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Genesis - Nursery Cryme CD (album) cover

NURSERY CRYME

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 2163 ratings

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rogerthat
4 stars Nursery Cryme is the album where the most illustrious lineup of Genesis comes into being, with the arrival of drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett. This is the album where they begin to find their voice and despite poor production produce many moments of brilliance.

The new arrivals certainly have a significant role to play in the transformation of the band. Collins and bassist Mike Rutherford hit it off right away and combine superbly to add much needed meat to the rhythm section. The difference is most evident on the seriously groovy Return of the Giant Hogweed. While the track swings delightfully, it is also heavy and crunchy and Hackett's guitarwork accounts for this. Over the years, Hackett's fondness for King Crimson and, especially, Robert Fripp's approach to the instrument, has been evident and on this album too, he lends some bite and menace to the band's sound. And, being unable to yet (or at any time) truly impose himself on the band, his fascination for heavy music is curbed such that it fits into Genesis's generally playful approach. There is early evidence of his partiality to tapping as also his ability to play shimmering leads that touch the soul (Fountain of Salmacis).

All of which also opens up options for the band in terms of composition. Genesis are now able to shed their somewhat meek, muted approach and confidently forge their own sound because Collins and Hackett have the wherewithal to execute it (well, at least THEIR parts anyway). It is a sound that could be described as 'very British'. Though there are moments where they evoke Jethro Tull (Hogweed again) or Black Sabbath (Musical Box), both of which are blues based bands, Genesis's music is essentially very un-American. Whatever elements of American music they may have internalized are also fused with classical music and filtered through British theater until their style appears to bear a very limited, if any, connection to American music. They are probably unique in that sense among the big prog rock bands, in contrast to Yes's fondness for Simon & Garfunkel or Emerson's for jazz. And probably more like the less popular Van Der Graaf Generator.

Indeed, like VDGG, they rely heavily on drama and, in turn, on lyrics. Whereas Yes, ELP or Jethro Tull necessarily allowed plenty of room for soloists to show off their skills, Genesis's tracks give the appearance of being very tightly composed with the lyrical theme dictating the flow of music. Where they differ from VDGG is in avoiding dissonance, having more direction and being more light hearted. It is thus not difficult to see why the two bands had a close association for some time in the early 70s; they both enacted theater while the rest played to big American arenas.

Speaking of theater, Peter Gabriel too differs in many respects from his namesake Hammill. He tends to be less overwrought and relies more on humour. He also has greater limitations in terms of range or power. At this point, he has perhaps not fully realized his potential and lacks the assurance with which he commanded the ambitious material of Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The band too have not yet fully aligned the music to Gabriel's strengths.

How much of this is his own doing is hard to tell but a track like Musical Box just seems to be a bit beyond his reach. He attempts valiantly to summon up a crescendo on emotion on the climax "Why don't you touch me now?" , but I feel largely unmoved because his voice doesn't seem to obey his command other than getting to the notes correctly.

The production too drags down the band, despite their best efforts to rise above it. I don't mind the relatively thin sound so much, but even the mix sounds, well, confused. The saving grace is the simply awesome dynamic range but that again is largely the band and less on account of the recording quality.

Still, consideration has to be made for the consistent quality of composition and performance on this album. Though I could do without either of the three short tracks, they are not bad. All the longer tracks are good and Musical Box, Salmacis and Hogweed are quite brilliant, if not all the all way through then surely in patches. Even as the band explores diverse styles, the overall sound is unified and cohesive and conveys the feeling of listening to an album rather than a collection of tracks.

Four stars for a rocksolid effort that marks the beginning of a wonderful streak of great prog albums from a great prog rock band.

rogerthat | 4/5 |

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