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Genesis - Selling England By The Pound CD (album) cover

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.63 | 2888 ratings

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Mike_Zed
4 stars A contradiction upon a contradiction.

I don't like Selling England by The Pound. And this is not just some kind of foreword intended to create the suspense before an "I love it!" statement. I seriously and with all honesty am not emotionally enthralled by the album. Having said that, I contradictorily give it a four star rating. Even more contradictorily, I wholeheartedly believe that "Selling?" deserves more than four stars. Now, how is, that I say and do such dissimilar things? The answer lies within the review.

First things first. Selling England by the Pound is one of the five best albums in progressive rock history. There. That's what everyone would like to hear. This however doesn't change the fact, that it is still modestly overrated for a variety of reasons. Technically, the band have reached their peak during the recording session of "Selling?" But, with great musicianship great melodies should come. They did not. The album's main flaw is that somehow the band steadily manages to avoid memorable tunes. I'm not speaking of catchy, that's not the point. The agenda of music, even progressive rock, is to be centred around a set of notes that are arranged in a way that at least a few people will find alluring, fascinating and absorbing (synonyms courtesy of MS Office Word ;) ). Alternatively, it can be something new added to music, apart from melody itself, or, in some cases, it can be a kind of charisma, which added and stirred up causes a potentially dull song to become The Tune. I am able to find these characteristics in Genesis' preceding and subsequent albums. You know, the feeling you get, when Phil drums out the Morse-code-style beats invocating at the threshold of Watcher of the Skies. And on this album? Not a single nerve strung. The technical mastery of instruments has overshadowed the decency of the flesh of music: the melody. And I, admittedly, am a person who enjoys a well-weaved melody. Let's do a test. Try to hum the intro to Firth of Fifth without sounding silly. What did that just show us? Chiefly, that the piano overture is a masterpiece, which cannot be brought down to a simple structure of melody and chords. And apart from this, that Genesis nearly utterly omitted the melodic part of song-writing. "After the Ordeal" and some of the solos in "Firth of Fifth" are notable exceptions (also add I Know What I like, but only for the simplistic organ riff). Funny, this blasphemy is approximately 4 reviews worth of words, but only gives me rights to cut short one single star from the overall rating. The album is in fact so strong and exhilarating, that with the obvious fault I have named, it still manages to be totally amazing.

And now, If you are a die-hard fanatic of Genesis you may skip reading, because you probably know all those things. Then again, if you're not, you can simply read Gatot's review, which, I believe, is thoroughly comprehensible and more emotionally stable.

The smell and sound of symphonic prog. The core of 'symphonic' itself, the very root of bombastic and over-the-top, Selling England by the Pound. A feast full of sounds, variety of which is simply indescribable. Peter Gabriel's ability of vocal mimicry is put to the highest test. Banks and Hackett amaze us with soloing, which is now put to the very front of songs. That is the main change in comparison with the previous albums. The synth and guitar melodies are no longer an addition to Gabriel's amazing lyrical escapades. They have become more confident and, let's say, standalone. Most songs feature a kind of partnership between the sung and the instrumental parts. In previous albums instrumentals were sometimes still a wee bit of a filler, an interlude to Peter's singing. However Hackett and Banks had tried to make their music visible, it was still Gabriel, who was put in front. Now the roles have changed a bit, in favour of teamwork. And most notably, Peter Gabriel has finally learned to play the flute. And what's more, he uses his skills to perform the one and only true melody of the album. Enter: the flute solo in "Firth of Fifth". Apart from that, Tony Banks uses (but not overuses) his grand piano a bit more than ever and with positive results. The sound of his synth used for soloing sounds a bit cheesy and awkward at times, though. And that's a huge let down.

What is amazing about the album is that each song has it's different, unique structure (starting a capella, voice and guitar only, a pop song structure, an epic structure, a march at the beginning, an instrumental, a coda, a piano overture? simply name it, you'll can be sure it's there). There is even Phil Collins taking up vocal duties on More Fool Me, and boy, he couldn't have sung it higher!

As for one major disappointment ? sometimes parts of the songs are made for the sake of putting a solo in the middle of it. And believe me, it shows. A few spins and you'll be skipping through some of the tunes to get to "your favourite part".

Best song: Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. Worst song: (not falls below 'good' level, so naming one would be despising it because of it's structure ... but The Cinema Show really get's kind of boring until it finally gets to the middle part).

Mike_Zed | 4/5 |

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