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Genesis - Foxtrot CD (album) cover

FOXTROT

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.61 | 2446 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Fox hides both chickens down the front of his frock and outfoxes the pack

'Steve, I actually saw God at the end!' Genesis fanboy

Well, I was just trying to get the notes right. Steve Hackett

Were you to nominate those albums that have come to be considered definitive of the Prog genre, then Close to the Edge, Tarkus, In the Court of the Crimson King and Foxtrot would certainly find themselves pushed brusquely to the front in your queue of thoughts. Yes I know, it is ironic that all four do not sound remotely like one another to the extent that their creators only common ground is being carbon based lifeforms with a predilection for dreadful sleeve art-work and track lengths that resemble expected hold times for a customer service call centre outsourced to Neptune. Is there any other genre that is demarcated by characteristics that none of the pivotal creators share?

The two greatest leaps that Genesis made in their career were between Jonathan King's idea of 'clever pop music' on the début via the fumbling ambition and pilgrim's progress of Trespass to this remarkable document that I cradle in my butterfingered paws right now.

Watcher of the Skies - has come to represent a tie-dyed and bell bottomed Jenna Jameson for those with a Mellotron fetish over the years. A very stirring intro where Tony Banks' dusty majesty is given centre stage on some astringent symphonic harmonies that always conjures up images of a considerably more long sighted and haired Elgar. Although the composition is deliberately melodramatic it never lapses into gauche rhapsodic blather and we have come a very long way indeed from the quaint pastoral jestery of the Phillips era. Hackett's contribution and approach is significant to this new found muscularity as his parts have an illuminating rock edge that blows away the cobwebs from those neglected furthest reaches of Genesis sound world. His volume pot 'violining' technique as heard towards the track's conclusion is one of the most beautiful moments in Prog full stop.The exploitation of 'odd' or so-called 'difficult' time signatures is a bug-bear many people have about this type of music e.g. the 6/4 single note staccato section works because the mimicry of a morse code distress signal achieves the requisite mood of disquiet and foreboding intended. When such devices are used badly, we are left congratulating the culprits ability to span the compass of 6, 7 or 9 but wonder if the resultant spastic contortions were in fact designed to convey the immutable and impervious calm of the Indivisibility of the Cosmos Part 1? Genesis have clearly taken great care to avoid these pitfalls and deploy such meters as 5/4, 7/8, 9/8 and 8/4 seamlessly to make such phrase lengths breathe naturally and enhance the music accordingly. The lyrics were reportedly inspired by a line from a Keats poem but remember that it's called On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer (Doh!) and Peter's 'who looks on life itself?' theme is clearly not one for simple fisher folk like us:

For though your ship be sturdy, no mercy has the sea will you survive on the ocean of being?

Time Table - An unadorned conventional ballad in the Trespass style but the writing is far more assured and they wisely resist the temptation to clutter this effective simplicity with spurious instrumental distractions. At surface level it appears nostalgic for a more chivalrous age but the mood turns darker towards the end:

Gone the kings and queens now only the rats hold sway and the weak must die according to nature's law, as old as they

A very beautiful song ushered unhurriedly along by some gorgeous electric guitar arpeggios from Hackett but stretching the hookline chorus over a word as short and unforgiving as 'why' was ill advised methinks.

Get 'Em Out By Friday - Quite possibly one of the very few credible contestants in Rock's shrinking queue to finally audition successfully as credible opera. It certainly confirms the sustained efforts of Pete Townshend and Ray Davies as overreaching bravura and Gabriel understands what the former two didn't i.e. you can make this work brilliantly for 9 minutes but will suffer the fate of a deaf, dumb and blind lion-tamer over 40. Peter inhabits the characters of an unscrupulous property developer, his hired muscle 'the Winkler' and a young couple feckless enough to rent a unit from these palpably unattractive individuals. As a denunciation of human greed it works very well but the caricatures Peter embodies are no more than Dickensian fictions of cartoon evil viewed from his own privileged perspective. However, the music and narrative are ingeniously plotted right down to the last regional glottal stop and Gabriel's vocal and textural ranges are nothing short of a tour de force. I suspect that even his unacknowledged mentor Arthur Brown would nod his noble brow in appreciation at his young student's handiwork here. The instrumentation is superb throughout and the band conspire to mirror uncannily the appropriate mood and pace of the lyrics to best effect. Similarly to Watcher of the Skies, this is completely uncharted waters for anyone employed in popular music circa 1972 and kudos to Genesis for boldly traipsing through that door marked 'Commercial Suicide This Way'. It still sounds fresh today and ends on a sentiment that has even more resonance in our libertarian infested age now than it did in 1972:

With land in your hand you'll be happy on earth Then invest in the church for your heaven

Can Utility and the Coastliners - It's initially tempting to dismiss this as a lapse back into the meandering uncertainty of Seven Stones from Nursery Cryme but the track has a latent structural depth and detail that only reveals itself after several listens. The imagery points towards the cover art where a coastline is depicted with presumably a cross dressing fox substituting for King Canute, still upright but perched precariously on a little island? (That's correct, I have no idea what this song is about) Very strong melody that dips and soars in all the right places and Gabriel sounds at last like his '6th Former' gonads have finally descended from their precocious pubescent sac.

Horizons - A rather superfluous solo vehicle for Steve Hackett on acoustic spanish guitar. Brilliantly played and mighty purty yes but erm...why?

Suppers Ready - This has much in common with the Beatles Abbey Road medley, and is easily on a par with that much revered touchstone of popular music. Quite why the Genesis fanboys get themselves into such an indignant lather about seeing this masterpiece quite appropriately being described as such is beyond me. Are medleys the preserve of horrid girly cabaret groups in jumpsuits or summat? It's been described as (cough) sonata form by some commentators but what the hell's wrong with 7 conventional song sections being brilliantly arranged and segued into a multi layered thematic suite? Although it's not remotely psychedelic it is in places a kaleidoscopic welter of uniquely British reference points. From the Flowerpot Men who inspired PG's sunflower suit, Monty Python, music-hall, Winston Churchill, Gabble Ratchet, white collar commuters, blue collared ruddy cheeked farmers and finally a stroll through the Book of Revelation as though set in leafy suburban Kent. This is as rich a source of cultural and religious allusions to be had in the entire gamut of Progressive Rock. (and just might contribute to the long held but ultimately erroneous view that the genre's cradle was solely the UK) The music is almost unremittingly magnificent for its entire 23 minutes save those rather fidget inducing episodes re the lads stubborn affection for ornate guitar arpeggios doused in fondant flutey twitterings that never actually go anywhere. But let's not be picky on a creation as enduring and inspiring as this shall we?. Just point your browser at: thingsthatmakelivingworthwhile.com and indulge yourself with a generous serving of all the ingredients that make Progressive Rock such a satisfying dish fit for both serfs and kings alike when it's prepared by master-chefs.

BTW I think the title references death without the succour afforded by spiritual faith (you become just a bedtime snack for worms without it) On the other hand we protesting atheists cling to the secular belief that the diet of worms should include a vegetarian choice.

Never mind the afterlife, salvation can be glimpsed through wondrous art like this in the here and now.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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