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Genesis - Duke CD (album) cover

DUKE

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

3.48 | 985 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Many people think that "And Then There Were Three" was GENESIS first lackluster album. As it's obvious from my 5-star review of that record, I disagree. I think that dubious honor belongs to "Duke", the second release of the three-man formation.

As would be evident from seeing the ratings I've given to all post-Duke albums, GENESIS never really hit rock bottom for me, except maybe in "Invisible Touch" (I have re-listened to "Genesis" and have found it quite better than I thought it was, even though "Illegal Alien" remains the worst track in the band's history). All other efforts are at least 2.5-3-star records, mostly thanks to the great skill that Collins, Banks and Rutherford had for crafting catchy and pretty melodies mixed with tracks that somehow showed at least 1% of the progressive tendencies that the band used to explore before. Not even "Calling All Stations" is really that terrible. But none of them is also a really good album. All of them are average, mediocre-to-decent discs that are a million miles away from what the band released prior to 1980. And "Duke", while probably the best of all of these 80's albums, is a good poster child for the huge drop in quality that GENESIS experimented.

I've said that melodies are still catchy and pretty in this era. But notice that I haven't said "beautiful" or "great". Though one can still find some excellent tunes scattered in all GENESIS post-80 discography, the band had lost that magic touch that allowed them to release a whole album full of melodic masterpieces just a couple of years before.

The excellent instrumental sections that still survived even when Hackett left the band (check the simple but magical middle section in "Burning rope") are also casualties of "Duke" and beyond, even to a greater extent than the melodies. What distinguished GENESIS from other bands is that they could create superb instrumental sections even in relatively short songs, like "Can-Utility and the Coast Liners" or, on a supreme level, in "Firth of Fifth". They also crafted some amazing instrumental passages in "Squonk" or "Eleventh Earl of Mar", and a very atmospheric one in the song I mentioned in this paragraph's first sentence. That unique magic is lost in "Duke" and afterwards. Instrumental sections would become rather bland, generic, and especially, they lost any hint of atmosphere. In this album, "Duke Travels" should work as a contradiction to my statement, as an 8-minute song with a 6-minute instrumental section. Wrong. This is precisely that, an instrumental piece, not an instrumental section within a piece. And even as an almost pure instrumental, this track is quite below GENESIS standards.

With the drop of quality in melodies and in pure-music sections, what would we expect but a complete disaster? The good thing is that this is not entirely the case. "Duke", while seriously flawed, is still an enjoyable album that still manages to be better than what many lesser bands could even dream to record. "Behind the Lines" is a good track, another one of the birth-places of the Neo-prog movement. "Duchess" is not great but it makes itself worthy. This track is the best example of what I was saying earlier: a quiet, semi-atmospheric song that pales in comparison with similar tracks in previous albums. "Guide vocal" is just irrelevant. "Man of our times" is almost boring, but the chorus is interesting. The much-maligned "Misunderstanding" is not really that atrocious. Actually, I must say I like the pretty, little, harmless pop tune (but I understand how this should've felt for a GENESIS fan used to "Foxtrot" and the likes in the 70's). "Heathaze" is very good, bordering in fantastic, very close to that level that only their best tracks could attain. It features a great performance by Collins (though very Gabriel-like at moments) and quite a majestic chorus, sad, melancholic, the only real triumph in this album. "Turn it On Again" is very entertaining, the theme powerful and exciting. "Alone Tonight" is almost lovely, but ends up being just a generic ballad due to the lack of invention in the chorus. "Cul-De-Sac" is good, with a clever idea in the main riff. "Please don't ask" holds the honor of being the first literal "I love you" moment in all GENESIS, (maybe with the exception of their very first album, but that again would be stretching things too far). I guess how atrocious this track should have seemed to their fans when the album was released. For me, it's a forgettable but rather lovely minor track. "Duke's Travels" is a mediocre instrumental for GENESIS standards (the one minute with vocals at the end seems like an afterthought more than anything), but not a bad track at all. "Duke's End" closes the album in very good fashion, even if it's a little too-brief.

"Duke" is not the best of albums, as it is the beginning of the descent into darker territories. But it's still a very entertaining collection of songs that gets 3 stars from me (in the absence of a 3.5 option, I round off the rating as I think the superiority of "The Lamb" and "Wind and Wuthering" should be made evident). What's also obvious is that, what was average for GENESIS, would have been great for other bands.

The T | 3/5 |

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