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




Symphonic Prog

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Per Kohler
5 stars The waterman is neither on the open sea nor a calm lake, rather on the arm of the sea. Firth of Fifth was in existence already for the Foxtrot album, but this caesarean piece ended up on Selling England. It belongs to Selling England by the Pound, so it found its proper place. The second long song on side A, and the quality is everything but flagging. Firth is carved in a series of euphonious sections; each of them occupies space on the vinyl. The piano intro is possibly too extended to be defined as an intro, isn't it rather a prelude? On Seconds Out it's completely out of the picture, there seems to be something between, a diminished version on certain live performances. If you're a piano fancier, it's Christmas time. Firth must, by the way, rank as one of Tony Banks finest compositions ever. If you want to discover the heart and the soul of the band, you don't have to search any further. The piano/flute section is among the most beauteous in the bands career and strongly contributing to the albums high status. The flute melody is also one of the longest coherent employments of this instrument. Is it lacking during the post-Gabriel era? The vocalist's handling of the instrument, which is little analyzed, is in the sober tradition of Genesis strict melody structure. You may argue that Gabriel doesn't sound as virtuoso on the flute as associate John Hackett, its usage is more like a side-instrument. For this purpose, it lacks nothing; the timbre is a delicate onomatotopoeia by Mother Nature itself.

One instrumental flight succeeds the other. Renewed piano with legato-playing ends up in a sizable synthesizer solo. Where goes the division between solo and instrumental section? Well, a solo is basically meant to reach a climax, a maximum level, prior to that a build-up and logically a continuation into a verse, chorus or whatever. An instr. sect., irrespective of its worth, just takes the song from one point to the other. Let's choose the last alternative in this current example. If you prefer a real solo listen to 'Down and Out'(one of Banks most expedient). The guitar joins in at the end till it is unleashed. If guitar mastery isn't present here, where else can you find it? The space that was lacking on previous record is a retroactive offering from the soaring goddess in the stratosphere. It's even more delectable on live-album Seconds Out, now with a mightier sound picture. No one is able to play this but Steve Hackett, but you already knew about this of course. It has little to do with rapidity rather thoughtfulness. It is really outsized but you'll love every single second. The melodies on Firth float forward at a tranquil and serene pace. Just like the vessel on the glassy surface of water. What's striking is the lack of an actual chorus, but maybe it's not imperative here. The melodies, the high pedestal they are placed on are a good excuse to avoid all kinds of standardization of how a song should be. The lyrical side is divided; there are poetical pearls like Inland Sea/Symphony Waterfall/Madrigal. There are expressions that could've been more becoming elsewhere, and none of the band members denies this.

Why isn't first song simply the title track of the album? None the less as the title is mentioned in the wide song, just like on the following double-Lp. Maybe just a curio but still?Selling England is just as dance-friendly as Foxtrot was. The a cappella intro can only be created by a vocalist(about the same situation as on contemporary 'Topographic Oceans'). The unifaun is the equivalence on land to the mermaid in the sea, half creature, half fable. A bedtime saga from your loudspeakers. It's melting melodic, mellifluous, with a mild scent of wood-anemone carried to your nostrils by a puff of wind from a miniature world. If you settled down musically in the sixties, you will in all likelihood maintain that the Moodies are more than a shade here. All youngsters like you and me have no inkling of such things, for us the world was created through the Pentateuch and the musical revelation started with the arrival of Genesis. Anyhow, band Genesis is much more refined and intricate than their cousins in Moody Blues, although there are references in the melody structure and the overall romanticism. For some fans 'Moonlit Knight' is the synopsis and epitome of the whole genre art rock. It is as sacrosanct for the progrocker as the grey hymn-book for an unmarried deaconess. If 'Firth of Fifth' belonged to Tony Banks, than two fifths are conducting the crescendos and diminuendos of 'Dancing', Messrs. P. Gabriel and S. Hackett. They may not be the only contributors but they rightly steal the attention.

