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Genesis - Foxtrot CD (album) cover




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5 stars Hearing is believing... "Foxtrot" is an immortal treasure to unearth in the goldmine of progressive rock

Lightning in a Bottle or just a Light Bottle? 'Foxtrot' is a much hyped up Gabriel-era Genesis album unlike any other you will hear, as Gabriel sings, "taking risks oh so bold". It has been revered here in the PA receiving rave reviews with collaborator reviewers gushing over it stating: "one of the cornerstones of progressive rock music"; "obligated for every music lover"; "one of the most consistent albums the band ever produced, and will always have a special place in my heart"; "arguably the best album of all time in my mind"; "THE example of classic prog rock"; "pure genius"; "prog at its best"; "a must have"; a perfectly crafted album, with no fillers"; "without a doubt a masterpiece of symphonic prog"; "essential"; "of incontrovertible importance"; "one seriously mandatory album"; "one of the great musical works of the 20th century"; "it sits on the very top of Prog Mountain"; "one of the greatest albums I have ever heard"; "exciting, daring and bold and a deserved PA top 10 album". Whew, where do you go from there?

What is "Foxtrot"? A Genesis album that exploded on impact and all other prog bands were hit by the shrapnel. It features the essential classics of the Gabriel era 'Supper's Ready', 'Watcher of the Skies', 'Can-Utility and the Coastliners' and 'Get 'Em Out By Friday'. I heard these live on "Genesis Live" and "Seconds Out" before the studio versions and was pleasantly surprised at how they sounded on "Foxtrot", that I only got hold of in 2010. I feel like a gatecrasher to the party, but better late than never. I had heard the epic song 'Supper's Ready' from "The Platinum Collection", so I wasn't in a hurry to get "Foxtrot", but there is more to this than one mammoth epic. Much more.

The front cover is one of the definitive icons of prog; a fox in a red dress balancing on the water as a troop of foxhunters gallop onto the beach. The plaintive fox is safe in isolation on her floating iceberg and the dolphins celebrate as they skim the waves in joyful, triumphant sagacity. The beach is peaceful masking the terror of impending capture as the iceberg melts, it is inevitable, the fox will have to swim to shore and the snarling dogs prepare to devour their prey. The mood is set, on goes the music and it is headphone bliss from point A to B. It is simply galvanised to submerge yourself in.

OK, let's get it out of the way; this IS a masterpiece. Any way you slice it, there is no denying the incredible influence of this album and its musicianship and structure is as good as Genesis gets. The quintessential treasure of 'Supper's Ready', all 23 minutes of it, are here in all its prog glory and definitely the ultimate Genesis song, capturing the Gabriel era beautifully. It is worth getting hold of for this track alone; an astonishing epic showcasing the early brilliant, influential prog era. But the other songs are incredible too. What can I add to the hundreds of reviews here that will enhance the album's reputation? Well, no one has gone into painful details on the lyrics so perhaps it is time to do that. Allow me to elucidate and perhaps expose the greatness of this album by lyrical dissection. Let's look at these tracks in detail. 'Watcher of the Skies' has a languid, lengthy mellotron intro by Banks. Then there is an intricate time sig dominated by a driving divine bassline from Rutherford. The sharp sporadic drum beat is a portent of the chaos to come.

The lyrics are typical of Gabriel, snappy and cliché driven nonsense that fits perfectly the estranged rhythms of Hackett and Collins. The absurdist lyrics are alienating but sincerely dark and foreboding: "Creatures shaped this planet's soil, Now their reign has come to an end, has life again destroyed life, Do they play elsewhere, or do they know more than their childhood games? Maybe the lizard's shed its tail, This is the end of man's union with Earth." Questions, questions, questions... no answers but a myriad of unbridled purpose driven ruminations about life and death. The melody juxtaposes a bright tune to this darkness, and it works exceptionally well. The tale of alien invasion is perfect for the satirical nature of the music.

You can really feel the tension in the way Gabriel delivers; he must be one of the legends of prog for his contribution. Banks flies off the deep end with the keyboards and the rhythm is driving in 6/4 rhythm, and bombastic sounds dominate. Listen to it on "Genesis Live" for a real experience in instrumental genius. The mellotron is wonderfully played and adds to the surreal fantasy soundscape. The dynamics are a collision of guitar and drums with a multi layered keyboard wave of sound.

