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Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway CD (album) cover

THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.28 | 2041 ratings

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penguindf12
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Keep your fingers out of my eye!

While I type I like to glance at the butterflies in glass that are all around the walls. This album is pinned to events I recall pretty clearly in my mind, as I just bought it yesterday after extensive research online. It is lacking in production, but it gave an introduction to theater rock as a prog selection. Should really be 4 stars, the extra one is for concept. It's about a fully biodegradable being slapped together and categorized as "Rael": he's a Puerto Rican-American punk from the N.Y.C. who acts all tough to hide his true feelings. Anyway, if you got this album and the story doesn't stand I might lend a hand, you understand? (i.e., the liner note quote was planned, dummies.)

The flickering needle jumps into red. New Yourk crawls out of its bed. And the lamb lies down on Broadway.

That out of the way, I'll begin the review in earnest. The title track is very nice, but unfortunately I find it hard to describe the instrumentation to you. The album mainly revolves around piano/synthesizer/mellotron tunes, with the traditional rock instruments accompanying. But this album is not bought to rock with. GENESIS has never seemed to me a true "rock" band. They are further removed from tradition than that of YES and PINK FLOYD and especially DREAM THEATER. But that is not necessarily bad. The album's concept is deep, complex, practically impenatrable. Read the liner notes and research online before or while you listen, otherwise it may fail to capture you.

Now then, after the medium-rock song (medium-rock being "rocking" in relation to GENESIS standards) title track, we enter the softer, mellower "Fly on a Windshield." While the title track describes Rael's current position in a realistic N.Y.C, with him spray painting graffiti and the social commentary of the times, this one is the beginning of the weirdness (Aside from the metaphorical "lamb lies down on broadway" which I think represents the sad sacrifice of Rael as he dies because of society's ills. Lambs represent sacrifice, in a Biblical sort of way.) Anyway, a huge wall of black descends from heaven to sweep slowly down the streets of broadway as everyone but Rael ignores it (or doesn't see it). It soon gets to Rael, encasing him in a cocoon.

Broadway's past is remembered in "Broadway Melody of 1974" as Rael exits our world. What is happening to him? It is most likely that he dies of malnutrition or overdose or something and is sent on a journey through purgatory so he can finally learn love or be trapped in purgatory forever. That gives the album true meaning and a purpose. And now, back to the songs...

"Cuckoo Cocoon" is Rael waking up from unconsciousness to find he is trapped in a cocoon (which could be a metaphor for his rebirth from our world into the next). He falls back asleep and wakes up in a vast cavern of constantly decaying and forming stalactites and stalagmites in the song "In the Cage". He tries to find a way out by using self-control, but abandons this when a rotating cage of stalactites and stalagmites forms around him, closing in on him and trapping him. This cage represents humanity tied to earthly things and the restriction it brings: yet another reality of life Rael must come to terms with before he can move on. He also sees other people's cages forming outside to make a massive network of infinite cages in the vast cavern.

It is at this point that Rael sees his brother John outside the cage. He tries to talk to John (who is in reality Rael's true self: Rael just doesn't know himself well enough metaphorically to recognize this), but John ignores him and instead cries a single tear of blood to mourn the incapability of Rael to see the truth. John leaves and just as the bars of Rael's cage close in on him, and the cage dissolves finally. Rael is left spinning on the floor of what is now a large modern hallway. Overall, "In the Cage" is a masterpiece song. Excellent example of GENESIS' power.

"The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging" is a beeping and clanking but catchy tune about the aisles of inhumane factorylike shells of people. Brother John is there as a motionless shell (which means Rael is there as well). But soon Rael tires of this and his mind drifts into memory of his life "Back in N.Y.C.". This gives us some background of Rael's life and ways in a rocking sort of song. Then his hairy, masculine heart is shaved in "Hairless Heart" and in "Counting Out Time" he remembers his first romantic experience. This song is also a classic rock tune with some catchy bass grooves.

Rael soon returns to his current situation. He is in a long hallway in "The Carpet Crawlers". This hallway represents a journey. The crawlers are those searching for a way out but cannot find one. Now then, the music for this song is VERY beautiful. It is smooth, relaxing and meaningful to the story. This song and the next are closely related to the writings of C.S. Lewis where he says "any of the rooms is better than remaining in the hall", a metaphor of finding religion and true faith. "The Chamber of the 32 Doors" is a fairly good song about Rael wandering around in a massive room outside the hall where tons of people are giving him directions. Only one door will take him out.

And "Lilywhite Lilith" supposedly shows him this way at the start of the second disc. This song sounds a bit BEATLEish, and it rocks pretty hard in comparison to the other songs... But anyway, she leads him to a pitch-black room of fear, where he sits and waits. "The Waiting Room" is a haunting, dissonant fusion of spooking instrumental songs which ends in a jam session. Very good stuff in this section of the disc.

Anyway, "Anyway" fires back up in a rock piano sort of way, with Rael lamenting the strange position he is in. "The Supernatural Anesthetist" song is about Rael's short meeting with Death. Then we come to "The Lamia", where Rael is lead into a romantic encounter with snakelike woman creatures. The falls in love and unfortunately they die. Supposedly. In reality, they are temptresses which regenerate and seduce everyone who enters their lair. Rael is depressed in "Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats," an ambient instrumental song in the vein of Brian ENO.

"The Colony of Slipperman" always makes me a bit queasy. The song is good, with purposefully awkward music which bounces about. But it is the meaning of the song which bothers me. Rael is castrated because that is the only way he can leave the colony. He had fallen in love with the Lamia and the only way out was to no longer love them. The only way to do this is...to visit a castrating doctor. Ouch! This song is painful enough without the ripping sound halfway though it...ugghh... I'm sure this one is a metaphor as well, I just don't want to talk about it right now...

After this, his schvinger is put in a yellow tube which is promptly stolen by a raven. Bad luck again for Rael. This guy never gets a break! He chases it to a "Ravine", and his brother John (who he met in the previous song) deserts him again, saying he doesn't want to help because it would put him in danger. This is the second time John deserts poor Rael!

Rael stands and looks over the ravine into a rushing rapid river where his recently- dropped-a-raven yellow tube floats. He sees a portal which seems to go back to New York City open in "The Light Lies Down on Broadway" just as he sees John trapped in the rapids, unable to escape. Here he makes a descision to jump in and save John even though John never saved him. He makes his own choice and commits a selfless action. The music here is a more psychadelic version of the title track.

"Riding the Scree" is a great song as well. It is Rael jumping into the sides of the slope as he makes his way down to the river. He jumps in and tries to save John in the softer "In the Rapids." This song is mellow like "Fly on a Windshield". Rael grabs John and pull John out of the river. John is unconscious as Rael looks at his face... and realizes that it isn't John's face he is look at. It is his own!

At this realization, the music cranks up into a full-blown wonderous ending in "IT." Amazing here. The album never tells you what "it" is, but I assume it is love. Or maybe not. Anyway, Rael is finally at peace with himself. The end.

The album is an amazing concept. 4-star music but it definitely deserves extra points for being so historical and literarily inspired. It is less accessible than "The Wall" (PINK FLOYD), but this album is much deeper. Not the best song for rocking to, not the best for a beginner to prog either. Listen if you liked "The Wall" or are somewhat experienced in prog. A major trouble I have with the album is the fact that the second disc lags in comparison with the first, especially "side four" and the three instrumentals placed on that disc. It seems like GABRIEL ran out of ideas and had to fill it in with something...but still, it's a good album nonetheless. It's over to you.

penguindf12 | 5/5 |

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