Stephen Hackett makes his third appearance on an album with matt yellowy cover. All good things are three?If his role chiefly was to fill in the empty spaces left by his forerunner on the first two records, Hackett is now ripe to enter the best room with the other writers. On 'Moonlit Knight' he follows out what the lead singer begun. The guitar playing throughout the composition is orchestrated rather than arranged. It could just as well have been first violin in a lost symphony arisen from the last trembling moments of the 18th century. The technique, execution and treatment are like taken from the large-scale musical unit. There are different variations in the backing; an alert and energetic rhythm guitar, chords from the organ-loft. A quickly disappearing synthesizer makes its first ever display. It's interesting to compare this newly purchased keyboard with the piano on 'Broadway Melody of 1974'. It ends in a similar way, a single tone fades out and leaves the guitar free to continue its own path. It, the synth, is let in again for a new 10-second visit, although they are both using the same stepping-stones, the guitar is more muscular. The vocals re-enter with a passion just as captivating as the guitar, they dovetail and co-operate with great success. The lyric isn't following a straight line from A to Z, the words are rather disconnected like the various gems in a jewel-case. They find each other on their heiress who's wearing them and gild her withdrawn exhilaration.

With this composition as key and a few selected from the double, you are bound to feel sorry that the outward going duo didn't have the same chances as remaining trio to create together. It feels limited, and it is limited. They were merely scratching the surface. The closing section is the outcome of five musicians just slowing down the pace, speaking to each other through their respective instruments; Gabriel is shifting from oboe to flute. If the flute occasionally feels held back then the oboe is almost invisible. Perhaps it wasn't intended to stick out but its amorous sentiment brings the moon closer to earth. I Know What I Like(In Your Wardrobe) started its life at an art exhibition(lyrically). Gabriel saw a painting soft like feminine pulchritude. The artistry behind this particular work caught the attention of the beholder and was to bedeck the cover of Selling England. Not without a few alterations though. Its originator, Betty Swanwick, had reason for being proud and contented with her one and only work in the field of record cover art. It affords validity to Selling England. It is one with its belonging music. If you didn't know their mutual relation, you would soon find out by pure instinct. The idea isn't new, painters and composers have influenced each other during centuries.

The album entertains with two brand new instruments, both are present here in the second title. The electric sitar, attributed to Mike Rutherford, is Genesis first and last flirt with this craft of Indian descent. Can you detect any other string instruments than the bass and the topic here? That's the same as an empty handed Steve Hackett isn't it? Why isn't Hackett credited here when he played it live? There ought to be a reason?The performance is quite basic but not less effective(the bass is far more versatile). Its tones are repetitive but lay a foundation in form of a magic carpet. A synthesizer gives tint to the chorus, but the flute in the end section climbs higher on Jacob's ladder. The cuckoo/blackbird doesn't need electrified reinforcement. The added percussion beside Collins drum kit is more than a spice on 'Wardrobe', it contributes to place the song in the elite division. The song features the most breath-taking rhythms on the recording. Don't forget about Gabriel's skill in this area, in addition to full-time percussionist Collins. Here we find another duo constellation the world could've benefited from(partly we did). Not only a sing-along tune for the handclapping audience, also it's a superb album cut fully comparable to longer titles. It's get-at-able but not less musically competitive. The sales were prompted by the radio friendly and substantially cut single track. The most logical and consistent single from the five-piece era. You may get the impression that it's deliberately made for this purpose, but that's not necessarily the whole truth. The chorus is worth repeating, simply because it's good enough. After many a lunar months, you still haven't grown tired of it. You won't tomorrow either. There's a festival atmosphere reigning over the song. Something to be used when you pass your examination at the music institute of advanced studies!

Together with 'Money' in the year of '73, it must be regarded as a most effective tune, with an eye to diffusing the progressive word to the ignorant masses. Note that the lyrics to the first two songs this time are overseen by the lead vocalist. More Fool Me was recorded in the same manner as it was written. The skeleton form was kept untouched. Side A on the Lp is working overtime, we're close to the 30 min. mark. Time-wise there's no need for anything further but this stripped-down terminus works as something of a bonus song. 12-string and vocals are the only ingredients in More Fool Me, Phil Collins does his second appearance as responsible singer. Occasionally it feels like the song isn't written in Collins natural vocal mode, but that would be very strange. Possibly it could've worked better as a duet with Gabriel, at least on the choruses. A little more distinct and full. Both 'Star of Sirius' and 'Which Way the Wind Blows' are more convincing from Phil, before he became a singer in earnest. The lyrics have a colloquial touch to them, as expected from this constellation. The 'Man-Woman' theme started not here, but is resuscitated years later on Collins solo album Face Value. M.F.M. is the anti-Selling England track. It's expressively done in a certain way 'cause the album yearned for it. Not on account of the tune itself, but for the sake of balance. Regarding the instrumentation, there are quite a few noticeable things. The 12-string, the omnipresent instrument since Trespass, is credited to M. Rutherford and keyboardist Banks(!?). You will find it anywhere, except in the hands of the highest ranked guitar player. Why isn't Hackett playing 12-string? And as debated before, the sitar? The answer is obvious, it's about distribution policy rather than who's most qualified for the mission. Can you imagine Gabriel/Collins taking over any of the keyboard duties? The principle is very much the same.