'Timetable' features Banks on nursery rhyme (or is that Cryme?) piano melodies and then Gabriel sings paradoxical sweet, nasty lyrics told from the point of view of a carved oak table the tale of ancient kings and queens: "Why, why can we never be sure till we die, Or have killed for an answer, Why, why, do we suffer each race to believe, That no race has been grander, It seems because through time and space, Though names may change each face retains the mark it wore." More unanswerable questions about time and space, or is it just an anti-war theme? It is thematic certainly and has a medieval feel to match the opening lyrics. It is not the best song on the album and a bit forgettable, but there is enough here to treat this as a spirited transition point to the masterpieces to follow.

'Get 'em out by Friday' is a masterful song that is hailed as one of the best from this lineup. The intro is infectious with guitar and keys competing to take control. There are organ staccato chords banging along with polyrhythmic metronome swinging bass and guitar shapes. Peter Gabriel's vocal performance is strained and a bit weak on this but he is a theatrical performer and this was the early period, and he would develop his acting voice to perfection by the time "Selling England By The Pound" or "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" reared its head. There are moments of untainted beauty including floating flute solos and Hackett's soaring guitar. Gabriel has multiple progressive disorder in his multi personality performance; Mr. Pebble (the self important owner of Styx Enterprises), Mr. Hall, the entrepreneur, and Mrs. Barrow (the lady who desires to pay double the rent in order to remain in her abode). He takes on each persona with admirable aplomb: there is the section"18/9/2012 TV FLASH ON ALL DIAL-A-PROGRAM SERVICES: This is an announcement from Genetic Control: "It is my sad duty to inform you of a 4ft. restriction on humanoid height." and this is promptly followed by the extract from a conversation of JOE ORDINARY IN LOCAL PUBORAMA: "I hear the directors of Genetic Control have been buying all the properties that have recently been sold, taking risks oh so bold. It's said now that people will be shorter in height, they can fit twice as many in the same building site... in the interest of humanity they've been told they must go-go-go-go." After this the flute chimes in beautifully before another chaotic passage of music breaks it apart in fractured rhythms. The voice of SIR JOHN DE PEBBLE OF UNITED BLACKSPRINGS INTERNATIONAL is heard "I think I've fixed a new deal, A dozen properties - we'll buy at five and sell at thirty four, Some are still inhabited...." Following this, a memo from SATIN PETER OF ROCK DEVELOPMENTS LTD. Is recitated: "With land in your hand you'll be happy on earth, Then invest in the Church for your heaven.. The religious laced theme is one of the aristocratic rich fat suits having control over the little people, who are literally the short people unfairly evicted due to their size; a biting satire on the upperclass versus the working class injustice; a stab at the idealism of working class social pressures. Or is it just a vivacious lark?

'Can-Utility and the Coastliners' continues the trend with Hackett's tremendous guitar and a rhythmic drum metrical pattern from Collins. The lyrics are rather harsh and remarkably ominous: "For from the north overcast ranks advance, fear of the storm accusing with rage and scorn." The mellotron rises to a crescendo with fortissimo basslines. The time sig changes are massive, completely driving the track headlong into different directions, in almost unrecognisable passages, like a different song. A very imposing sound powers the song along and it is a bonafide Genesis classic. The time shifts are so varied and complex it is as good as those 23 minute epics you hear that take up an entire side of vinyl in the glorious 70s. Genesis prove they can do as well in 6 minutes. It is vibrant and innovative; quintessential prog. Of course side two will prove their epics are awesome too.

'Horizons' is a quaint short little guitar instrumental from the incomparable Hackett, that is dreamlike and easy on the ears, and really prepares us for the onslaught of 'Supper's Ready'. He loves to play this in concert as you will see if you YouTube this, it is a nice guitar oriented piece that any guitarist would love to play.

'Supper's Ready': THE best Genesis song ever? Why not when you have a twenty three minute epic from Genesis with the legendary effervescent Peter Gabriel at his sinister best. It is quintessential to the band and indeed is a prime example of what prog is.

I would say from my prog experience that there are 7 wonders of the prog world in the way of songs: VDGG's 'Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', Yes' 'Close To The Edge', ELP's 'Karn Evil 9', King Crimson's '2ist Century Schizoid Man', Pink Floyd's 'Shine On', Rush's '2112', and Genesis' 'Supper's Ready'.

