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Genesis - Nursery Cryme CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

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Dark Nazgul
5 stars Play me Old King Cole. But please, be careful!

"Nursery Cryme" is the third Genesis album. The record contains genuine "pearls", songs are clearly intended to enter the classical repertoire of the band.

One of the highlight, The Fountain Of Salmacis opens with a riff from Tony Banks organ, backed by a symphonic arrangement obtained by the use of a mellotron. The song continues in a magnificent way: the voice of Peter Gabriel suddenly burst from a dark dense forest of pine trees where the Mount Ida rises solitary. Hackett plays guitar sounds never heard before, like creaks and squeaks, and Rutherford-Collins supported all this with a jazz rhythm-style (and sometimes almost "funky"). The story narrated by Gabriel was the famous union of Hermaphrodite and the nymph Salmace told by the latin poet Ovidio (Metamorphoses, Book IV), only one of many examples of how the group loved to draw, as regards the lyrics, from classical mythology. Hermaphrodite, the young son of Hermes and Aphrodite, was delivered by his father who brought him to the nymphs in the caves of Mount Ida. Hermaphrodite is master of both sexes. The myth tells of the encounter between Hermaphrodite and the nymph Salmace, and the union of the sexes that takes place upon contact with water, dissolving element par excellence (Ovidio, in contrast to other like Vitruvio and Strabone does not speak of a "fountain", but a "pool"). Hermaphrodite is extremely reluctant to union, but he is unable to resist the temptation to dive into the water. The conjunction with Salmace is experienced by Hermaphrodite as a cancellation of the sexes and an absolute disgrace: he tries to save himself calling his father and mother, and asking them to curse the water. Immediately, the curse falls on the pond of Salmacis: all those who touch the water will also became hermaphrodites.

Another notable song is the beautiful Seven Stones, with an impressive final crescendo: the roller by Collins on drums first opens the road to Hackett and then to Banks who plays one of the most exciting and romantic mellotron section in progressive rock history. Without doubt one of my favourite songs of Genesis.

There were also acoustic songs, mainly based around the 12-strings, such as Harlequin, that Genesis played since the time of Anthony Phillips, perhaps the less beautiful track of the album, and as the brief but lovely For Absent Friends where the lead vocalist is (surprise!) Phil Collins.

The other three tracks on the record are three extraordinary masterpieces, revealing to all the genius and the imagination of Peter Gabriel. The Return Of The Giant Hogweed was inspired by real chronicle news: a Caucasus plant, the 'Heracleum mantegazzianum" when imported to England (according to Gabriel, by a fearless "victorian explorer") had rapidly caused dramatic damage to native vegetation, flooding rivers and gardens. From here Peter Gabriel imagined the bloody revolt of the plant species against the human race. The lyrics of the song is sung beautifully and with deliberately alarmed tone: "Nothing can stop them / In every river and canal their power is growing". The first part of the song is constructed in this way, to emphasize the man's attempts to defend his race from the botanic aggression, ("Strike by night / They're defenceless") and the consequent growing fear in acknowledging the futility of these actions ("But they are invincible / they are immune to all of our herbiciding batteries"). This first part of the song is frantic and obsessive, because he has to draw the incessant human activity to counter plant invasion. By contrary, in the second section of the song, called "The Dance Of The Giant Hogweed", there is a sudden slowdown: first of all we can hear a beautiful piano solo by Tony Banks that for about twenty seconds holds the stage almost alone. Slowly, with a disturbing sense of inevitability, a guitar solo by Hackett and a following crescendo evokes the anxious waiting of the 'Heracleum Mantegazzianum". Finally, the thunderous final celebrates the triumph of Giant Hogweed (who, according to the dramatic atmosphere evoked by the music, should have been extremely bloody!).

Harold The Barrel is the story of a restaurateur, who "cut off his toes" and has served to the people of his village as if they were butter cookies! This causes a real popular uprising that forces our hero to find refuge on the ledge of a window, and threaten suicide. Gabriel's art is to bring the denunciation of an injustice to a level of a grotesque situation, in some ways even comic. Gabriel and Collins interpret the various characters acting in the course of the song (Harold, his mother, the Mayor, Mr. Plod, the crowd) here inaugurating the form of "song-theater" that Genesis will resume with great success both in "Get'em Out By Friday" and in "The Battle Of Epping Forest ". The song ends with the suicide of Harold, exasperated by the crowd. In terms of music, "Harold The Barrel" is a song very well built (and sadly underrated by many): it seems in every way a comic song, but it is not: it's a tragic story, the most cruel and terrible moment in Gabriel's poetry, far more than "The Musical Box" or "The Return Of The Giant Hogweed".

The song for the history, however, is The Musical Box, a long and complex extravaganza on which Genesis worked for some time. The structure of the piece is similar to a previous song of "Trespass" album called "Stagnation": a time dominated by the sound of strictly acoustic 12-string is followed by another more aggressive and mark by thunderous instrumental full. The amazing final section is one of the most exciting moments in the band's career. The music is perfectly in tune with the story narrated by Peter Gabriel, a sort of creepy fairy tale centered on two children, Henry and Cynthia, and an act of violence occurred during a croquet game. The inspiration for the creation of the lyrics was the victorian house of Peter's grandfather, by which the author felt the hidden violence that then tried to express in the song. The story is familiar to all Genesis fans: during a game of croquet, which seems to refer to "Alice in Wonderland", Cynthia decapitated little Henry with a club. A few days later Cynthia played the precious Henry's musical box and the spirit of the little child appears. Suddendly he begins to age rapidly, and so wanting to satisfy all those desires that did not have in life. Of course the sight of Cynthia increased his sexual appetites ("Bring back your hair / And let me get to know your flesh") and quickly the brutal and inevitable request is made: "Why do not you touch me, now?".

In conclusion, we can certainly say that "Nursery Cryme" is one of the best record of the entire progressive rock scene, an album where the music is so powerful and evocative that you can not only hear, but actually "see" the songs, and where the lyrics, in marvelous balance between fantasy and reality, certainly bring an added value of incalculable importance. In Genesis discography only "Foxtrot" is better than "Nursery Cryme". "Selling England By The Pound" is also a masterpiece but I think it has "only" the bronze medal. Absolutely 5 stars and a final rating of 10/10. Long Live Harold.

M.M. (Dark Nazgul)

Best song: The Musical Box

Dark Nazgul | 5/5 |


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