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Genesis - A Trick of the Tail CD (album) cover

A TRICK OF THE TAIL

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.27 | 1765 ratings

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Mr. Gone
5 stars This is my favorite Genesis album. In fact, it's my favorite album of all-time - period.

Genesis would emerge from Peter Gabriel's goliath shadow to produce an album with a true minimum of preconceptions of even where the band came from. They were obviously simply trying to compose and perform great music, regardless of where they'd been before. Sure, the hallmarks of their earlier albums were all there - lush, pastoral moods, occasional savagery, waxing and waning of energies and moods - but the instrumentation goes beyond pretty much anything they had done to this point.

Certainly, this is very much a Tony Banks-inspired production. Songs like "Ripples" and "Mad Man Moon" would have required two keyboardists to fully replicate live, something not often seen on earlier albums (and certainly not to this degree). Additionally, "Entangled" is completely bereft of drums, something only done on those earlier tracks ("For Absent Friends", "More Fool Me") where Phil Collins sang lead; of course, with Collins now full-time lead vocalist, you could argue that there was no real change there, but in this case the instrumentation is far more lush than those earlier two tracks and stuck in between two of the rockiest songs on the album.

And the songs - great-to-magnificent. "Dance on a Volcano" sounds like a Gabriel-era relic. With Collins' vocals apparently being tracked in triplicate, there's a thick voice riding over a complicated tempo in the song's verses, with Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett providing most of the melody on some rather odd-sounding guitars. The song finishes with a "dance" if you will which I personally would not want to have to keep up with, reminiscent of "Dancing With the Moonlight Knight"'s ending.

"Entangled" - beautiful melody in the largely acoustic beginning, augmented by glockenspiel and more heavy tracking of Collins' vocals. At the end is a beautiful keyboard solo with ghostly overtones played over the guitars and bone-chilling bass pedal thumps.

"Squonk" - maybe the weakest track here, but still great. More heavy vocal tracking, and an ominous tone to Banks' keyboards which lead to the songs sorrowful conclusion, which musically is a reprise of "Dance on a Volcano"'s introductory theme.

"Mad Man Moon" - a tale of survival in a desert, but worried far more with the emotional detachment the protagonist feels than any mere physical needs. The instrumental break is a piano/synthesizer-drenched interlude with scant guitar before Collins' voice breaks in again, apparently with a dream telling the protagonist he's better off where he is, before finishing with the opening themes where the protagonist has apparently resigned himself to his isolation. Maybe a lot being talked about at a metaphorical level here - I can't tell for sure, but it would fit with the overall feel of the song.

"Robbery, Assault and Battery" - a tale of a murderous thief sidestepping and perhaps one day outwitting the criminal justice system. Not overly heavy stuff, really - it's a spoof all the way - but a nice if a little bit slight way of breaking up the album's two epics.

Next, the piece-d-resistance, "Ripples". This is my favorite song of all time. It's a lovely tale of aging and acceptance, with quite simply the most beautiful instrumental section I've ever heard. The opening verses of the song are mostly acoustic guitar with piano coming in midway through, then a beautiful chorus where the piano becomes even more prominent under Collins' gorgeous vocals. Then, the instrumental - a rolling piano, then a beautiful, gently-played guitar adding color as much as melody, followed by a single-hand synthesizer riding over all of it as the drums and bass rumble underneath. It's gorgeous, ethereal and earthy simultaneously, and still gives me chills after hundreds of listens. The song finishes with the chorus as before, augmented more heavily by some of the instruments added in during the instrumental.

The title track is a quirky little number about a creature from a far off land, with horns and a tail, leaving his city of gold and finding individuals looking like normal humans with no knowledge of his peoples' existence. Fun and with some catchy piano and guitar, and another welcome break before the finale...

Los Endos - Once described by Hackett as "Genesis meets Santana". The intro starts with some the instrumental work at the end of "It's Yourself", a song unreleased on the original album, before moving into a portion that seems to be Collins' doing - it sounds very similar to the work he was doing in Brand X at the time. It's frenetic, jazzy and highly percussive. Then, a sudden stop as we move into a reprise of "Dance on a Volcano", before finishing up with a reprise of "Squonk". This song gives the album something of a "concept" feel even if it truly doesn't fit that description.

The fact that after 25 years, this album still tops my list, should be telling as to its quality. If you don't have it, get it and give it a try. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed if you can take the time to really listen. It's a rare gem and should be appreciated fully. Five stars.

Mr. Gone | 5/5 |

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