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Genesis - Selling England By The Pound CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.63 | 3827 ratings

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4 stars Took me a while to get this record. Like one year or so! ... which is not to say "Buyer, beware."

It is widely perceived as a true prog-rock classic, though I think that all of the best sides of medieval prog-rock are emphasized on "Thick as a Brick." Like "Selling England", "Thick as a Brick" is entertaining, but, unlike Genesis' effort, it's also explosive on occasions. I like explosive, particularly in the beginning of the second part of the album. "Selling England" is an album that was not designed to be insane or explosive or captivating ambient-wise, which is the thing that makes the whole album sound so sterile. It sounds a lot like a carefully crafted effort that gives a vibe that the musicians did not feel completely free to express themselves musically. They sound a lot like conservative traditionalists to some extent. Yes, on the other hand, stitched bits of music together and got the adrenaline-inciting and heart-stopping 18-minute 'Close to the Edge.' And it worked! As for Genesis, I didn't see anything but a significant progress from "Foxtrot." I didn't hear anything groundbreaking. All of those symph prog extremes, as it seems, had been reached, so why bother going further if you can't?

The tracks are, basically, stories, not adventures, but musically they do sound like adventures. Those are good stories, with some good music set to them. And you know what? I think the music on the record is just as good as that on "Tubular Bells." It just flows better and Peter Gabriel's vocals are present and very listenable. That makes the overall experience somewhat better. But you know what else? Compared to the classic Yes records, none of these tracks bloat with crazy, delicious ideas and none of them are emotionally extremely resonant. That combo of the two aspects is not present anywhere on "Selling England." The entire effort sounds pretty restricted, finicky, compared to the obviously moving-cum-dynamic stuff on "Nursery Cryme." However, sometimes I say: "Well, gee, some fives are better than others." But you know what else? None of those eight tracks deserve a five. Yes are more creative and they all together shout better than Gabriel, though Gabriel has a better sense of melody. To sum up, Genesis do not have a whole lot on Yes with 'Selling England'. All Genesis were doing was duplicating the melodic and production values of their rivaling prog-rock bands and re-configuring them within a medieval context, but they were aptly doing so, and I have to give them that.

Any flaws? No! Well, aside from not being mind-blowing and the weakness of the final track, there is none. This is by far the group's most consistent record in my opinion. "Nursery Cryme" has 'Musical Box', 'For Absent Friends', 'Harlequin', etc., though it took me quite a while to get those. "Selling England by the Pound" has no extremely poignant material, but it does not have a lot of shortcomings either.

In my case, the instant sellers were "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" and "I Know What I Like." Didn't care for the rest until a year had passed. I fell under the spell of the praise the album had got in the past, sucked it up, and heard the rest. The result was a fairly pleasant experience. It still is.

Any particular favorites? Depends on the mood. But, in general, it used to be "After the Ordeal" (I don't think Steve Hackett's guitar work on "Firth of Fifth" could ever match up to what he has on this track), then "Cinema Show" (for its elaborate keyboard work and faster rhythm than that of 'Apocalypse in 9/8' on "Supper's Ready"), then "Firth of Fifth" (also for the elaborate keyboard work both melody- and harmony- wise), then "Cinema Show" again. "The Battle of Epping Forest" took over for a while. It is somewhat diverse, funny, and fun to sing along with Peter Gabriel. But the most important thing about the song (one of the things that makes quality prog what it is) is the presence of delicious melodies. Period.

"Cinema Show" turned out to be the winner of all my favorites on the album. It has a dual identity, and when it turns its dark cheek to me, I can't help but move my body in accord with the rhythm established by Tony Banks and the rhythm section. During the last two minutes of the track Banks and Phil Collins get it on and close the deal in an honorable fashion.

One more thing to note: I found out that some people seem to have a problem with 'More Fool Me', yet they haven't quite clearly explained why. The important thing about the song is that I dig that little ditty. Penned by Phil Collins, it's a story of a young lad singing a song to a damsel before he goes to war, hoping that his relationship with the woman "will work out alright". (Hint: 9 times out of 10 it will not. That's just something I figured out on my own, and Peter Gabriel did not have to get that message across to me. Yes, I'm actually that smart.) I found that the key to appreciating the song is not the meaning of the lyrics but the music itself. The introductory chords taste like something better than licorice, Collins' voice is hard to pin down, and the song is just bloating with outstanding vocal melodies. Bra--vo!

"Why do most of the tracks have the same rating?" Some fours are worse than others, and some are better. They are not mind-blowing, but they don't have loose nuts and bolts either. How about that? "Why? Why not this album? Why don't you think it's mind-blowing?" I think I have heard better stuff and started digging it before I heard this one. This little guy of Genesis' will never beat the insane Yes mammoths or the aggressive and/or dramatic King Crimson works. But that doesn't mean that the praise this album gets to this day is unjustified. This is white man's music (with some elements of black music) at its best, if not absolute best.

Ratings/comments (if you have to ask):

'Dancing with the Moonlit Knight' - ****

'I Know What I Like' - ****

'Firth of Fifth' - **** (but I think it will never beat King Crimson's like-sounding 'Epitaph'.)

'More Fool Me' - ****

'Battle of Epping Forest' - ****

'After the Ordeal' - ****

'Cinema Show' - ****

'Aisle of Plenty' - ***

Stamp: "I like it."

Dayvenkirq | 4/5 |


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