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Genesis - A Trick Of The Tail CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.28 | 2557 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars The genie had escaped from the bottle and Genesis were free again

Perhaps the overly creative Peter Gabriel was actually stifling the creativity of Genesis by overpowering them with his own creative juices. After Peter Gabriel left, many feel that the magic was extracted from the band, in a sense the cork had been popped and the genie had escaped from the bottle. Gabriel went on to do other great things and left the band dangling by a thread with the reluctant Phil Collins to take up where Gabriel left off. "We came close to calling it a day when Pete left," Rutherford mentioned in an interview, "It wasn't that we lost our nerve. We were always confident we could write the music, because Tony and I had done most of 'The Lamb.' It was just a question of whether the public would accept us." There was a lot of misconception that the band could not continue sans Gabriel. After the enormously popular "The Lamb Lies Down In Broadway" the band had to come up with something extraordinary as there was such an expectation with this new lineup. Could Genesis pull it off without the enigmatic Gabriel? The answer is a bonafide yes. This is perhaps one of the best Post Gabriel Genesis albums of all time. The musicianship is absolutely brilliant when you have the likes of Hackett guitar extraordinaire with, Banks, masterful on keyboards and mellotron, Rutherford, bass rhythm professional, and of course, percussionist Collins on lead vocals.

It begins with the progalicious off kilter rhythms of Dance on a Volcano with Banks, Rutherford, Hackett and Collins in full flight, a force to be reckoned with. The intricate time signatures are astonishing, a mixture of jazz fusion and complex melodies. I love the way the drums are off beat, not quite in time with the signature, but the off kilter metrical pattern is consistently off the beat and it works so well. The lyrics are quite amusing nonsense, and the time sig is chaotic in a passage of proggy delight, "On your left and on your right, Crosses are green and crosses are blue, Your friends didn't make it through. Out of the night and out of the dark, Into the fire and into the fight, Well that's the way the heroes go, Ho! Ho! Ho!" There is a chilling self prophecy towards the end with the estranged vocals "Let the dance begin", and we all know the "We Can't Dance" album and how that shaped their music for the worst, becoming commercial and radio friendly. In any case this opening track is brilliant Genesis and a killer to present the new Genesis. Hackett's guitar riffs are infectious and unforgettable on this track. This is the best track on the album, a tour de force of proggy rhythms and virtuoso musicianship.

Entangled has an excellent Hackett 12 string intro and the soft vocals of Collins accompanying. The track is essentially a folk ballad, the type that would grace every Genesis album from here on with Collins at the helm. The lyrics are all about a patient who dreams disturbing things, there is no slipperman or fox here, just a simple melodic balladic form, "Madrigal music is playing, Voices can faintly be heard, "Please leave this patient undisturbed." Sentenced to drift far away now, Nothing is quite what it seems, Sometimes entangled in your own dreams." . The harmonies are quite nice, and even pastoral at times, especially some of those swells on the keyboards that add an ethereal quality. The end synth break is a highlight, showcasing Banks inimitable flair.

Squonk has a solid steady rhythm with very familiar lyrical style, the nursery rhyme or is that cryme style, "All the King's horses and all the King's men, Could never put a smile on that face." The lyrics are very fairy tale in style, "He's a sly one, he's a shy one, Wouldn't you be too. Scared to be left all on his own. Hasn't a, hasn't a friend to play with, the Ugly Duckling, The pressure on, the bubble will burst before our eyes." The story is all about the furry little squonk and it makes references to all sort of chidren's literature such as 'Snow White'; "Mirror mirror on the wall, His heart was broken long before he ever came to you..." So Genesis were still maintaining the thematic content of past albums that was centred on fairy tales and nonsense rhymes which is nice to see. The lyrics that refers to the 'Trick of the tail' is here too, "Now listen here, listen to me, don't you run away now, I am a friend, I'd really like to play with you. Making noises my little furry friend would make, I'll trick him, then I'll kick him into my sack. You better watch out... You better watch out." A great song that is quite popular among Genesis freaks.

Mad Man Moon begins with a dreamy flute sound and very soft piano. Collins gently sings in a melancholy way while the mellotron plays underneath, "Was it summer when the river ran dry, Or was it just another dam. When the evil of a snowflake in June, Could still be a source of relief. O how I love you, I once cried long ago, But I was the one who decided to go. To search beyond the final crest, Though I'd heard it said just birds could dwell so high." This is a very pastoral song which changes feel at 2:45 with a piano interlude, played to perfection by Banks. This is a quiet sleeper track.

