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Genesis - Duke CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.50 | 1495 ratings

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4 stars In the prog community are a couple of bands everybody just knows are going to turn sour at some point in their existence. Everybody knows Yes suddenly degrades before going pop after Going for the One. Everybody knows that ELP goes off the deep end and founders on Love beach after Brain Salad Surgery. For most of us born in the eighties and later though the transformation that really sticks out is Genesis. Most of us were introduced to the band well after Peter Gabriel and any progressive pretentions he symbolized were no longer associated with the band. For some of us, myself very much included it, comes as a shock the first time you learn that Genesis sold England by the pound or did the Foxtrot. We were born as it were, in a land of confusion. So it is a degree of trepidation that we dive into the discography, because at some point we know it all goes tits up.

At first we learn when that the point when young sheep lie down on certain New York streets there comes a great sundering. It can take some time to break past that first mental barrier. Then once accomplished, we know that the voyage of an acolyte marks a second more sinister turn. You can tell that a good many people are never prepared to move beyond that point. For the longest time, I wasn't either. So, it is with great pleasure that I find myself past that divide and reviewing what may actually be my favourite Genesis album Duke.

Duke is the real turning point for Genesis. Hereafter, the radio oriented singles are many and the sprawling epics are naught. But not on Duke, no Duke is special. It is a rare transition album which succeeds just as well in the popular domain as it does in the progressive one. Duke is primarily inhabited by the dissected and distributed pieces of a potential suite called the Story of Albert which the band actually toured at the time. Interspersed are shorter more conventional tracks, the most infamous being Misunderstanding, which while not terribly progressive is an incredibly infectious tune. The result of this pop-progressive mingling is a crisp and musically challenging album of floating new wave keyboards and driving drum beats. The sound which would characterize later Genesis is certainly there, but the daring spirit of the older Genesis certainly is too. This improbable mixture of water and oil is best characterized by the centre suite piece and second single from the album, Turn it On Again. Though it clocks in below four minutes, its simplistic drumbeat belies a much more complex track superbly sung by an energized Phil Collins really coming into his own as a vocalist.

The album comes at an interesting time for the remaining members of Genesis. Phil had been away from the band in an unsuccessful effort to save his first marriage and Mike and Tony had released solo albums in the interim. Phil spent much of the time away writing the songs which would become the basis for his progressively maligned, but popularly well received solo career. Some of that material was chosen by the band and found its way into the Genesis cannon as the more pop oriented material on Duke. However, the time away proved ultimately beneficial for the band as they felt better able to collaborate after having cleared their palates.

All told, the album isn't perfect. Some of the pop stuff causes it to drag through the middle. I'll single out Alone Tonight for being particularly boring. Aside from that though Duke, it is a well assembled, well imagined album, and most importantly, highly entertaining performance. It isn't Genesis at its most progressive, but it is perhaps Genesis at its best. I always love an album where the band sounds like they're having a good time playing it. After the personal and professional tumult of the preceding years, the evident joie de vivre on Duke is well deserved. That levity is most intimately felt where prog fans will want it the most, the powerful intro, Behind the Lines and two part show stopper Duke's Travels/Duke's End. I wish other prog albums could have such inerrant positivity. This album is pretty damn close to a five out of five to me, but as a progressive rock album, it is more appropriately a four out of five.

R-A-N-M-A | 4/5 |


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