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Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited II CD (album) cover

GENESIS REVISITED II

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 364 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars There are plenty of good reasons not to rate this album so highly. Essentially, this is a tribute album, with an army of musicians coming together with one classic member to do a bunch of relatively faithful covers of 70s Genesis numbers (as well as a small handful of Hackett solo numbers that have Genesis connections). With so many of these tracks firmly entrenched in the highest tier of classic prog material, one could very well argue that there isn't a tremendous amount of necessity for this set on the whole, and I'd probably agree with this. And yet, while the set may not be necessary on the whole, it does seems necessary to me in parts, and I get so much enjoyment out of this overall that a grade this high seems reasonable to me. Plus, while I might, in different circumstances, laugh a bit at somebody who made an album like this and say that this reflected a shortage of ideas and was a quick way to grab some cash without coming up with new material, Hackett was in such a solid groove that a suggestion like that seems silly.

As I'm sure was the case with most people who had previously heard Genesis Revisited, the announcement that Hackett was putting together a second compilation of Genesis material filled me with a little dread. I mean, I got used to GR and even learned to really like some of Hackett's reinventions, but there was some really awful material on that album that I just never came around to enjoying. Well, I shouldn't have worried, because Genesis Revisited II is a completely different kind of album. Genesis Revisited was largely about taking classic (and sometimes not classic) Genesis tracks, dismembering them, and using some of the pieces to rebuild the tracks in often borderline unrecognizable manners. In contrast, the general philosophy behind making this album seemed to be that the original versions, for the most part, were essentially just fine the way they were, but maybe could use a little tweaking and polishing and filling out in some spots (in other words, instead of trying to create "alternate" versions, he decided to try and create "definitive" versions). There isn't really any attempt to replicate the vocals of the originals, in either the Gabriel or Collins tracks, but on the instrumental side, the cores of the tracks are very much recognizable, and that alone makes this more palatable for old Genesis fans (who, let's face it, would be the primary market for this album) than Genesis Revisited ever could be.

The first disc, aside from closing with a spirited "Please Don't Touch" (better than the original, largely thanks to better production and some well-place strings), draws entirely from the Gabriel era, and the choices are quite interesting. Nursery Cryme is represented on this disc by "The Musical Box" ("The Return of the Giant Hogweed" is on the second disc), Foxtrot is represented by "Horizons" (basically identical to the original), "Supper's Ready" and "Can-Utility and the Coastliners," England is represented by "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" (there's no "I Know What I Like" or "Firth of Fifth" here because those were on the first volume) and Lamb is represented by "The Chamber of 32 Doors," "The Lamia" and "Fly on a Windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974." Rather than cover all of the attributes of the songs (which greatly overlap with the originals), I'll mention some stand-out details concerning how they are presented on this disc.

Regarding "Supper's Ready," I really admire how (a) Steve avoided the potential cliche of having this end the set, instead sticking it third and treating it as just another great song, and (b) how Steve solves the impossible "the singer simply cannot live up to Gabriel's vocals" problem by having different vocalists in each of the sections (which lends some nice variety). I also really like how, without disturbing the framework of any sections of the piece, Steve makes the guitar significantly more prominent here than in the original; this provides great benefits in the "Ikhnaton and Itsacon," "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure As Eggs is Eggs" sections. No, this version of "Supper's Ready" is most definitely not better than the original, but parts of it are, and that's an amazing sentence for me to write.

Regarding "The Lamia," this one impressed me enough to be one of my two favorites on the album, which involves some stiff competition. The vocal performance by Nik Kershaw (his only vocal of the album) on this piece is absolutely beautiful, the great atmosphere of the original is fully preserved and even enhanced, and Hackett's guitar part at the end just kills.

Regarding "Fly on a Windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974," this one is performed in a manner similar to how it was done on the Live Rails album, with drummer Gary O'Toole on vocals, though this time there are vocals in both the "Fly" and "Broadway" sections. One addition I really like is how, when Gary sings the line, "There's a smell of peach blossom and bitter almond," the word "bitter" gets repeated and slowly faded out as Gary continues singing the rest of the track.

Regarding "Can-Utility and the Coastliners," I never really liked this song that much on Foxtrot, but I like it so much here that I'd stick it as my 3rd favorite track on this set. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame (and Making Old Prog Albums Sound Awesome In Remasters fame) contributes a way better vocal for this song than Peter did (Peter's a better vocalist, obviously, but this might have been a song where Collins should have been on vocals in the original), and despite all of the instrumental parts being basically the same as before, the production makes them sound way better here than on Foxtrot. Keyboard parts that sounded tacky to me before sound beautiful here, the guitar tone sounds better, the guitar part in the final main instrumental passage actually sounds finished, and overall this is clearly the definitive version.

