat -> A minor -> D minor accompanying the phrase "You see the sunlight through the trees, to keep you warm in peaceful shades of green".

This chord progression begins with a very warm feeling, but with the introduction of the minor flavour, feels like we are entering shades - it's quite tangible, as the minor chords are noticeably cooler.

The Genesis of instrumentals

The instrumental section is where things get really interesting, bearing all the hallmarks of the Genesis that would go on to produce such a fine crop of Prog albums. Musical passages appear in chunks that go together to create an impressionist vision of a world populated by the protaganist on horseback - we hear galloping hooves for a while - resting in a clearing - we clearly hear twittering birds in Gabriel's flute - in ever-changing rolling countryside continuing the search all too briefly before the song resumes.

This is no mere widdly-woo look at me I'm great and can play scales really fast type solo section - this is directly from the new King Crimson school of thought; the actual development of rock music based not only on previous thematic ideas, but using new ideas to create an image of the entire concept of the song in a microcosm.

Development

When the final verse arrives, there are jagged changes in the accompaniment, with powerful, towering blocks of chords, reflecting arrival in a city - or the arrival of the city, indicating the timeless nature of the lyrical material. It's not clear if the search has brought the protagonist to the city, or whether it has been built on the land in which the archetype is continuing the search begun in times of antiquity. I rather like the latter idea.

A new instrumental section, slightly jarring, starting and stopping, full of crushed note chords, paints the mechanical nature of the surroundings, takes us to what could have been a real climax, if only they'd found Phil Collins sooner.

The End

Unfortunately, that is where most of the technical fireworks finish. That is not to say you should stop listening here - far from it - it's just that any analysis would necessarily be scant of the 5 remaining tracks, including the monster "The Knife", which is as good as everyone says it is.

The attention to detail is lower in "White Mountain", for example; Although the introduction is quite magnificent - Banks' keyboard layers shimmering and twisting around Phillips' wily guitar lines - Gabriel lowers the tone a little with some of those scales he was using on "From Genesis to Revelation".

The introduction contradicts everything you've ever read about the production on this album - edgy, rumbling bass, coarse mellotron and Phillip's rich 12-string sound all combine to produce a sound that's almost Venetian. Gabriel's theatrical vocals introduce the song with genuine excitement and poetry, and this builds to a climax around 1:12.

Unfortunately...

Then it all descends into a kind of soft mushiness, with a repetitive accompaniment inducing a feel of a standard song, which lends nothing to the tale unfolding in the lyrics save a vague feeling of travelling.

Fortunately...

Around 1:45, we get more of Phillips' and Rutherford's guitar layers, segueing into a beautiful flute melody for an unexpected instrumental passage.

Some vocal harmonies are apparent on the second verse - but then we get another instrumental passage based on the previous one, which leads to a sinister stomping accompaniment for the next verse. Here again, Gabriel's theatricals shine - the highlight being the line "And he, the Usurper must die".

Another beautiful flute-driven passage leads to a combination of mellotron and, of all things, whistling! The edgy introduction returns, building more quickly with human voices humming, and dropping away suddenly, by way of meditation on what has gone before - the story of Fang, son of great Fang who paid the highest price for seeing the crown of the Gods, but nonetheless, died an honorable death.

From Genesis...

"Visions of Angels" sounds like something left over from the "Genesis to Revelations" sessions - but with the instrumental passage left in, and, it has to be said that the instrumental passage is much more interesting than the song itself which, although full of softly off-the wall harmonic progressions and two-part verse structures is even more mushy than in "White Mountain".

...to Revelations

A tiny fanfare ends the first chorus, and this is recapitulated as an introduction to the intrumental after the second. An inexpert bass line underpins Banks' and Phillips' improvs, with Banks switching keyboards to provide textural layers. This is soon joined by vocal "Aahs" that remind me of the vocalised passage in "A Saucerful of Secrets". A piano motif lightens the mood and is joined by the flute for a smooth transition into the last verse, which features some superb arrangements that cast aside the earlier mushy sound.

The last chorus is iterated twice - the first time with a greatly stripped-back accompaniment, and the second much fuller, providing a beautiful progressive feel. The second idea of the second instrumental bridge is worked out to equally beautiful effect to end the piece, giving a coherent and tight, not to mention progressive structure to the piece.

Stagnant

Harmonically speaking, "Stagnation" is somewhat disappointing, revolving around 2- chord jams - but as an overall structure, it is quite stunning, with a naive charm and plenty of unexpected textural experimentation, some of which works, some of which, well, you make up your mind...

There is also plenty of that Genesis light and shade that we've come to love and expect, with many a hint at the greatness that was to come on later albums. "Supper's Ready" is anticipated more than once, among others - but there are also stand-out passages of truly bad drumming and bass playing that render all comparisons to "proper" Genesis nul and void.

All in all, a song with much going for it, but nothing special in the Prog Rock canon.

What about those Mellotrons, eh?

"Dusk" is a far more accomplished piece of Prog, with chiming bells and tasty little flute runs topping scrunchy and sometimes angular guitar chords - and what about those Mellotrons, eh? The emphasis here is no longer on the instrumental passages - at last, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and the individual sections are all well thought-out and enjoyable in themselves while still meshing together perfectly to make a piece of tangible spontaneity second only to "The Knife".

The Final Cut

Finally, we come to the monster that is "The Knife". Spoiled somewhat in places by appalling drumming, if we ignore that, then it's a miracle of heavy Prog-Rock engineering.

The unmistakable keyboard introduction, punctuated with aggressive guitar stabs builds in intensity as the verse progresses, and these lines are developed as the irresistable chorus progresses, Gabriel joining to make a quite perfect trio of tension-builders. At last we get something passable in the bass, even if it does get a little lost here and there, and clingy at other times, it provides good drive where it gets confident, and at times does exactly what is needed to provide support to keyboards, guitars and flute, before realising that it needs to do a bit more, and starts clinging again.

No such problems in the other parts, though, which seamlessly explore and develop themes, grow new melodic lines and textures, maintaining a wonderfully organic feel to the piece that is simply not present in rock music before this album was released - and that includes "In The Court...", which never achieved this level of overall improvisation.

While none of the playing is overtly virtuosic, the growing of musical form is the most impressive feature of this piece, and something that even Genesis themselves found hard to top in later compositions.

Recapitulation

Trespass is worth buying for "The Knife" alone, with "Dusk" and "Looking for Someone" as bonuses.

While the other songs have plenty that is good about them, they simply don't reach the standards of the latter.

This album represents the transition between the group who recorded "From Genesis to Revelation" and the group who recorded "Nursery Cryme", and while Steve Hackett came in to make significant contributions, one can't help but wonder what would have happened if Anthony Phillips, who has composition credits for all tracks, had remained with the group.

Essential album for your Prog Rock collection for the tracks I've highlighted - although there are plenty more that are essential as complete albums.

The best Prog Rock album you'll ever find from 1970.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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