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Genesis - Wind & Wuthering CD (album) cover

WIND & WUTHERING

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 1918 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars W & W is aurally such a beautiful album, but I understand and appreciate the other reviewers who proclaim the "negative" evolution of Progressive Rock music into a "neo-progressive" era with this album and its predecessor, A Trick of the Tail. There can be no disputing the fact that the sound and styles of these two albums usher in something new. Along with a rather drastic change in personnel (the low of flamboyant front man PETER GABRIEL, one of the band's founders who decided to leave the band after the tour for their 1974 magnum opus, the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway--a loss that many feared would be insurmountable and would portend the end of the band), there is a change in temperament. It was as if the band made conscious choice to seek a larger, more commercial audience. Did they water down the music? Simplify it for easier access to the masses? It can be argued that the caliber of musicianship is just as high as their previous outputs, yet it might also be argued that the wisdom gained by the musicians' experience and age helped them to come to a mature realization that it wasn't necessarily the flash and complexity that people wanted to hear, that the adage that sometimes "less is more" might have some truth to it. Even the king noodlers of all-time--musicians like Herbie Hancock and Cick Corea, Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin, Tony Wiliams and Billy Cobham, Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Lier, Stanley Clarke and Al Di Meola--eventually realized that passion and emotion do not always have to be expressed through speed and technique.

With the Trick of the Tail era, Phil Collins-led Genesis became more concerned with the audience connection than before. With Peter Gabriel in the lead it was as if all theatric development was as if by accident and surprise. (Even the other band members were often taken aback by some of Peter's costumes, stylistic choices, and, of course, his bizarre and often macabre extemporaneous space-filling stories. Heck! The most famous story of all revolves around the creation of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album.

Peter had become a hot commodity, the "face" of Genesis, and was being courted by other ventures--including Hollywood. As the band was back home in England creating all of the music for their next album--the release to follow their most successful album to date, Selling England by The Pound--Peter was otherwise occupied in New York City. (Working with Exorcist director Peter Friedkin.) When Peter finally found time for the Genesis commitments, he took the music and wrote the libretto of story and lyrics over the course of two weeks time. The band was shocked and a little put off that Peter had done all this without them--even distorting some of the music in ways that they didn't necessarily agree with. And yet, The Lamb was released--under record label pressure--and a tour begun--a tour which had Peter running around on stage as the front man, acting out his libretto, relegating the rest of the band to kind of background or support roles.)

The Lamb and its tour were quite successful--especially in America--but exhausting. Especially to Peter. The reluctant star--who was far more naturally reserved and shy than his stage persona might suggest--could take no more. On August 15, 1975, Genesis' record label officially announced that Peter Gabriel had left Genesis--to concentrate on "other literary and experimental interests outside of music."

With no more Peter Gabriel, the band continued to practice, continued to come up with new music. While Tony tended to his new duties as a father, the other band members collaborated with guitarist Steve Hackett to help render his debut solo album, released under the title, Voyage of the Acolyte. This gave the four further confidence to go on without Mr. Gabriel.

A few ad hoc attempts to fill Peter's vocal shoes helped the band realize that they could still play all of their old music--and that they could create anew. Natural showman Phil Collins (who'd had quite a glittering resumé in stage theater productions in his youth) was an unexpectedly good stand in as Peter. The problem was with filling the stage presence--something a drummer could not do. Thus was born the idea of hiring a second drummer--one that could fill Phil's shoes when Phil chose to be up front as the standup man. Thus, the great drummer, Bill Bruford, was lured into the fold for the Trick of the Tail tour and born was the now-iconic stage setup with two drummers, one right handed, the other left, placed on stage risers behind and high above the rest of the band. Genesis concerts, with their vast stage and industry-leading laser light display, became more of a "show" and less the sacred, mystical, intimate "experience" that the small-venued Gabriel-era concerts had conveyed (which some fans lamented and still lament to this day). Thus the band became a stadium-filling headliner like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Jethro Tull.

The band was known. With the Trick of the Tail album, sales were up, for the tour even moreso concert ticket sales, too. The feature of two duelling drummers was a big hit, as was the ground-breaking light show. The band was almost on the verge of becoming a household name. All they needed was an AM-friendly American hit record. With Wind and Wuthering's "Your Own Special Way" they finally achieved that. What I think the band achieved on Wind and Wuthering that launched a new era of progressive rock music was to combine their usual penchant for mythic storytelling (something Mr. Gabriel had started and had very much excelled at) with highly memorable melodies over lush, romantic soundscapes while remaining steadfastly committed to their usual standards of superb musicianship. (One might consider Mssrs. Banks, Hackett, and Collins as virtuosi of their respective instruments, i.e. keyboards, guitars, and batterie.)