The second disc, aside from the aforementioned "Hogweed" (which is basically like the original, just with the guitar a little more prominent), comes from the Collins years, before rounding out with three old Hackett solo numbers for good measure. Some selected thoughts are as follows:

Regarding "Blood on the Rooftops," Hackett prefaces this with a lengthy classical guitar bit on top of the bit that was already there, and while this might be overkill, I don't really mind it. Gary O'Toole once again provides a nice vocal, and I like the fact that his voice cracks a bit at the end and they decided to leave it in. Sterile perfection is overrated.

Regarding "Eleventh Earl of Mar," this is basically the same track as the one that opened Wind, and yet it sounds better in every way, from the better and clearer vocal performance (Nad Sylvan basically sounds like young Collins but improved), to the cleaner balance between guitars and keyboards (which are still plenty prominent, mind you), to the overall greater liveliness of Steve's guitar (there's an up-and-down-the-fretboard whoosh just before the final "Daddy!" that gives a great rush of energy). A naysayer might complain that this version, by removing some of the murk of the Wind sound, removes some of the mystery and atmosphere of the piece, but I think the music sounds plenty mysterious and atmospheric here while also sounding clearer.

Regarding "Ripples," Amanda Lehmann puts in a great vocal performance, and the mid- song instrumental section, after I've spent so much time lamenting the off-kilter balance between the guitar and the keys in the original, gets the balance exactly where I would want to be. There had been plenty of good live versions of "Ripples" (some from legitimate recordings, others not) through the years from Genesis, with a good balance between the guitars and the keys, but all of them had featured Steurmer on guitar, and it's absolutely cathartic for me to have what feels like a finished version with Steve on guitar.

Regarding "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers ...," "...In That Quiet Earth" and "Afterglow," these tracks are, in my opinion, the main reason to get this album. On Wind, these three tracks never quite worked for me the way I know they do for other people; I ended up fully appreciating "Afterglow" only after I started thinking of it as the capstone to the "In the Cage" medley (and this appreciation only somewhat extended to the studio version), and the instrumental tracks in this sequence, at best, struck me as having interesting ideas scattered about but not pulling them all together in an interesting enough manner. Well, this album creates a medley that destroys the original. "Unquiet" is essentially the same as before, but parts are made louder and stronger that need to be louder and stronger, and while some may once again complain about the loss of some murk, I find that a little more clarity actually enhances the atmosphere of this track. "In That Quiet Earth" ROARS in a way the original didn't, and while it follows the basic script of the original, all of the parts have more power, and the presence of some saxophone near the end breaks up some of the monotony in the arrangement that hurt the original. As for "Afterglow," I've always felt that Collins did a poor job on this song (as on most songs on Wind, excluding "Blood on the Rooftops"), but it's still a little shocking to me that a 60+ John Wetton would sound so much better suited for this song than the young Collins did (Collins, to his credit, got a lot better with it in live performance). Wetton gives an oomph to the song that the original just didn't have, and I find myself singing along to Banks' "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" knock-off (don't laugh, Banks has admitted this himself) freely, whereas I always felt silly singing with it in the original version.

Regarding "A Tower Struck Down," people won't pay too much attention to this (it's included because Rutherford and Collins played on the original), but this is the best version of the track available. Other versions tended to sound a little wimpier and goofier than they should have given the guitar riffs, but this version puts special emphasis on the hard rock aspects of the piece, hardening up the guitar tone and laying down a strong beat, and the song sounds better for it.

Regarding "Camino Royale," Steve's rationale for putting this on the collection is a little silly (it has no Genesis connection except for its genesis in a dream where Steve heard Genesis singing the chorus), but it's better than the original studio version, so I don't mind it. The main improvement is in Steve's singing, which sounded very unconvincing when singing the chorus originally but now sounds smooth and in control, and the jazzy instrumental break is fun too. The Time Lapse version is the definitive version to me, but I like this one a lot.

Regarding the closing "Shadow of the Hierophant," I really like the choice to make this the closer. It's done very much the same as in the original, and the only major difference is that there's a bit of sax in the extended coda, but the steamroller effect of the coda is still in full force, and I'd rate this as the equal of the great original.

Now, I didn't mention everything, and not everything I didn't mention is super, and even with all of the nice things I've said about these tracks and all of the definitive versions, the amount of creativity that went into the various tweaks and new features is ultimately dwarfed by the creativity that went into creating the originals. For my inner prog fan, though, being able to rediscover so many old favorites through this album is pure joy, and a high rating must necessarily follow. Any fan of 70s Genesis should buy this, and if the few solo tracks bring you into the world of solo Hackett, so much the better.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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