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DUKE

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

3.48 | 986 ratings

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The Black Raven
2 stars For this Genesis fan, Duke is the low point in the band's deep catalog of stellar recordings. It disappoints mainly because of the sub-standard quality of the song writing, and because (owing to its 2 very popular hit singles: Turn It On Again and Misunderstanding) it received so much attention. It generated the band's highest album sales to date resulting in their first chart topping record. It's just irritating that something this mediocre (relative to other Genesis records) could also become hugely popular. I'm positive the purchasers of Duke had no prior knowledge of Genesis' music. But those aren't the only reasons I'm giving it a low rating. The album as a whole feels incomplete: it doesn't flow like other Genesis records. The main problem as I see it: Many Too Many filler songs. And since Duke is the band's longest record, that's a lot of filler. It's almost as if the group gave up on it, or they weren't given the time to finish it properly. That may have to do with the fact that Phil Collins was absent from the collective writing process while trying to patch up his marriage in Vancouver. And I'm sure their record company, Atlantic, was screaming for a follow-up to And Then There Were Three. So I give the band points for continuing the momentum; but take some back for turning in such a jumbled, overwrought, and overlong turkey.

As it stands, Duke offers 29 minutes of group written material, plus an additional 27 minutes of solo (by that I mean solo written, not solo performed) tracks. This would be fine if the solo songs stood up to the group stuff, but for this fan, the solo songs are bland and tuneless. They lack polish, conviction, humor, and any real connection to a concept, theme or unified musical identity. And the lyrics are appallingly bad. So many of the reviews I've read state that Heathaze is one of the best songs on Duke. Really? Tony Banks has written much better lyrics than "Silent as a day can be, Far-off sounds of others on they're chosen run, As they do all those things that they feel give life some meaning, Even if they're dull." Only Bernie Taupin could write less evocative lyrics. He follows that stanza with, "Time to stop this dreaming, Must rejoin the real world, As revealed by orange lights and a smoky atmosphere." Yes, Tony, you must rejoin the real world. All of the solo songs suffer from this same lackadaisical word play: the exception being Phil's songs because he was writing about the very real breakup of his marriage. However, it doesn't save his songs from sounding like much of the music heard daily on AM radio. As Tony Banks has pointed out, "Phil has a James Taylor side to him." On Duke, he almost goes Joni Mitchell.

But what really sinks this record for me was the decision, (by the band?, the record company?) to integrate the solo songs into the group written material. Breaking up the Duke Suite in order to balance sides A and B was a calculated concession to hide sub-par tracks. It may have (momentarily) kept fans from feeling gypped for purchasing a single sided record, but it just kills the momentum.

I must finish by stating that I am, above all, a true Genesis fan. I don't divide the band's career into pre and post Peter Gabriel eras. I do wish both Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett had remained in the band, but Phil Collins is a great singer, he is; and he really came into his own as a songwriter when the band needed it the most. He gets huge points from me for that. And lastly, I love music; and Genesis has, above all, consistently made very good music--no matter what the line-up.

So here's how I solved my "Duke" problem. I reunited the Duke suite, which is: Behind the Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal, Turn It On Again, Duke's Travels and Duke's End. Then I combined, on an 80 minute CD, And Then There Were Three, (sequenced in reverse order minus Down And Out), with the Duke Suite immediately following Undertow. That means I get about 46 minutes of ATTWT followed by 28 minutes of Duke. For this Genesis fan, That's All that is required.

The Black Raven | 2/5 |

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