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Genesis - Foxtrot CD (album) cover

FOXTROT

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.61 | 2585 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'm much more of a music lover than an audiophile; as a kid I loved my 2nd and 3rd generation cassette copies of vinyl RUSH albums, so I have a good frame of reference and unusual tolerance for poor sound quality. This paid off when I discovered GENESIS' first few albums; "warm and wooly" is a charitable description of the quality of the recordings, "muffled and distant" is perhaps more to the point. On "Trespass" it added to an already antique character, but "Foxtrot" and "Nursery Cryme" are slightly more marred by this "warmth". It isn't so muddy, however, that I can't hear the occasional rhythmic fumbling on "Watcher" and "Supper's Ready", or Gabriel's clumsy lyric phrasing throughout.

"Watcher of the Skies" has a strong resemblance to "Yours is no Disgrace" in drive and texture; both are memorable openings to their respective albums, but "Watcher" takes a bit longer to get going. Once it does, there are high and low points; Hackett's plump fuzz is more appealing than Banks' organ, which only sounds good here when layered with the mellotron. Gabriel is more effective on the quiet verse than the strained, clattering chorus, a characteristic shared in "Time Table" (and, to be honest, most of his work). The latter song is very pleasant at times, but less memorable; "Get 'em Out by Friday", on the other hand, is neither consistently pleasant nor as praiseworthy as many would have you believe. The organ again sounds characterless, and Gabriel approaches camp territory with his vocal characterizations. Neither pathos nor protest is effectively generated here; the piece seems like abstracted, overdramatized social commentary, despite Gabriel's very personal difficulty with his landlord.

"Can-Utility and the Coastliners", however, is a lovely piece which I haven't the heart to criticize (beyond saying that Gabriel's last vocal yelps are regrettable). Even the organ here has a better delivery, not unlike classic KANSAS. And "Horizons" is a perfect example of Hackett's early best...and much more at home on this album than Howe's solo pieces were on "Fragile" or "The Yes Album". Finally, "Supper's Ready" is the main reason we're here. A flowing, beautifully constructed work filled with wonderful moments, and only a few (easily forgivable) missteps, such as the "Willow Farm" silliness. The sweeping musical and lyrical scope belies the fact the the inspiration for the lyrics was largely autobiographical! The lovely, understated flute work is more "I Talk to the Wind" than "Thick as a Brick", adding texture without virtuosity- in fact, one of the best aspects of the album is that they often sacrificed showcasing their musical skills in order to create cohesive pieces.

Yes, I'm exaggerating the negative and serving as devil's advocate here; the album is undoubtedly a band landmark and an essential purchase for anyone with the slightest desire for a comprehensive prog collection. Even if you're underwhelmed on first listen, "Foxtrot" will grow on you- it can be appreciated on many levels. If I seem overly critical, it's only because I firmly believe the album doesn't completely warrant the gushing praise that is usually heaped on it within the prog community; 1972 (and the band themselves) gave us several albums with more exploration, emotion, and musicianship. But you will have to listen to "Foxtrot" eventually (it's a prog commandment!) and when you do, you will certainly discover many things to enjoy.

James Lee | 4/5 |

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