Is the 12-string some kind of self playing instrument? Just push the button and out comes the sound? Four musicians in Genesis have wielded the instrument(on record); Phillips, Hackett, Rutherford, Banks. Do they sound the selfsame? Yes if Dave Gilmour, Fripp and Steve Howe are cast in the same mould on electric so why not? The difference may seem less apparent but the logic is the same. If you put a 12-string and a nylon in their respective racks which one do you forward to Phillips/Hackett? If you don't have the answer that means you're limited in your professorship. Ant and Mike invented it, Stephen inherited it. Hackett belongs to the six-string school, both on el.- and acoustic. Phillips has strength, attack and blood-relationship with the many string guitar. Hackett saves his grace for the other mentioned objects. Listen to the unique and chivalrous The Geese & the Ghost, but assuredly even to the just as dignified Bay of Kings. But what about Selling England and its absence of the two highly prominent figures? Does it really work? Well, it has to. Once again, had Anthony P. been here he would've played 12-string, with Michael, with possible addition of Anthony B. Ant is still a co-founder and principle writer. And Rutherford himself on 12-string? He is not a supernumerary, mind you. He's a strong writer and creator and handles the instrument enough well to be titled a true 12-string player. His style is closer to Hackett's(or vice versa), the latter simply adapted to what the band required. Still Hackett must be the best player regardless of the number of strings.

You can't be accused if you're ignorant of exactly where Banks is to be found on the 12-string map(by and large a part of Cinema Show). He's discernable on the lawnmower-mellotron that sweeps mechanically along the painted blades of grass, but the autumn colored 12-string undoubtedly carries an image of hidden executant. You don't get the impression that the often mentioned instrument is used for speedy or advanced playing, rather to create sonorous- tones or chords. Maybe it's within this texture the secret lies. To compensate the loss of components the electrified- and 6-string acoustic are allowed to take both one and two strides forward. They fulfill this task with honour. Or, to round off this detour, Hackett's brilliant performance on the both cost him the others. The Hammond(a brand not an instrument) takes a step back as the synth makes it entrance. Its role is now stuck to chord playing in the manner of the mellotron, a little more varied but it's never overacting(more kilos per tone to carry for the poor roadies). The synthesizer is present on almost every track albeit in different roles. Sparsely and extraordinarily timely on Moonlit Knight and Epping Forest, freehanded on Firth and uninhibited on Cinema Show. The latter is possibly the longest uninterrupted instrumental flight ever in this context(from a respectable act). The title it belongs to, The Cinema Show, could just as well been split in two halves. There is no kinship between part 1 and 2. Let's start with part1, it does not lack qualities in any way, and the song is frequently mentioned as a favorite among fans. It's possible to find angles though. There are references to Lover's Leap. There are strong references to Lover's Leap. They are so strong, it's not really standing on its own feet.

