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Genesis - Nursery Cryme CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 3250 ratings

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5 stars Genesis was for a long time the band my friends liked in the 80's. I could never see the appeal, though "Mama" was kind of cool for its uniqueness among Top 40 pop tunes. I had no inkling of what Genesis had been in the past. If I had, I surely would have become a fan of the band a least for this album and the follow up, "Foxtrot". As it stands now, nearly thirty years since I first became familiar with the band, Genesis, "Nursery Cryme", "Foxtrot", and "Selling England by the Pound" stand out as a trio of some of the greatest examples of classic progressive rock, in my opinion, and are as essential as the trio of Yes albums, "The Yes Album", "Fragile", and "Close to the Edge".

Imagine a song with a background story, where the lyrics of the song are the events that occur at the end of the story. A young boy and a young girl approaching puberty go out to play croquet and she knocks his head off with the mallet. She calmly returns to her room and opens a musical box that played his favourite song, "Old King Cole". As she does, his spirit appears as an adult version of the boy and the spirit confesses his love and lust for the girl. Though he has only just been struck dead moments before, his spirit has waited the equivalent time of many years for the moment to be able to get to know her flesh, as it says. The song lyrics are entirely the words of the spirit. What they don't tell us is how the story ends. The nurse comes in, sees the spirit, and throws the musical box to the wall, destroying it and making the spirit vanish. What a concept!

The music to this story, "The Musical Box" is an adventure in itself. A very delicate beginning with clean electric guitars and Peter Gabriel singing softly, almost as if trying not to disturb a still water's surface with his voice and words. There's a beautiful part where a flute comes in and joins the guitars while Phil Collins keeps the percussion swift but soft. The shadow of a cloud passes over the music before it returns to its delicateness. "Play me my song," sings Gabriel and Collins adds, "Here it comes again." Then the music assumes a build in aggressive tone; the real drums and Tony Banks' organ warns that things are about to go crazy and with a scream, Hackett's guitar tears into a solo with the rhythm section galloping along. The song truly rocks here and it's no surprise that young future guitarists such as Edward Van Halen went to see Genesis live back in the day.

At this point we are hardly halfway through the first track and it continues with abrupt changes between the sad, unrequited desire of the boy's spirit and the more menacing aggression of its attempt to fulfill that desire. The song concludes with the aggression of a heavy prog band and the flourish of a symphony. A remarkable composition!

I also immensely enjoy "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" not only for its bizarre tale of Russian hogweeds threatening the existence of humanity on the British Isles but also for yet another example of a rock ensemble achieving fantastic things with their music. Here we are introduced to Hackett's finger tapping technique that he would use on a few Genesis songs, perhaps to greatest effect on "Supper's Ready" from "Foxtrot", a technique that the above mentioned young Van Halen would rework and turn into a classic guitar solo on his future band's debut album. "Hogweed" also features some premier music of this era of Genesis, including flute and piano, a beautiful classical piano break by Banks, some truly awesome music for guitar, piano, and drums, and Gabriel's theatrical vocal style which captures the mood of the story.

"The Fountain of Salmacis" is the third song in this mould of story told to incredible music. Though I personally don't enjoy it to the level of the two previous songs, it is still nevertheless a grand composition and once again features the finger tapping of Hackett, this time more pronounced as a guitar break.

The rest of the album is rounded out by shorter songs of varying appeal. "For Absent Friends" is a short and sweet and very English tune about an old couple who step into a church on a Sunday afternoon, a simple vignette of a moment in the lives of two English folk. "Harold the Barrel" is a vigorous and action-packed song about a restaurant owner who causes much calamity in town when he stands on a window ledge in preparation to jump. The music is fast and involved, and Gabriel and the band's vocals used to great effect in capturing this frantic tale. "Seven Stones" features lots of keyboard work on organ and Mellotrone by Banks. Gabriel seems to have some difficulty reaching the high notes here but this is still a very good example of a shorter progressive rock song, and I see this as being the precursor to "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" from "Foxtrot".

The only track that eludes settling into my memory is "Harlequin". Though I've heard it several times I can never recall the tune later. And "For Absent Friends" I don't usually choose to hear when selecting songs for mixed playlists. But the rest of the album is truly fantastic. I know many people see "Nursery Cryme" as the least impressive of the three albums, with the Genesis genius culminating in "Selling England"; however, I hold this album as my favourite and only just barely above "Foxtrot". A truly brilliant piece of work this album is and a must have!

FragileKings | 5/5 |


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