Robbery, Assault and Battery has some of the more character driven lyrics we have become used to from Gabriel, but this time Collins plays the very English characters, "Slipping between them he ought to have seen then, The eyes and their owner so near. With torch shining bright he strode on in the night, Till he came to the room with the safe." Collins uses a tough cockney accent on the next sections, "Hello son, I hope you're having fun." "You've got it wrong Sir, I'm only the cleaner." With that he fired, the other saying as he died, "You've done me wrong," it's the same old song forever." The chorus is memorable, melodic and easy to sing along to in a live performance, "Robbery, assault and battery, The felon and his felony..." There are some compelling time sig changes and Banks is allowed to shine with his scintillating keyboard lead breaks. The section at 3:20 is great sounding like the type of style on "Foxtrot". The cathedral grinding pipe organ sound at 4:30 is majestic and powerful. The verses return, the storyteller vocals sing, "I've got clean away but I'll be back some day, Just the combination will have changed. Some day they'll catch me, to a chain they'll attach me, Until that day I'll ride the old crime wave. If they try to hold me for trial, I'll stay out of jail by paying my bail, And after I'll go to the court of appeal saying, "You've done me wrong," it's the same old song forever." This line repeats until the song ends. I like the style of this old school Genesis track.

The last three tracks are featured many times in live performances as a trilogy and indeed on compilations. I had heard them many times but on this album they made a perfect ending to the album. Ripples begins immediately with trademark 12 string Hackett brilliance. The melody is very strong and memorable, one of the best of Collins quieter moments with the band. There is an uplifting chorus that soars, "Sail away, away, Ripples never come back. They've gone to the other side. Look into the pool, Ripples never come back, Dive to the bottom and go to the top, To see where they have gone. Oh, they've gone to the other side..." I like the instrumental break with violin style guitar and very well executed piano flourishes and an extended passage of synth. A fan favourite and performed live it is a gem.

A Trick of the Tail is a bit of a transition between two treasures. The lyrics are a real feature telling the bizarre tale of a beast. "And wept as they led him away to a cage, Beast that can talk, read the sign. The creatures they pushed and they prodded his frame, And questioned his story again. But soon they grew bored of their prey, Beast that can talk? More like a freak or publicity stunt..." The melody is whimsical matching the Beowulf style lyrics. I always liked this as it is so different than anything else on the album, and a lot of fun, not taking itself seriously. I can understand why many feel this to e a low point on the album but it resonates with me, especially the infectious chorus, "They've got no horns and they've got no tail, They don't even know of our existence. Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold, That lies in the deep distance, he cried and wept." The quest for the beast is humorous but it is intriguing, and streets ahead of any of those love ballads that were soon to permeate the genesis catalogue in the dreadful 80s.

Los Endos is a true classic that has ended many Genesis concerts, full of incredible instrumentation and shades of light and dark textures. The drums, the tom toms are frenetic and driving, the guitar is riffing eloquent, and the bass is a key rhythm powerhouse. It settles into the familiar 6 chord keyboard pads that all Genesis fans know. Banks is absolutely stunning on this instrumental. At 4 minutes in there is a choral section and gradually building keyboard motif, until there is a type of reprise of album tracks, you can determine the various melodies. Collins even subliminally has a few lines of singing, "There's an angel standing in the sun, Free to get back home." . Then it fades into the distance. This was the perfect way to end an excellent album, with the band demonstrating their uncompromising musical genius.

Overall, "A Trick of the Tail" is a wonderful beginning to the new lineup without Gabriel, proving the band can do incredible things even without their frontman, flutist. The songs will grow on you after a while and some have become part of Genesis folklore now, especially the last three tracks and the opening track. This progressive excellence was not to last unfortunately. There were three more solid albums with prog elements until 1981 when the band sold out to mainstream commercial radio snapping their prog apron strings once and for all and effectively destroying the trademark sound to become marketable to a mainstream target audience; adoring females. The music on this album is well accomplished and many guitarists love to emulate the work of Hackett on this and keyboardists can revel in the talents of Banks. This is a very pleasurable album with much to recommend it; one of the best from 1976. I was not going to go as far as to call it a masterpiece on first listen, but it really grew on me and I get the chills when I hear some of that work from Hackett, and Collins is at his best here, therefore it is perhaps the best work Genesis did sans Gabriel, and that is worthy of 5 stars without question.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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