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Genesis - Selling England by the Pound CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.64 | 4419 ratings

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4 stars While this is one of the best Genesis albums, and one of the most important monuments in progressive rock, it is not without its flaws. Beginning and ending masterfully, it's the middle of the album where I find some weak spots. "More Fool Me" is the first letdown, a wispy ballad sung by Phil Collins, foreshadowing the kind of stuff he would eventually become possessed by. It's not the fact of a simple ballad I have a problem with, it's just not an enjoyable one. The next point of contention is the total antithesis of a song like "More Fool Me": the 11+ minute alley-clash epic "The Battle Of Epping Forest". For sure, this song holds many moments of magic, but this is a rare instance (the only?) where Peter Gabriel nearly ruins a song. He attempts to cram all these lyrics into the song, and sometimes it seems like they don't fit. It starts off well enough, careening along with Gabriel taking on this character and that (some of the voices are very annoying though, another problem), but as the song becomes more complex, he seems to be sweating it, trying to force it all in. This tends to smother the music, drawing attention away from some brilliant musical moments.

But the rest? Amazing stuff! "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" opens the album with an instantly likeable vocal line and some alternately frantic and gentle dynamics throughout. The synergy between all members on this track is what makes Genesis fans Genesis FANATICS. There's so much being put into a song like this, you can hear something new every time you listen. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" offers what nearly became Genesis' first big chart hit, and despite being a relatively short and simple song, it is not without its adventurous moments. There's a dark undertow to this one that, aided by the keyboard-generated lawnmower sounds, is completely mesmerizing. It's a great balance between sunny-day sing-along stuff (most of it) and creepy dementia (that subtle undertow).

If you want to know why Steve Hackett is held in such high regard, you need only visit "Firth Of Fifth", a complexly arranged piece that highlights his trademark "wait. then attack!" style of playing. A gorgeous classically-oriented piano piece leads into epic vistas and some beautiful production elements. Gabriel's flute lays down a signature melody, and then, after the 4-minute mark, the band takes off on a series of perfectly interlocking parts, climaxing with a few moments that display Hackett's unique intuition and talent: at 5:45 he constructs one of the greatest guitar figures of his career, a masterwork of flow and natural vibrato, a several-minute phrase of pure genius.

The final three songs seem to melt into one another, beginning with the superb pastoral feel of "After The Ordeal", into the Romeo-And-Juliet styled tale in "The Cinema Show" (a lengthy panorama of numerous musical and vocal highlights), and out with "Aisle Of Plenty", which helps give the album some continuity by reprising moments of "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", with some highly unusual lyrics thrown in, unusual even for this band. (The reprise concept is something the band would work with for several albums afterwards.) And, is it me, or is there a lot of singing by Mr. Collins' on "The Cinema Show"?

Easily the smoothest recording job on any of the Gabriel-era Genesis albums, 'Selling England By The Pound' can be faulted for a couple musical missteps, but is, on the whole, one of the most intriguing and satisfying journeys in their catalog.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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