The seven wonders of the prog world in the way of albums are similar as far as I am concerned: VDGG's "Pawn Hearts", Yes' "Close To The Edge", ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery", King Crimson's "In The Court of The Crimson King", Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon", Jethro Tull's "This As A Brick", and Genesis' "Foxtrot".

What makes 'Supper's Ready' such a masterpiece juggernaut? There are a number of factors to take into consideration. First and foremost is the music. A tapestry of interludes, signifiers, climaxes, crescendos and majestic outros. It moves in so many directions and shifts time signatures that it is hard to keep up. There are many styles of music integrated within the structure. It is not easy to integrate songs together into one huge epic but this is a perfect example of when it works as a multi movement suite; a magnum opus of music. Other perfect examples are Caravan's 'Nine Feet Underground' and as mentioned Van der Graaf Generator's 'Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers' and of course Yes' 'Close To The Edge'. These epics are also seamless multi-movement suites where a number of songs at different tempos and styles are integrated into one huge epic, and if you know anything about prog you should know that these are the best examples of the genre. It allows the band to utilise all their talents into one package and they do this in spades in an impulsive feat of dextrous impetuosity. It is a blitzkrieg of virtuoso instrumental intensity.

Secondly, the performance of Peter Gabriel as the actor/ storyteller is incredible. His vocals are extraordinary and hammered the nail in the coffin as the master frontman of prog rock. I saw Genesis do this live in an ancient 70s filmclip kicking around YouTube in three parts and Gabriel metamorphoses into various costumes and masks, a fox, a flower?, an impish child clown, a magician, an alien Pied Piper, a Pythagoras pyramid, to tell this epic tale of the apocalypse, or whatever it is. Which brings us to the third reason why this is a masterpiece.

The lyrics. They are strange, dark, mystifying and downright intelligently written. Once heard, the lyrics have an uncanny ability to hide in the dark shadowy corners of the subconscious where your mind makes irrational connections to the real. The song begins with the impetuous weird lyrics of 'i. Lover's Leap'. Is it about suicide? Or is it about lost love? Or something more sinster? Or merely portentous twaddle? "Walking across the sitting-room, I turn the television off. Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes. As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time, I swear I saw your face change, it didn't seem quite right." It is definitely a love song, albeit a jaded romance, something is wrong and we sense it in the almost cynical, farcical manner Gabriel spits out the words. The song actually puts the reader off the scent of what is about to unfold. The Red Herring of romantic interludes "Hey my baby, don't you know our love is true" is unsettling because the song will soon detonate into some unnerving passages of music. The lyrics signify the darkness coming over the mocking sunshine music, listen to the alliteration on "Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly. The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand... And it's hey babe your supper's waiting for you..." hence the name of the song is mentioned, which is still a mystery to me. What is the supper, who prepared it, and who is waiting for it? We may never know, I don't think Gabriel even knew. And I don't think he cared as long as he had a chance to stalk an unprepared audience. The enigmatic lyrics are part of the progressive off kilter essence of the song. It segues seamlessly into the very bizarre 'ii. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man'.

Here the harvest is about to begin, a biblical term for revival but what is its meaning here with contemptuous lyrics such as, "He's a supersonic scientist, He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man. Look, look into my mouth he cries, And all the children lost down many paths, I bet my life, you'll walk inside, Hand in hand, Gland in gland, With a spoonful of miracle, He's the guaranteed sanctuary man."

The sexualised mockery continues and transfixes, and it is daunting to hear the lyrics that will years later become the quintessence of a Queen classic, "We will rock you, rock you little snake." 'iii. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men' is a build up of scornful ideas that make less sense than the previous material. We hear the fabricated sound of children's voices that are chanting something rather bizarre but the music really goes pitch dark as a staccato chord clangs loud. A soft flute and guitar trade off each other as a keyboard is stroked delicately. The derisive lyrics become alienating and menacingly cold, "Killing foe for peace...bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang bang... And they're giving me a wonderful potion, 'Cos I cannot contain my emotion. And even though, I'm feeling good, Something tells me, I'd better activate my prayer capsule." So the religious overtones from the debut album, "From Genesis to Revelation", are being revisited, in fact the theme is becoming blatant at this point; "Today's a day to celebrate, the foe have met their fate. The order for rejoicing and dancing has come from warlord." It is apparent that an apocalyptic battle is about to ensue and this may be the end times as in the apocalypse in the Bible's book of Revelation, though it is unclear with the lyrics masked behind poetic metaphors, pseudonyms and psychedelic symbolism.

