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Genesis - Archive 1967-1975 CD (album) cover

ARCHIVE 1967-1975



Symphonic Prog

4.28 | 279 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Genesis fans jumped all over this long-awaited four-disc box set when it came out in 1998. Some praised it for including a generous selection of rare and live material from the band's most creative era; others complained about the uneven organization, and the belated tampering with the original live tapes.

I can sympathize with both views. But despite some obvious flaws it remains an invaluable collection for aficionados in particular and progheads in general, and here I freely admit to being a long-standing member of each group. My own introduction to Progressive Rock was through the good example of the 1973 "Genesis Live" LP, and this early chapter in the band's history still carries a strong sentimental attraction. So the first volume of the Genesis Archive is easy to recommend, but not without a few nagging reservations.

This particular compilation benefits from its limited scope, adhering to the band's Prog Rock zenith between 1967 and 1975 (no ersatz-solo Phil Collins pop music here, thanks very much). But unfortunately the emphasis is on the extremes at either end of the era, with fully half the box devoted to a complete live performance of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", and another entire disc reserved for unreleased demo recordings from the band's teenage pre-Prog roots at Charterhouse School.

The epic "Lamb" saga is best heard without interruptions or edits, but including what amounts to a note-by-note duplication in concert of the entire twin LP (to a lot of fans, myself included, perhaps the most over-rated of the band's early classics) unbalances the four- disc set. Yes, the dynamic live sound is a lot more engaging than its studio counterpart. But, except for the audience applause and the occasional narrative monologue by Peter Gabriel, this 1975 performance at the Shrine Auditorium in LA is indistinguishable from the original album, released only two months earlier. (The concert version actually runs a little longer, but only because of the overall slower tempo of the live performance.) Substituting a video document of the elaborate stage show would have made this an essential collection, but that's just wishful thinking: the band, somewhat incredibly, never filmed any of their "Lamb" performances.

Meanwhile the Disc Four demos seem to be aimed more at diehard collectors, proto-prog archeologists, and those few misfits who champion the 1969 "From Genesis to Revelation" album ("the excellent debut LP", writes Jonathan King in his notes for the box set...well, he produced it after all, so what else would you expect him to say?) These undeniably pleasant but completely negligible pop songs show a group of kids treading a tentative path toward the same lightweight musical terrain already well-staked by the MOODY BLUES (at their most conventional). An early version of "Dusk", later to appear on the 1970 "Trespass" album, is a real highlight, as are the three very pretty songs lifted from the BBC Night Ride radio sessions. But the other fifty (!) minutes of raw, immature demos may not earn much repeat play after the first, curious listen.

This leaves us with Disc Three of the set, where all the gold is buried. An energetic live performance from October 1973, in support of the "Selling England By the Pound" LP, shows the band at their absolute peak. The partial concert includes all of Side One from the classic album plus a complete version of "Supper's Ready", and by itself is worth the market price for the entire four-disc box (it's a pity however that the rest of the gig was omitted: see the 2009 "Live 1973-2007" box for the missing numbers). Peter Gabriel's voice overdubs are painfully obvious, but the live sound is absolutely thrilling, especially when Mike Rutherford unleashes his bass pedals, always a signal of high musical drama. Even the otherwise forgettable early Phil Collins ballad "More Fool Me" is vastly improved, and the banter between songs is priceless (my favorite moment: when Collins misses his cue during one of Peter Gabriel's oddball stories. "Sorry, man", he apologizes, "I wasn't paying attention...")

Filling out the balance of Disc Three are some rare singles and B-sides from the "Nursery Cryme" / "Foxtrot" days, including the mini-epic "Twilight Alehouse", previously known only to very lucky collectors and completists. But to me the true hidden gem here is the gentle "Happy the Man", with its very catchy Cat Stevens-like chorus and melody, atypically simple for such an increasingly ambitious outfit at the time. Too bad more material from this truly magical, embryonic stage of development hasn't been recovered.

The box set booklet is somewhat disappointing, being top heavy with retrospective praise bordering on hagiography. Producer Jonathan King (quoted elsewhere) glosses over his myopic misread of the true potential in his young protégés. And fanboy journalist Chris Welch concludes his essay by writing, "...with albums like "Invisible Touch" and "We Can't Dance", it seems they had saved the best until last."

[...pause here while we all attempt to recover from our dumbfounded apoplexy at such an idiotic observation...]

In all, not quite the ideal collection some of us might have been expecting. But there isn't anything here unworthy of attention, even if it's only from academic interest. And for that reason alone the box deserves a spot in every well-rounded Prog Rock library, with Disc Three alone earning a special place of honor among longtime fans.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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