So what? Didn't Strauss repeat himself with his recurring 3/4 time signature? Have you ever danced a waltz in 6/8? A certain amount of repetition isn't just excusable, it's also defensible. If you didn't recognize your favorite music, it wouldn't be your favorite music. Still I would have preferred the olden Twilight Alehouse or Hackett's solo piece 'Hierophant'. Cinema Show bifurcates and in comes a synth section of majestic length. Once again a comparison to S.R., the Hammond solo on Apocalypse was composed as a part of the music. On C.S. it's the opposite role, instrument first, and then composition. Hadn't the synth been here, the music wouldn't have been here. It doesn't mean that it's less interesting, but the point of departure is colossally different. Not everybody in the band voted for the inclusion of 'part 2'. This is not a disparagement of an instrument or band member, if any owns the right to 'overstep' the limit it's the no. 1 ranked composer. The equal distribution of royalty money can easily be renegotiated. My favorite constituents; the minor portions of oboe/flute, the same spread as in Moonlit Knight. Small perhaps but jolly good. Unlike let's say 'Dark Side' there are no guest musicians on Selling England. Genesis has chosen a working method which excludes a helping hand from the outside. The answer may be found in the dissatisfaction with the string arr. on the very first album. Every tone produced by an outsider means one less for the permanent member. There is enough competition already. On solo albums you'll find the talents of female vocalists like S. Oldfield, R. Crawford, V. McCauliffe and K. Bush. All highly successful, whether in the role of lead-, co-, or backing vocalist. What about an angelic voice in the band? Cinema could've reached new heights with a Julia involved, the queen of maybe could've graced a tune herself! This was never to happen as we know, the "underpaid" Clare Torry found no challenger in Genesis.

It's unclear if 'After the Ordeal' is referring to preceding song(track 5) but could well have been. This lovely half-short song largely written by Hackett, wasn't on everybody's list of wishes in the group either. If it happens to be on yours; your decipherment of the wordless tune is as virtuous as the white cygnet on a hazy mere. The instrumental from the guitarist is from a land where fantasy isn't a falsehood. The unusual line-up with 6-string/piano is all to be found during first half. The guitar is very resonant and played with one-string touch throughout. The piano, on the other hand, does ~10 tones during the same space of time. This is a very generous attitude towards another instrument, not all composers would've offered such a gift. Second half is not less generous, one electric guitar but piano, organ plus synth! Now accompanied by the rhythm section. One can rightly ask oneself, where are the compositions that ended up on Hackett's Voyage album? This is two years ahead but these two records constitute an indivisible bond. The Acolyte goes hand in hand with the likewise highly instrumental Selling England, and its related pastoral contents. The pair could've been a confluence of significance. All material wasn't around here but quality wise it's hard to deny earlier mentioned 'Hierophant'; originality, exclusiveness and coherence. The almost operatic master voice from Miss Oldfield isn't really transferable, but could possibly stand the test of a male voice. It's understandable that we're dealing with Hackett's favorite Genesis album. It's just as understandable, from a vocalist's point of view, that the lack of continuous song parts is less attractive.

Selling England led to The Lamb, it was the logical development. The lyrics/melodies gushed like spring-cool water. There is no supremo in a democratic band, the theme must be variegated. Aisle of Plenty is the tiny little postlude that concludes the album. Seen through the opera glasses from the balcony, the spectators are overcome by the scenery of the record and exultantly calling for extra numbers. Aisle solidifies the sacredness of the album, takes it back to the starting point. A posy of roses will be thrown towards the stage, and a lady of personage is eagerly awaiting an additional air! Britannia herself, impersonated by the front figure, turns the show into an experience for the eye just as much as the ear. The Drury Lane atmosphere is not less vibrant than a Dionysian amphitheatre under the bright firmament. The solo synth faded out, and its emasculation in sound was compensated by a spring soft six-string acoustic. Aisle of Plenty is the moving good bye to an Alice in Wonderland excursion. Where the poem meets the super sensual everyday occurrence. Maybe in form of an omnivorous giant rabbit, or if you draw the winning ticket, one more melodramatic song. Your hole in the ground isn't further away than a listening to your Genesis album from the second half of the 20th century, released on the Charisma label. Every album has a supreme moment, and here it is found in form of the opener of side B(it sounds better than track five, gives more identity). While countless neo-prog bands of the eighties/nineties have copied Selling England ad absurdum, you won't really find 'Epping Forest', or even a tentative try, on any of their often derivative recordings. It has escaped a plan less redecoration, mainly because its path is too abstruse and impassable. Well, all bands have influences, if you're still a child at heart you may detect chord progressions from 'Maiden Maiden Dear' on previous record Foxtrot.

