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Genesis - Foxtrot CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.60 | 3403 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars There are few fundamental pillars in the progressive rock universe where i disagree with the general consensus of an album's legendary status despite my own personal enjoyment experienced, however there are a scant few examples of albums where the majority of listeners are on a total polar opposite of yours truly. On this short list of antithetic classics lie two albums by the great symphonic prog band GENESIS which totally rub me the wrong way and in many ways. While the band started out with the weak pop album "From Genesis To Revelation" in 1969, they took a complete 180 with the followup "Trespass" which not only sounded like a totally different band which found a unique balance of team members displaying their strengths and creating their first masterpiece that displayed the potential of symphonic pastoral compositions that in tandem with Peter Gabriel's passionately performed lyrics created one of my most treasured symphonic prog experiences from the early 70s.

After this early triumph however, there was a huge seismic shift as forces unperceived took over and changed this brief snapshot in time forever. Firstly, guitarist Anthony Philips was unable to perform live because of his extreme shyness which stifled the band's ability to display their craft to the public at large. On top of that, several band members were unhappy with the performance of John Mayhew in the percussion department and as a result he was discharged from the band and unfortunately would never find harmony with even one other musical entity. After this shaking of the tree came in the more famous GENESIS lineup as Steve Hackett took over the guitar duties and Phil Collins became percussionist-in-chief. Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford remained on the scene to contribute their respective roles in the band and the new lineup led to the success of the newly formed lineup on "Nursery Cryme" which allowed the band to tour with a vengeance. GENESIS became much more known and all the attention allowed their fourth studio album FOXTROT to become one of their most successful albums in terms of sales and popularity, at least within the early years of their progressive rock era before transmogrifying into a successful pop act in the 80s.

FOXTROT is not just a name of this album. The name is derived from the dance usually accompanied by big band jazz and is basically a more accessible form of the waltz due to the fact that it is performed in a more standard 4/4 time instead of the 3/4 that is a trademark of waltz dances. This subtle fact is a perfect analogy for why i personally find FOXTROT to be highly overly revered and overrated in the annals of progressive rock history. This is indeed a 4/4 type of album in a 3/4 type of subgenera of the greater rock universe. IMHO it is flawed in many ways and i don't share the same praise and reverence of it as many a progger lover has. This album came out in 1972, which at the peak of the progressive rock invasion seems like one of the weakest contributions of the year not to mention the two-album (this and "Nursery Cryme") downtime between masterpieces that GENESIS endured at this time. Yes, i feel that it took a good two albums for this version of GENESIS to get warmed up before they would unleash their next true masterpiece "Selling England By The Pound" to the world the following year.

FOXTROT for all its efforts just fails to inspire me on a prog level. It seems weak in many ways. First of all, it lacks the virtuosity of almost every band of the era. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, King Crimson or Gentle Giant amongst a gazillion others were quite adept in outperforming GENESIS on a technical manner. Technicality, of course, is not the defining attribute that creates a great progressive rock album, however GENESIS were (at their best) masters of creating highly dramatic theatrical and atmospheric compositions and that is exactly where FOXTROT fails to engage me. The compositions are just not constructed in a cohesive manner that allow the band to create their sound in a way that works and allows the band members to create that "sum of the parts is the goal" that makes their best efforts seem so natural in their flowing prowess.

The album as a whole just seems forced and contrived at many levels as the band tries in vain to impose the musical accompaniment around the admittedly excellent lyrics that Gabriel presents with a passion all his own. Yes, GENESIS was and has always been a lyric focused band and on a poetic level, this is a masterpiece BUT this is not a poetry recital and that is where this album doesn't work for me. Firstly, Collins merely follows his lyrical pied piper robotically from beginning to end showing none of the percussive wizardry he displays on future Brand X albums or even fits in on an emotional level as on future GENESIS releases. Likewise Hackett hasn't come of age either. The compositions beginning with "Watcher Of The Skies" all the way to the near 23 minute behemoth "Supper's Ready" seems like a botched attempt to recreate the pastoral classical placidity that was the staple of Anthony Philips and well, it just doesn't work for me. Also another irritant are the held back keyboards of Tony Banks. They always seems to be going somewhere but ultimately repeat the exact same style and chord progressions as what came before. It's almost as if there is a submissive regression that is not allowed to upstage the alpha persona of Gabriel which in my mind makes this feel like a lopsided album.

Lastly i just feel the compositions themselves are substandard to other GENESIS albums whether it be "Trespass" or pretty much all the prog albums that came after. These tracks have a rather hollow feel for me and lack the diverse energetic display of the prog prowess fully initiated by the contemporaries of the era. Granted that guitar solos, time signature freak outs and bizarre avant-garde attributes aren't necessary to create a good album, but GENESIS doesn't have enough oomf in their songwriting style at this point to fully initiate my interest. In effect, when i listen to FOXTROT i always have to embellish sections in my own mind and think to myself that this is what they should have done here or there and ultimately feel unsatisfied when i sit through this one. I have tried to let this grow on me for well over a decade before writing a review but after many attempts of letting this one soak in, i have to admit that it just rubs me wrong in more ways as time goes on.

Although i get a 1 star enjoyment value out of this one, i would be doing the album an injustice by giving it less than 3 stars. There is a lot of wonderful prog yumminess to be savored here and if not for my musical proclivities that want to take this bull by the horn and steer it other directions, i might actually like it more, however as a musician i just hear too many mishaps that i can't shake. This reviewer simply finds FOXTROT an uneven grab bag of ups and downs with the downs ultimately making this one unlistenable, however at the same time i can totally understand why others would find this appealing. Unfortunately this is one of the few classic prog albums i part ways with the masses. I can feel the rotten tomatoes being hurled my way but believe me, i've tried to love this one and it just fails to connect. Sorry GENESIS fans. It's nothing personal. I'm actually envious others can enjoy this one.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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