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Genesis - Selling England by the Pound CD (album) cover

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.64 | 4261 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars There seems to be few bands that capture the world of progressive rock so profoundly as the English band GENESIS who not only enjoyed commercial success with a series of pop albums in the 80s but still remains one of the most vital bigwigs of the 70s prog scene with some of the most dedicated fans one could ever hope for. While i personally am not as enamored with GENESIS as much as many other proggers out there as i find their canon a bit hit and miss in the quality control department, i readily admit that when they hit a high note that it is indeed as high as one could ever hope for and such is the case with the band's fifth album SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND which was the third album with the classic lineup of Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute, oboe), Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar), Tony Banks (keyboards), Steve Hackett (guitars) and Phil Collins (drums).

It's hard to believe that SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND came about as a result of just a three month stretch of time that followed the 'Foxtrot' tour with record label demands for more product. More often than not bands cave under the pressure and produce some sort of substandard product but in the case of GENESIS, the band seemed to work best under pressure with a threatening external force demanding the near impossible but despite it all GENESIS not only succeeded in crafting eight new tracks for a fifth album but also delivered one of the greatest prog masterpieces of all time and imho the pinnacle of this band's long and fruitful career. Despite erroneous misconceptions that GENESIS didn't experience true commercial success until the 80s, the band actually did experience a nice following during the proggiest days in its native England with both 'Nursery Cryme' and 'Foxtrot' hitting the top 40 album charts but SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND was truly their breakthrough album in the homeland and hit #3 (compare that to #70 in the US which was the first charting album.)

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND continues the pastoral prog rock / folk sounds presented on the previous two albums and takes it all to higher grounds. The band was unfairly compared to contemporary prog bands like ELP, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd and as a result the GENESIS was determined to distance itself from the biggest bands of the era. Likewise, Phil Collins was heavily influenced by the time signature rich performances of the jazz-fusion outfit Mahavishnu Orchestra and was instrumental in bringing more complex elements to the band's sound which resulted in a multitude of prog elements finding their way into the compositional fortitude of the album. In addition to the off-kilter richness of time signature changes and Keith Emerson keyboard stabs, several tracks took on the true pomp and awe of prog rock excess with lengthy running times, the most notable being 'The Battle Of Epping Forest,' a tale of two rival gangs from the East side of London and 'The Cinema Show' which was divided into 2 sections and was inspired by the T.S. Eliot poem 'The Waste Land.'

The album succeeds on many levels but keeping things interesting is always a challenge however SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND offers a nice varying multitude of sounds. 'Firth Of Fifth' for example offers some stellar classical piano runs and was initially written by Banks for 'Foxtrot' but was rejected and after some embellishments became a more complex beast in many ways exemplifies the perfect sound mix of GENESIS with heavy organs completed with Gabriel's dramatic passionate vocal style along with the pastoral acoustic guitar passages that together would define GENESIS' sound for the remaining years with Gabriel as the frontman. Likewise 'After The Ordeal' was an instrumental Hackett piece that provided the perfect intermission between the two lengthy prog behemoths of the album. Not only are the tracks on SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND perfectly constructed but everything flows together int he perfect running order which takes the classic tracks into epic album terrain. The album ends with a perfect 'outro' of 'The Cinema Show' with 'Aisle Of Plenty' which gently ends the show in perfect English gentleman chivalry.

I've always considered GENESIS to be somewhat of a lazy band to be honest as they only seemed to innovate when they were pushed to do so. Take the debut for example which was not even decent pop music when it came out. It wasn't until prog was en vogue that the band became driven to create their first true masterful work 'Trespass,' however with the departure of Anthony Phillips and John Mayhew it took a good couple of albums and tours for GENESIS to reinvent themselves with the addition of Steve Hackett and Phil Collins. True the band crafted some classic tracks on 'Nursery Cryme' and 'Foxtrot' but overall those albums just don't sound cohesively brilliant to my ears as the band sounded a little out of sync with what they were trying to create. Well, on SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND imho they finally achieved that classic symphonic prog sound they had been veering towards since 'Trespass' only this time they nailed it on all fronts, on all tracks in every possible way. There is good reason SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND is considered one of the all time classic albums of prog as it not only captures the essence of the prog universe with catchy classically infused melodies but also implemented feistier complexities and on the lyrical side of the equation evoked the zeitgeist of the era as England was losing its eccentricities to the dominate American culture that took over the globe. What can i say? This album is truly GENESIS at the top of its game.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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