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Genesis - Selling England by the Pound CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.64 | 4379 ratings

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4 stars Those Genesis guys (whoever they may be) play some alright music. In all seriousness though, this is one of the highest rated albums on the Archive and one of the most praised Prog records of all time and with good reason. The is Genesis' most cohesive album, best flowing album, reaches some of Genesis' highest heights (Firth of Fifth, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, Cinema Show) but, also celebrates some of Genesis' mediocre-est mediocres (I Know What I Like, After the Ordeal, More Fool Me) and as a result comes across somewhat mixed in terms of quality.

I think I can illustrate this best when looking at their previous album, Foxtrot. Now there was an album, all meat and no filler, every song was it's own separate identity, serving it's own purpose and acting as their own jaw-dropping masterpiece (admittedly Supper's Ready should count for about 5 or 6 jaw-dropping masterpiece songs but that's beside the point.) Even the weaker songs (Time Table and Get 'em Out By Friday) were only comparatively slightly weaker and still stood strong on their own and here's my problem with Selling England by the Pound, only half of the songs stand strong on their own.

Most people would say (and they'd be right) that this isn't the point of Selling England and that it's better flowing. Many would also say (and they'd be wrong) that due to that this is the stronger album. Nevertheless I don't want to sit here saying, "I'm giving this album only four stars because it's not as good as Foxtrot" what I want to instead is, "I'm giving this album only four stars because only half of the songs on this album are of masterpiece quality"

It's no surprise what the three masterpiece songs are, many reviewers who have both loved and hated the album, those who (like me) think the album has it's ups and downs and those who think it's one continuous flowing masterpiece nevertheless seem to single out the same three songs. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show showcase Genesis at their absolute best and these three songs have remained fan favorites to this day and are used as examples as old-Genesis at their height, and they should be.

Three other songs however, I know What I like, More Fool Me and After the Ordeal come across as, well, filler. I know What I like is a blatant attempt (and a somewhat successful one at that) at a pop song. More Fool Me feels out of place / subpar in quality and After the Ordeal is pleasant enough but ultimately forgettable and most remember it as that song that leads into Cinema Show.

There are still two songs I haven't mentioned and I have my reasons for each, I don't recognize Aisle of Plenty as it's own song and as a result I classify it as 'that songs that has it's own name but is really just a conclusion to Cinema Show (and the album). In the same way I don't really consider Horizons as anything but 'the lovely intro into Supper's Ready' but while Horizons can stand on it's two feet, Aisle of Plenty feels tacked on and wouldn't be much of anything had it not been preceded by such a mammoth song.

The Battle of Epping Forest on the other hand I simply have trouble placing. After listening to the album countless times I'm still not sure if this is a strong or weak point on the album. On the one hand, it has some of Gabriel's best vocal work EVER, some wonderful tolkienesque qualities to it and some really interesting music that admittedly does get overshadowed by the vocals. I do see the point that the song is a bit too long, a bit too busy ect. ect. But I also think it's one of Genesis' most interesting, ingenious and unique songs (which for them is no small feat). I don't think it has the same instant love that listeners feel towards the big three, but I enjoy the song just as much, but I recognize that it is by no means flawless.

So where does this leave me? Well, as I said, this is a mixed bag in terms of quality but is Genesis' best flowing record, has some of their best music and is arguably their best album for the sake of THE ALBUM. I still can't give this more then four stars however, I think every prog fan ever should have this record (or at least hear this record) and in that sense yes it is essential, but it's not a masterpiece and it is by no means a flawless (or even consistent) record.

4/5 stars

MJAben | 4/5 |


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