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Genesis - Nursery Cryme CD (album) cover

NURSERY CRYME

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 3250 ratings

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Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Following the charming, enchanting release of "Trespass", Genesis found themselves looking to forge on forward after the departure of subdued guitar personality Anthony Phillips. With the addition of Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, Genesis had created their classic lineup that we know and love and "Nursery Cryme" is the first document we have to show off their prowess and ability. Although Hackett's style is far more flamboyant and dynamic compared to Phillips', Nursery Cryme once again finds Genesis right in their prime element, painting idyllic pictures of quaint English scenes based in domestic reality, but with a slight fantasy twist, with Peter Gabriel delivering melodramatic storytelling over top. And on Nursery Cryme, all of these elements fall into place absolutely perfectly in one tight little 10-minute package: "The Musical Box".

Genesis' career tour-de-force, I don't believe that there is any one track in the band's canon that captures what they were capable of more fully and effectively. An oddly dark track, it's hard to believe that a mini rock opera about pedophilic ghost rape can be pulled off so convincingly, let alone become a classic of the genre. Let me just say that it's a good thing that it was only lighthearted Genesis that tried to tackle this idea, and not King Crimson or Van der Graaf Generator! Talk about traumatic experiences... Anyhoo, even if the subject matter of the song is a bit morbid, you wouldn't think it with the way that all of the classic Genesis elements play out. The song opens with the delightful Hackett fingerstyle work that would grace the string of albums to follow. Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins exchange gorgeous vocal harmonies, and a touch of flute is thrown in now and again, never to wow or demand your attention, but to serve the timbral blend of the song. Magical as those first 4 or so minutes are, it's not until Hackett cranks up the ol' electric that "The Musical Box" truly attains its legendary status. While Genesis can never be accused of being unable to write pretty acoustic pieces, they've never really had any strength in writing bombastic or energetic music. But "The Musical Box" is a true exception to that rule; Hackett's two solos in here may very well be one of the hardest rocking sections of symphonic prog ever put to record. The same can be said for the song's rousing, cathartic crescendo, but there's no sense in trying to put it in words. You simply have to hear it to appreciate the power.

After one of the most dynamic openings in prog, the band takes an about face for the Collins-led "For Absent Friends". Most people discredit this song as "filler", probably because it's short, but it really is a delight. Genesis were really at their strongest when they were writing softer acoustic music, and this is a prime example. A quaint musical daydream, there's nothing awe-inspiring about this little tune, but it's actually quite a beautiful, contemplative piece that doesn't demand a whole lot. And within the context of the album, it serves as essential breathing room before the first side's closer, "Return of the Giant Hogweed". The album's "heavy" track, I feel that the song is actually quite a step down in terms of energy from "The Musical Box", and certainly compared to "The Knife" off of "Trespass". But then again, does music always need to be so serious and heavy? Certainly not, and "Hogweed" retains a certain sing-along characteristic to its sound, even while Hackett plays some of the most distorted licks of his career. And while the bulk of the song is actually quite tame, the dramatic ending does stand out as a particularly exciting piece of Genesis' catalogue that would go unmatched on future albums.

After a very strong first side, side two is a bit of a step down, but enjoyable nonetheless. "Seven Stones" is a song that Genesis fans try to validate as much as they can, calling it the most "underrated" or "underappreciated" or "overlooked" song on the album, but if it really were as good as the fans claim, then it would be just as famous as "The Musical Box" or "Hogweed". In reality, it's just a decent, short ballad that isn't especially moving, unless you're a total sucker for the mellotron, in which case the ending should be quite a delight. Afterwards is "Harold The Barrel", which I will skip each and every time I put the album on. It's not necessarily an awful song, but it might just be the most infectious earworm I know of, so unless you want it stuck in your head for weeks at a time, it's probably expendable. It also gets the infamous credit of being the first Genesis "comic relief" track, the scourge of Gabriel-era albums. Unlike "The Battle of Epping Forest", though, at least "Harold The Barrel" has the benefit of being only 3 minutes long, so it doesn't bring the impact of the album down quite as much. Following ol' Harry, though, is another track that I really do believe is overlooked. "Harlequin" is a return to the style of "For Absent Friends", except Gabriel and Collins harmonies are even more exquisite on this number. As I've always maintained, Genesis' forte was in their acoustic work, so while my interest for the extended symphonic tracks on "Nursery Cryme" has waned over time, the grace and charm of numbers like "Harlequin" has only grown.

The album closes with one final long song, "The Fountain of Salmacis". Once you get past the gimmick of the mellotron volume swells, there is still quite a bit to enjoy here. It seems that Genesis really put all their eggs in one basket with "The Musical Box", so the energy level is quite low by this point in the album, but that doesn't mean they were uninspired. Peter Gabriel's lyrics here are taken straight from Greek mythology, and his way with words really makes what would be an otherwise forgettable piece of instrumental music shine as a piece of fantasy magic.

So while it's not a perfect album, "Nursery Cryme" is still a piece of the Genesis discography that I feel can make itself at home in any prog fan's collection, if not just for "The Musical Box" alone. I would also highly recommend either this album, along with "Selling England By The Pound", as the perfect introduction to the band's music. In all, this may not be a genre-defining masterpiece, but it is a symphonic prog classic. 4 stars.

Magnum Vaeltaja | 4/5 |

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