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Genesis - Wind & Wuthering CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Genesis find themselves in unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth

"Wind and Wuthering" ended 1976 on a high note for prog and indeed for Genesis who had already found success with their masterful "A Trick of the Tail". Just in time for Christmas, their latest album features some of their best material sans Gabriel. Each member of the band is in fine form and 'Wind and Wuthering' is firmly entrenched as one of the favourites for the band members themselves. Tony Banks stated that it is among his two favourite Genesis albums, and Steve Hackett is also "very fond" of it and rightfully so as it features some of his most accomplished guitar work. Every song soars along on symphonic layers of keyboards and Phil Collins is excellent on vocals and drums. Mike Rutherford's bass is a wonderful embellishment and the rhythms are complex and outstanding. Here are the tracks, each one tells a story, and each have a soft spot in the hearts of Genesis fans wordwide.

'Eleventh Earl Of Mar' kicks off proceedings with a title that is dedicated to a metaphoric description of an old Scottish uprising. The song focuses on the true tale of John Erskine 22nd or 11th Earl of Mar, who is one of the most incompetent characters of the 15 Jacobite Rising. It is dominated by Tony Banks keyboard wizardry as is most of the album. The music is incredible and as good as the band gets, every member is in full flight but in particular Banks is having a field day overshadowing even Hackett who is usually in the limelight. Hackett is terrific on this album but it is really the last time he would record with the full band unfortunately, embarking on a solo career that was very successful and continues to be so. The lyrics are typical of Genesis, double entendres, quaint pop culture references, and quirky British humour abound; "The sun had been up for a couple of hours, Covered the ground with a layer of gold. Spirits were high and the raining had stopped, The larder was low, But boy that wasn't all. Eleventh Earl of Mar, Couldn't get them very far. Daddy! Oh Daddy, You Promised." Collins is in fine voice, confident and dominating, though he overuses the cymbal splashes on this track. The mellotron is an everpresent force and Rutherford shines on bass. The track features an abundance of synth riffs that remind one of the glorious 80s synth explosion. The melody is deconstructed with time breaks, signature shifts and solo performances. The middle section is tremendous with sweet melodic tones and Collins' gentle approach. This is certainly one of the highlights of the album and very much like 'The Battle of Epping Forest' in many ways, in both theme and structure.

'One for the Vine' continues the excellent soundscapes with one of the greatest Genesis tracks with a mellotron drone and blasts of wild percussion competing with Hackett's sweeping riffs. The opening riff is sensational and well recognised by Genesis fans. The lyrics are inspired and as good as anything I have heard in the earlier releases; "Fifty thousand men were sent to do the will of one. His claim was phrased quite simply, though he never voiced it loud, I am he, the chosen one." The protagonist is called to serve as the chosen one, and immediately the majestic music echoes the sentiments of the one who will lead. It is regal and uplifting with some dark tones representing the conflict he feels within as he is forced to make the difficult choice. "In his name they could slaughter, for his name they could die. Though many there were believed in him, still more were sure he lied, But they'll fight the battle on." The leader knows that many will die under his leadership but nevertheless must lead in order to instigate freedom. This may also represent the holy wars as told in The Bible, following the same themes as in other Genesis albums especially "From Genesis to Revelation". It switches time sigs dramatically after the serenity of the symphonic musicianship. The tempo quickens and a wonderful synthesizer kicks into gear. A layered wall of sound pulsates along a dynamic percussive beat. Collins returns on vocals as the new time shift locks in. It is a complex track with many diversions. It is perhaps the best track on the album with a lot of progressive touches and an innovative structure, telling a potent story of maturity. The main protagonist is experiencing the changes of adolescence to adulthood as a reluctant leader forced into going in directions without choice that lead him to an eventual demise. Religious overtones abound, and there are multiple interpretations. The protagonist is on the verge of crossing the line between divine inspiration and delusion. He has many people around him who believe in him to the point that leads him to an ultimate decision to take up leadership with both reigns firmly in hand. It takes quite a deal of soul searching before he finally decides to fulfil his purpose instead of doing things his own way. As he takes on the responsibility to leading he crosses into adulthood. "This is he, God's chosen one, Who's come to save us from, All our oppressors. We shall be kings on this world."

'Your Own Special Way' is certainly a poppier approach but has some very nice melodies and a catchy hook in the chorus. Collins is harmonised a few times on layered vocals and I particularly like the uplifting tones. The keys are terrific, but I wonder where Hackett is hiding on this.

'Wot Gorilla' is an instrumental that may feel like filler material but it is very well executed with some delightful atmospherics including a strange gliterring chime lending an ethereal feel. "Wot Gorilla?" may be a reference to touring drummer Chester Thompson, who had been mentioned in 'Florentine Pogen', which is a track on Frank Zappa's "One Size Fits All" album in 1975.