'iv. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?' is interesting lyrically speaking, about "Wandering in the chaos the battle has left, We climb up the mountain of human flesh, To a plateau of green grass, and green trees full of life." Do we really understand the meaning here and to be honest can we ever comprehend where this song is going? The answer is a resounding 'no', though many have attempted to interpret this and it perhaps rests on personal explanation rather than straightforward meaning explained. "We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower. A flower?" questions Gabriel. Perhaps we are seeing here a transformation or metamorphosis of an evil being, Narcissus the Greek mythological creature, changed into a pure being and Gabriel gets a chance to don his flower head gear and, with barefaced arrogance, prance around the stage.

During the concert performance of 'v. Willow Farm' Gabriel is a figure in black with flower head stalking the stage as sinister as he can get, leering and sneering with disdain. He marches in time to the stabs of music; 1, 2, 3, 4... The menacing figure of Gabriel is confronting and the lyrics are absolutely chilling, "If you go down to Willow Farm, to look for butterflies, flutterbies, gutterflies, Open your eyes, it's full of surprise, everyone lies, like the fox on the rocks, and the musical box." It's interesting that he mentions songs of the band to come such as 'Musical Box' and a close reference to "Foxtrot". Winston Churchill gets a mention and a frog that was a prince, that became a brick, then the brick became an egg, and the egg was a bird. It is like the world of Dr Seuss; perhaps the writers read "Fox In Socks" prior it penning this. Gabriel adopts a supercilious attitude as he muses that we are all as "happy as fish, and gorgeous as geese". It's fiendishly childish and pretentious and even precocious but undeniably ferocious in its original approach. Gabriel sounds pompously English as he babbles gobbledygook about the father in the office and the mother in her domestic role, "Dad diddley office, Dad diddley office.... Dad to dam to to dum to mum, Mum diddley washing, Mum diddley washing... Ooee-ooee-ooee-oowaa" , you get the point. The song itself is one of the most memorable pieces of the epic. But nothing comes close to the wonderful next section.

'vi. Apocalypse in 9/8 (featuring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)' is nothing short of brilliant. The amazing time signature in 9/8 is superb with mind bending guitar and keyboards, the rhythmic bass and drums are outstanding. The audacious lyrics are as dark as Genesis gets, "With the guards of Magog, swarming around, The Pied Piper takes his children underground. The Dragon's coming out of the sea, with the shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me. He brings down the fire from the skies, You can tell he's doing well, by the look in human eyes." There are definite references to Revelation here, shrouded in typical symbolism but nevertheless undisputable, especially the reference to "666 is no longer alone..." and "the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll". A parody of Revelation in a sense, something that many heavy metal bands adopted during the great late 80s revival of metal. So as Gabriel bellows and croons with sledgehammer delivery lyrics such as "Pythagoras with the looking-glass, reflecting the full moon, In blood" , the music begins to settle down into another section and in fact bookends the opening "Hello baby" lyrics and melody, and another familiar melody is heard, and we may suspect that the song is going to end, but it is a false ending; there is one part left of this colossal beast.

'vii. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)' is the disorientating finale and what a finale! The amazing ending is replenished with huge fortissimo orchestral sections, mellotron style, and Gabriel's ruthless voice soars into the stratosphere. "There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying with a loud voice, "This is the supper of the mighty one", Lord Of Lords, King of Kings, Has returned to lead his children home, To take them to the new Jerusalem." It sounds like a Neal Morse song here. So we end with a reference to the New Heaven and New Earth in the book of Revelation. The supper is not the last supper of Jesus, it is not an ordinary supper, it is the feast of triumph when the Lord returns to take his children home in the rapture an then as the earth burns to a cinder, God will create his New Jerusalem. Well, that's my interpretation; you will have your own that will be equally as valid. ELP returns to this theme of Jerusalem, it seems the Biblical theme was one of prog bands favourites. It is the unmitigated majesty of the music and the triumphant and glorious crescendos that lift the spirit on this; it ends on a high note and it ends on a memorable lyric, this is why it is a gargantuan masterpiece. Stop reading now and put this tour de force on.

And so at the end of this 3,611 word review, I can only conclude with 9 bold words that can be quoted; "Foxtrot" is the must have album of the century.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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