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Genesis - Selling England by the Pound CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.64 | 4310 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars A feeling that I am accustomed to in exploring music is of having artists grow on me rather than liking them right from the get go. I took a bit of time for me to warm up to King Crimson and they are now rock steady as my favourite prog rock band. I suppose this is pretty normal for progheads in particular because we sift through difficult music quite a lot.

A feeling that I don't experience too often, on the other hand, is of a favourite band or artist gently sliding off, not holding my interest quite as much as before though still faithfully enthralling me whenever I listen to their albums. I have had this with Rush and later on, with Genesis. There was a time when I thought they were the greatest prog rock band of all times and fell head over heels in hopeless adoration of their classics. Now...I still love their Gabriel era albums as well as some of the Collins-fronted ones. But my admiration is more tempered and moderated.

I like to explore what I have not heard before in music...just because it's the time trusted way for me to find myself more music to like, than to run a genre into the ground and have to suffer by-the-numbers me toos gladly. Maybe it's just that in the process of these explorations, I find myself in a place from where Genesis doesn't sound quite as inviting as it did. Still, when it's the band that, along with Yes, got me into prog proper, the heart yearns to learn to love them all over again, especially this album.

It was in fact the glorious track Firth of Fifth that got me into Genesis and into prog. When I hear Banks's incredible intro, I still recall those wondrous moments when I discovered what was to me a new, ambitious and daring approach to rock music. On repeated listening, I have grown a tad dissatisfied with the structure. The repetition of basically two themes on different lead melodic instruments seems a bit too convenient to me. I wish I hadn't come to realize this (though I don't see how I wouldn't have, eventually) because it kills the magic of this track to some extent for me. All is forgiven, though, when Steve Hackett's cathartic solo begins. It is by far my favourite guitar solo and it's going to be hard to shake it off that perch (or do I, yet again, speak too soon?).

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, on the other hand, has stood up much more strongly to my scrutiny. Its construction is just a thing of beauty, has some beautiful guitar arpeggios from Hackett and interesting lyrics from Peter Gabriel. In the meantime, Hackett shows off tapping a good five years before Van Halen would be claimed to have 'invented' it and Banks plays some menacing organ.

Cannot quite say the same about Cinema Show. It is very orderly and sounds beautiful but now sounds a bit distant to me. It feels a bit like watching Bjorn Borg to this tennis watcher: hard not to appreciate but equally hard to gush in admiration at. It seems to engage my mind more than my heart.

That's just it. As I listen to this album again while drafting this review, I feel it is oddly neat and symmetrical for a Genesis album. Their trademark humour and wit is a bit hard to find on this album. Banks already preparing the ground for the eventual take over of the band, perhaps?

I don't know but this feeling grows stronger when I listen to Battle of Epping Forest. I did not like this track quite so much all this while for some reason. Maybe because it is rather unlike the rest of the album (which at that time, I held up as an ideal of prog perfection). Now, it offers me exactly what I was missing a bit on the album. Genesis seem to have tons of fun on this track. It grooves and gallops (man, oh, man, do Collins and Rutherford lay a hot groove right there!) and is a rollicking ride. It evokes the very qualities that make Genesis appealing even though they are not always as pathbreaking musically as some of their other illustrious contemporaries. You just cannot imagine Yes writing Battle of Epping Forest and Jon Anderson feeling comfortable attempting to sing it. This is a Peter Gabriel special.

On Epping Forest and I Know What Like, Gabriel infuses much needed liveliness into the album. And there is of course the Moonlight Knight still shining bright, five years since I first heard this album, still every bit as enchanting as I found it the first time around. There's also More Fool Me to give you a nasty foretaste of the Collins-fronted years.

In what now appears to me to be an attempt to pursue aesthetic perfection, Genesis lose out a wee bit on their trademark quirk. It is the Wish You Were Here of their discography. 'Non fans' to a man seem to love WYWH more than any other Pink Floyd album and yet, that album feels a bit distant to me. I can appreciate and all that, but I cannot seem to fall in love with those songs by the band I love to death.

Likewise, SEBTP is a surefire bet if you want to get into Genesis because it is the most aligned with general notions of prog, symphonic prog to be more specific. But, if you happen to turn into a Genesis fan thereafter, then come back to me after five years and tell me that it's still your favourite Genesis album.

Four stars.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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