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Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.29 | 2736 ratings

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4 stars Every big 70's band, it seemed, had to do a double, concept album, one that stretched the group's ambitions and sometimes their fans' tolerance. Yes had the controversial "Tales"; ELP had Works Volume 1; Pink Floyd had "The Wall"; and Genesis had "Lamb"; outside Prog, Led Zep did "Physical Grafitti" and so on. The format was in large part decreed by the limits of vinyl, about 20 - 25 minutes, at very most 30 minutes each side. Typically you ended up with 2 shorter discs, a format that as Rick Wakeman observed about "Tales", if CD had existed, you'd have had it on one disc, and been able to leave out the padding. So the double concept album is largely dead - Tool managed to fit all 70+ minutes of Lateralus on a single disc, ditto lengthy albums from The Mars Volta, or Sigur Ros, and numerous other recent bands.

My point being that the double concept album was very much a 70's thing; you couldn't stop at three sides of music you had to have four, with the result sometimes, as Wakeman noted, lots of padding. But the grand concept that allowed scope beyond what the group had previously achieved - aah, now that was a noble goal, if potentially a dangerous one; a successful band, so powerful that it could oblige its record company to indulge it; and such arrogance to think the public will always follow you whatever you do - although of course that was what the public largely did.

So to the album; to my ears, LLDOB is the most successful of any of the prog giants double affairs, and I think its largely because the guiding light behind it, Peter Gabriel, is ultimately a man who has great taste in music, and whose ambition was not such that he rode roughshod over his fellow musicians like Roger Waters seemed to on "The Wall". Gabriel set the band members a challenge they rose to, and it is a very different sounding Genesis to the band playing on its predecessor, Selling England by the Pound. Throughout the album Gabriel leads and the rest follow - in particular Tony Banks rises to the challenge of providing some great melodies and arrangements, although Steve Hackett does sound strangely subdued here.

The album weaves the story of Rael and his bizarre series of adventures during a day in New York. The concept itself it leaves me a rather cold, but I can appreciate that it does set the band a theme to work around, although inevitably you then end up with having to find musical pieces just to fit the concept - the "padding".

However the padding is kept to a minimum here (but I would mention "Riding the Scree" as an example of it!) Although some tracks hover around the 6 - 8 minute mark, there's no one single epic track here, the story moving from song to song, sometimes with an instrumental bridge, like "Hairless Heart" or the atonal "The Waiting Room".

Unsurprisingly for me most of the better tracks are on the 1st disc /CD - the title track; Chamber of 32 Doors; Back in NYC; and Carpet Crawlers, a sublime track - musically and lyrically, one of Genesis' very best. The quality dips a bit on the second album but there are still fine, strong songs to be found like "The Lamia" and "it".

It may be easy to say with hindsight but you can almost sense Peter Gabriel is starting to move away from and outgrow the band. It's a great swansong for him with Genesis, but whereas previous - and subsequent - albums were group efforts, this is Peter Gabriel's baby and it shows.

Phil | 4/5 |


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