1. "Eleventh Earl Of Mar" (7:41) one of the greatest openings of any song ever! But then things get marred by the odd, muddled lyrics. The two passages in the song's middle section are also noteworthy for their timeless classic Genesis-worthy beauty, but then amping back up to the story's end sours the mix. How difficult it is to create a perfect classic! How nit-picky we prog lovers become when faced with flaw and less than super-human heights from our gods! (13.5/15) (Such a difficult song to rate.)

2. "One For The Vine" (10:00) a great story sung to perfection by Phil--perhaps his best Genesis vocal ever for the uncharacteristic delicacy in his voice (a characteristic that Peter possessed in spades). Wonderful keyboard and bass play by Tony and Mike, the guitars and drums remain restrained throughout the vocal sections, but come to life, of course, during the instrumental sections. (18.5/20)

3. "Your Own Special Way" (6:18) a guitar-based song that anyone among the masses could learn and play solo. A song that every young person could scream-sing to the chorus and sing to their special loved one. Some very romantic moments. (8.25/10)

4. "Wot Gorilla?" (3:19) a Phil-credited instrumental that could have come out of a BRAND X session. Tony is great, Phil not as great as one might expect, Mike's 12-string sadly drowned out (but bass-pedals strong), and Steve somehow mixed behind everybody else. (8.25/10)

5. "All In A Mouse's Night" (6:37) opens with a decent sound palette and great bass and drumming and some great singing, but then all falls apart with the soft percussion-&-circus section and the lyrics that follow. Some sad little tricks used to bridge sections. The buildup to and the actual dénouement are so cringeworthy and embarrassing; saddening and disappointing, then followed by one of the lamest fadeout endings Genesis ever did. (8.5/10)

6. "Blood On The Rooftops" (5:27) opening with some of Steve's best classical guitar work ever the song evolves only positively as it goes on, with another of Phil's finest vocals and some of Genesis' finest lyrics. Pure prog perfection (and listen to those synth washes and gorgeous keyboard arpeggi Tony bathes certain sections in). (10/10)

7. "Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers..." (2:23) almost orchestral in its arrangement and rendering with both MIke and Steve's rapid guitar arpeggi and Phil's timpani work providing more than enough backdrop for Tony's haunting synth soloing above. The only flaw would be that that synth sound could have been better. (4.5/5)

8. ...In That Quiet Earth (4:49) really a continuation of the previous song (I feel as if I always considered them one), jumps in with great drumming and great band cohesion with some truly dynamic play--all the while supporting Steve's melodic and then experimental electric guitar soloing. Tony gets a few chances to play with Steve's melody and then interplay with Steve, but it's the bass and drums that delight for me during the first two minutes. Then "the switch" happens. A habit that Steve continued and has not been able to get over of shifting power and beauty in which the two elicit quite drastically different responses from the listener: utter bliss alternated with shock and revulsion. Still, amazing drumming throughout this one. (9/10)

9. Afterglow (4:12) a saccharine simpleton born as a seeming companion to Side One's "Special Way." (8/10)

Total Time: 50:46

There is good music here, very good. "One for the Vine," "Blood on the Rooftops," and even "Eleventh Earl of Mar" [10/10 musically, 3/10 lyrically] achieve the same heights as some of the earlier Genesis "classic." As for the other songs, more often than not the sound draws one in but then some element puts one off: poor lyrics, over simplified song structures, or silly idiosynchrosies, etc. For example, "Eleventh Earl of Mar" opens the LP with such promise--and musically continues to do so--but those lyrics! Ridiculous! Same with "All in a Mouse's Night" [9/10 musically, 2/10 lyrically]. Phil Collins' simple stories for the simple man are no match for the macabre Grimms-worthiness or ambiguous, even absurd Carroll-ingian tales social-commentary tales of Peter Gabriel! The rest of the album is too much "trying too hard" to impress (Steve Hackett on "'Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers/In that Quiet Earth," Phil's on "Wot Gorilla") or to get a pop hit ("Your Own Special Way" and "Afterglow"). Again, an amazingly warm sound with the usual high Genesis musicianship but the song composition has met with an impasse: the lyrical content and commercial desire are not served so well by the old song constructs. Tensions are running high as the decision has to be made: will it be a new Genesis for the masses or the old parochial music reaching its fewer more cerebral listeners. Mr. Hackett let us know his choice: He left the band to pursue his own highly experimental creative juices. And then there were three . . . .

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of neo-romantic progressive rock music; the birth of a new sound.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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