'All In A Mouse's Night' is an intriguing piece where a mouse speaks to a loving couple, Cinderella style. The lyrics are charming with a few dark nuances thrown in. The loving couple begins with talking to each other and the mouse chips in, which may or may not be imaginary; "I can't see you but I know you're there. Got to get beside you cos it's really cold out here. Come up close to me you'll soon be warm. Hold me tightly like we're sheltering from a storm." The mouse then has some amusing dialogue to itself and we may surmise that it is on the head of the lovers who are experiencing detachment from reality; "Think I might go out for a stroll, Into the night, and out of this hole. Maybe find me a meal. Walking along this new shag pile, Presents a problem all the while. Nearly the door." The song continues with its quirky jaunty rhythms telling the tale of the mouse's adventures; "Suddenly he bumps into wood, the door is closed. A voice from the bed, he'll be exposed. Which way to run, must make for the hole, The light's been turned on, he's blind as a mole in coal." Perhaps the mouse is a metaphorical representation of sexual suppression that the lovers are feeling. In fact a cat comes into the story and chases the mouse to its final fate; "But now the cat comes in for the kill, His paw is raised, soon blood will spill, yes it will." The cat has a cynical line of dialogue that further cements the sexual tension in the lives of the lovers. They are experiencing conflict that is represented by the cat and the mouse scenario; "Hard luck mouse, this is the end of your road." In any case it is a fun song harkening back to the classic Genesis material on "Foxtrot" or "Selling England By The Pound".

Other interpretations are that the mouse represents mental health and the protagonist loses it completely when the cat is devoured by the ten foot mouse. Also this could be a dig at the Looney Tunes cartoon where Sylvester is taunted by a 'ten foot mouthsh' and it is actually a baby kangaroo but Junior thinks it's a real mouse and forces his father to fight it to no avail. A darker interpretation is that the loving couple discovered a mouse costume stored in an old casket in the basement. The male donned the costume in order to scare his female lover but it backfires as she has become a cat in costume also and "it only took one blow", she finishes in the superior position of the relationship. Or did she kill her lover accidentally thinking he was a lunatic trying to kill her. Or did the man in mouse costume see a cat on his way upstairs and whack the cat dead. The song is nevertheless about the chase, submission and sexual tension, disguised in a cute tale, and is one of the great tracks on the album.

'Blood on the Rooftops' begins with a medieval style acoustic flourish, a piece de resistance for Hackett.The lyrics are very strong; "Let's skip the news boy (I'll make some tea), The Arabs and the Jews boy (too much for me), They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep), And the thing I hate - Oh Lord! Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation's fate." The television is becoming a hypnotic device desensitizing the protagonist who is becoming lost in the fantasy of it all. A dramatis personae of his alter ego is the fantasy of escapist TV, and he indulges because his life is so empty. "Hypnotised by Batman, Tarzan, still surprised! You've won the West in time to be our guest, Name your prize! Drop of wine, a glass of beer dear what's the time? The grime on the Tyne is mine all mine all mine, Five past nine." The lyrics are reminiscent of the Gabriel era and indeed Collins sounds similar in this vocal style. The references to pop culture are as strong as Genesis gets and are as blatant, but there are darker meaning beyond the surface particularly in the chorus that speaks of violence and despair, war and destruction, blood and decay; "Blood on the rooftops, Venice in the Spring, Streets of San Francisco - a word from Peking, The trouble was started by a young Errol Flynn, Better in my day Oh Lord! For when we got bored, we'd have a world war, happy but poor." The viewer watches TV shows like "Batman", "Tarzan", How the West Was Won", "The Streets of San Francisco", Errol Flynn swashbuckler movies and Quiz Shows, merged with the horror of the news, but all in one night's viewing, and it all plays out like entertainment. Instead of having any shock effect on the viewer who accepts it and is desensitised. There are touches of references to "Nursery Cryme" in the lyrics; "When old Mother Goose stops they're out for 23, Then the rain at Lords stopped play." The reference reminds one of the nursery rhyme lyrics and front cover of the classic album, and the words are referring to a cricket match where the batter manages 23 runs before being stumped.

The album concludes with two masterful instrumental compositions that run together seamlessly and these are capped off with 'Afterglow', a fond song for the band. The instrumentals, 'Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers' and 'In That Quiet Earth', are decent enough to be taken in one sitting as one piece and certainly are a showcase for Banks' killer keyboard finesse. They are pleasant ear ticklers with enough keyboard to satiate any mellotron addict.

The titles of these instrumentals are taken directly from Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" novel; "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth".

To conclude this may be the last great Genesis studio album and it capped off an excellent year for the band that had also presented "A Trick of the Tail" equally as good. It would be the last time Hackett would produce Genesis studio material but it was not the end for the band despite the massive upheaval of personnel.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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