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Genesis - Duke CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.50 | 1495 ratings

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3 stars Everybody's got a different example of the album that signals Genesis' downhill slide. Some say 'And Then There Were Three', some say 'Abacab', some say 'A Trick Of The Tail'. I've even heard someone say 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'! For me it's 'Duke'. This album continued the band's evolution, but it finds their sound working toward a really streamlined area, with Phil Collins' R&B roots creeping in.

'Duke' is one of those half-baked concept albums, a storyline linking only half the songs. It's baffling that they spread those songs out between the stand-alone songs. "Behind The Lines" is grand in scope, with a nice momentum guided by Tony Banks' keyboard accents and some creative guitar/bass from Michael Rutherford. But Phil's Motown- esque delivery is an annoyance unless you're into that kind of thing. It never reaches the stellar heights it hints at. There's a nice segue from the ending into "Duchess", a really beautiful number filled with a certain sadness. Banks' keyboards are given full reign, and with Phil's dramatic delivery of this melancholy tale, it's a winner. "Guide Vocal" continues the brown emotions, hazy, gauzy, haunting.and way too short. "Man Of Our Times" is an epic squeezed into a short-song format, with a recording that does no favors to its grandiose leanings. Everything here, as on the rest of the album, sounds condensed and compressed, like the Genesis from the previous album in a sonic cage. This is a foreshadowing of the production values that would haunt Genesis (and prog in general) throughout the '80s decade, everything way too antiseptic, too muffled, too damn digital. But the end of "Man Of Our Times" breaks out of this cage momentarily and it's a joy to hear. "Misunderstanding" is a throwaway, probably the worst thing the band had recorded up to this point, a bouncy R&B number that can only appeal to those who already have a liking for that genre. I don't, so I don't get it. Next up is "Heathaze", a song I consider not only underrated but one of Genesis' best. It links Banks' sensitive writing and beautiful melodic choices with Collins' painfully moving delivery. Tear-jerking stuff. Autumnal and perfect.

Side two starts with a song that Genesis fans seem split on (just look at the many other reviews of 'Duke' here). I love "Turn It On Again", but I think it's much more effective as a live opener (as on 'Three Sides Live'), and I wonder why they didn't begin this album with it. "Alone Tonight" is no better than "Your Own Special Way" or "Follow You Follow Me", a weak ballad that hints at the awful commercial material that was to come. When it comes to ballad-esque songs, I hold "Afterglow" up as the Genesis standard, and this song is just another in the shadow of that tremendous track. "Cul-De-Sac" marries the old Genesis sound (old here meaning the first two albums with Collins on vocals) with the direction they were heading in. Some beautiful keys from Banks, a theatrical arrangement, symphonic in spots. "Please Don't Ask" is more forgettable filler material, with Collins' voices laid on thick in the chorus. I don't get anything to grab onto with this track, except maybe the skip button (this is an album to listen to on CD, cuz there's a lot of skipping potential). What finer way to end an album than the tandem "Duke's Travels" and "Duke's End"? Too little too late? No way. These are gorgeous songs, mostly-instrumental soundscapes showing there's still some symphonic Genesis in 'em yet. With several of the album's previous songs revisited (as they would do on 'Selling England By The Pound' and 'A Trick Of The Tail') you have a nod toward tradition. Amazing writing and performances save the day.

Could the artwork be any freakin' uglier? It's difficult to look at, and since artwork is inextricably linked to the music inside, maybe it colors my enjoyment of the album ever so slightly. But of course it's the music that matters, and with 'Duke' you're getting a good album, full of latter-day Genesis highlights but also brought down with some seriously "blah" material.

slipperman | 3/5 |


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