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Genesis - Selling England By The Pound CD (album) cover

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.63 | 2896 ratings

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axeman
5 stars First time I heard Dancing With The Moonlit Knight early in the morning on a 70s AOR station, I got shivers. The music was like stepping through the folds of a dream, coming through the fog to see the boy crying Paper Late by the edge of the Thames. Having bought the album, I was very pleased to find the reprise Aisle of Plenty at the end of the album. It was another goosebump experience. I count it as one of the most welcome reprises in prog rock's history of reprises. It flows back to you like a distant friend.

I first heard Firth of Fifth on Seconds Out and was totally floored by Steve's sliding and looping solo, which is almost note-perfect from the rendition on this album. That this is hardly ever listed as one of the 100 best guitar solos in Rock-n-roll, is a clue that the wrong people are making those lists. (Although, I'd argue that it's since been surpassed by his wondrous solo on 12 from Neal Morse's ?.) Starting it off with one of Tony Banks best piano passages makes it a prog feast. And this is its original home.

The Battle of Epping Forest is an epic of a near-fantastic grotesque of a satire about a gritty reality. Caricatures just spew out of Gabriel's (likely) horn of plenty. It's a strange ride. Like Return of the Giant Hogweed, this one took quite a few listens to become one of my favorite Genesis pieces. The music leaps and cavorts about, setting the numerous tones. From the battle march that begins it, to the strangely discordant folkish pop, to the sing-song ballad-y Reverend interlude, back to the discordant battle, to the plodding dirge that backs the epilogue, to the ascendant outro just seem to frame the various moods of the story. Is it uneven? You could make the case. Does it ramble? You might say that. Is it daring? I think so, and as I said earlier, an epic. Whatever it was at the end They provide you with a lot of interesting musical ideas, and Mike Rutherford's rattly and rhythmic bass is a treat on the faster sections.

I find After the Ordeal to be very much what I came later to expect from Steve Hackett: Half accompanied classical study, half arcing melody played mostly on electric guitar with the exceptional note choice of Mr. Hackett. It's a favorite of mine.

Then there's Cinema Show. Admittedly it is one of their greater and more memorable songs. But I have to say that the enjoyment of the second half of the song is dead from overuse by the latter Genesis. Still fresh when I hear it, though, is the opening song that latter Genesis didn't enjoy playing as much as the bright, rhythmic combination of keyboard runs/drum solo.

So mentally, this splits into two songs for me--but when I think about it, I've often had a problem with what part of the second half sounds anything like the frail vanity hypnotically snaking through the first half. Memorable to me is the gentle opening, the delicate arpeggio-ettes, joined with Peter singing narration and quotes of Juliet and Romeo, and then a dazzling transition to Father Tiresias (with some very enjoyable Hackett fills swirling around infusing energy) growing in tempo, and complexity and interplay of arpeggios. Delicacy, frailty, and vanity (in all sense of the word) flow through the music and story adapted from Eliot's The Waste Land. Tiresias sees the permanent in the temporary in all of its show and bluster, but somehow nostalgic despite its empty promises. (People get confused though: Show is not a simple copy of the typist in Eliot's poem, it intensifies themes of (well) show and Tiresias vision is less empty.)

That The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was more ambitious, and that they pulled off that task with some success might prompt some to place Lamb ahead of Selling in some people's eyes. But consensus--and I--put this as the cream of the crop in Genesis albums. This is the very definition of an Essential masterpiece, and one of my all-time favorites--5 stars.

axeman | 5/5 |

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