The lead instrument on 'Battle' is the human voice, the lyrics are as sparkling as a newly opened bottle of champagne. The intro creeps slowly upon you; a goose-step in staccato sounding tempo. A court-jester is turning cartwheels in front of your inner eye. One can call 'Epping' a more refined 'Get 'em out by Friday'. The backing track is undoubtedly more active here, but still severely kept within the song structure. There's no need for a solo in a song if the solo itself doesn't stake out its own way. Gabriel's puns though, consume half a dictionary. It's rompish, agile and astute. The text includes many dramatis personae. A flashy and animated language, the dialects are a stark contrast to the phraseology utilized by Vaughn Williams and his generation of up-and-coming Charterhouse students. It's a boyish and juvenile settlement, the domination over lucrative land. A little less gravity involved than in today's headlines, here it will do with a toffee-apple after the pease-pudding, handed over by the grand-mother of the archenemy. As the lyric writer takes on a large no. of characters you can't really expect two performances in a row to sound the same. If the studio version is a free form interpretation of what's going on during the ferocious battle, then the live gigs reached even higher dimensions. A bootleg version(on cassette) outclassed, despite its limitations, the enclosed studio. In fact it outclassed all Genesis vocal recordings on the whole.

There are other things of value, the relaxed calypso sounding piano is an audio highlight on the album, and the sporadic entries of the synth are irredeemable. The rhythm section is tight and self-confident as expected after enough time spent together. If ever an echo effect had the ability to enhance, then you've come to the right place. We're talking 'bout the el. guitar section between fourth and fifth min., a high point in the song. Rutherford can't brag with the like, but he's ruling the roost on his 12-string, of which there's a healthy dose. The solo concludes the story, the guitar becomes an appropriate appendix or postlude. It has the same function as the opening piano on Firth. Maybe prominent composer Ralph Vaughn Williams is pleased in his heavens, his successors and later school mates are worthy of his full attention. After the album tour and Gabriel's departure it was laid to rest, Epping Forest. Quite logically, even if Collins was(or became) the no.1 choice as successor his voice is not of Gabriel's range. On the other hand, Phil soon found other stuff to sing. The drummer Collins has by now reached a top ranked position. Not only is he possessed of technical prowess, but his adaptability is an asset in a pure jazz- or a most straight forward beat band, or why not in the cream of progressive rock? If Foxtrot marked the termination of the scholastic period, then 'Selling' is a full-time employment at the chamber of commerce. The climbing up the international charts via a smooth and fluent technique - composition - and performance. By now calculated by the fledging young gentleman.

Compared to Foxtrot, 'by the Pound' is 'longer, more, and more often'. That's not incomprehensible, as the players develop their abilities. With a many-headed body of writers, with a normal release rate of only one album a year, it's of great weight to seize the opportunity. The running-time of this product is placed in the upper echelons, to encompass as much as possible of what was around at the time. It was pointed out in the seventies that the sound-quality of a Long-player is affected if it exceeds 35-40 minutes. So what if it touches the 55 min. mark? 'Selling England' is time-wise placed in no-man's land, somewhere in between the traditional Lp and an unlimited cd. How would it have resounded reduced to 37, 5? That's an essential question. Yes chose the double-size to solve this dilemma, Genesis didn't. With the addition of the Alehouse B-side, the forgotten and lately assembled 'Déjà Vu'(Gabriel/Hackett) and some extra studio time, it ought to have been a trifle to reach the glorious heights of The Lamb prematurely. More Yes, the sister band repeated a side-long track as on their previous album(multiplied by four!), Genesis shunned. If you're a thoroughgoing believer in the backing vocals performed by the entire band then you've noticed that they are missing. No matter if you can't sing lead, everybody can add his voice to a group with fivish members. The variation wins over the unnatural duplication. The least talented singer becomes equal with the highest ranked.

'Dusk' is a phenomenally fine example in that respect, but there's no Dusk on 'Selling England'. Instead we see a renewed Dawn of Phil Collins, the good ol' Nursery Cryme days are here. Enter Collins, exit the others. They did never really come back. 'Selling England' is the starting point for the newcomer who wants to explore the quintet period. It's hard to resist its warm and inviting opening vocals and velvety touch. Foxtrot is harsher, The Lamb requires a lot of attention, but 'by the Pound' has an immediate presence with its cascade of concinnity. So finally, how do you mark and judge this recording properly? Aren't five stars obvious? It definitely is, let's act on the trad. Lp length and you are in possession of a top five album. If a vinyl consists of the required amount of material(quality/quantity) then you can overlook one or two addenda. You don't deduct points from the trimly ballet-dancer if she offers you an extra pirouette. You will accept her cloud light steps without expression of sorrow.

Per Kohler | 5/5 |


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