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Genesis - Nursery Cryme CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.42 | 3250 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 10, Nursery Cryme, Genesis, 1971

Another very strong album with weak moments, and a mixture of progressive giants (The Musical Box & The Fountain of Salmacis), interesting softer pieces (Harlequin & For Absent Friends) and a couple of lighter more amusing ones (Return of the Giant Hogweed & Harold The Barrel). With Collins on the drums and Hackett on guitar, the classic line-up is complete, and the use of Collins' vocal skills on The Musical Box and Harlequin is inspired.

The Musical Box is my favourite Genesis song, from the hypnotic acoustic interplay of the opening to the final flourish it stands out. The lyrics are 100% Gabriel's style: innovative, somewhat fantastical and very refreshing. The opening is a relatively delicate acoustic thing, with the vocals done by Gabriel and Collins (with possibly the rest of them) providing harmonies and additional vocals throughout. After the first 'Play me my it comes again' chorus, it moves into another slightly more complete acoustic part with more flute, building up to a repeat of the 'Play me my it comes again'. Suddenly, Hackett's guitar and then a powerful organ riff. Dominant drums, cymbal clashes, a shriek, amazing guitar solo, and suddenly quieter again, yet keeping all the build-up and power. How the hell do you make something like that? Gabriel's vocals enchant and drive the song at this point with music essentially provided to support him him, and then the power returns, the guitar bursts into control, the drums break loose, yet stay perfectly under control. Everything continues to build up, and then turns quiet again, seamlessly, delicate guitars, counter-harmonies mesh with Gabriel possessively, and then the organ returns. Almost church-organ, this time, building up and driving in cooperation with the drums, the song's concept builds to its climax ("Now now now now now!", Hackett slowly works his way into the mix, ending up with a part every bit as dominant as those already there, and the finale is somehow enough to end this amazing song with absolutely no feelings of disappointment. As you may have guessed, my obsession with this is unhealthy. Both very prog and very rock. I love it. Also, it's a great song for air organ...

For Absent Friends is a short, quiet song, with a soothing vocal from Collins and tasteful acoustic guitar interplay. Lovely.

Return Of The Giant Hogweed is perhaps the best example of how Genesis shifts between brilliant and unconvincing to me. The concept is utterly silly, which works quite well, but I generally don't like the vocals. Hackett shifts between frequent additions over the top, and a nice fuzzy guitar . Similarly, Banks here is difficult to stomach, since his organ additions shift between brilliant background work and a gaudy form of dominant bombastic vaguely Rush-like thing that becomes repetitive throughout the course of the song. In the end, it seems that Banks is responsible for both the great and the annoying sections of the track, with his piano making the second half of the instrumental section and leading up to the great end, and his over-the-top organs being too much for me.

Seven Stones has a very strong mellotron-and-bass start, with vaguely folk-ish lyrics about the vagaries of fortune (sound like Banks lyrics to me, but I'm not sure), tasteful bass, excellent drumming from Collins, a powerful chorus with a soulful vocal. Very good solos from banks, good flute parts, memorable keyboards throughout. Hackett's contributions are pretty typical of his style: not dominant in the mix, but always adding something special. A very good track.

Harold The Barrel is great fun for me. What I think is Hackett sounds more like a sax than a guitar, Banks' piano shifts between amusing to a prettier, more reflective tone at the right moments. Collins fits in perfectly, moving between standard beat-drumming to something a little more energetic whenever he can. The bass additions are great, and the mixture of Gabriel's sarcasm and vocal dexterity and the harmonies and the various vocal effects. Probably my favourite of the lighter, supposedly humorous Genesis pieces.

Harlequin is something different again, a very moving Gabriel-and-Collins duet with surreal lyrics and some subtle vocal interplay, the acoustic part changes frequently, and has a lot more direction, in my mind, than that on Dusk, while Hackett's few additions on the electrics are perfect. In my mind, an experimental and enjoyable piece, which grows on me with every listen. An unsung masterpiece.

The Fountain Of Salmacis is another progressive beast, though in a different vein to the album's opener, not necessarily less of a rocker, but somewhat more sweeping and grandiose, with more vocal effects and a more consistent style compared to The Musical Box's build-up. It begins with the keyboard theme of the piece, fading out into a lush soundscape and a bass-and-Gabriel-backed vocals with a mythical theme. Mellotron chords or melodies changing constantly in the background, occasional Hackettry, vocal effects that drive home the theme, powerful guitar and keyboard solos and a surprisingly effective expression of the two-part conversation, the story, the battle of wills between Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, and the final merged creature. A powerful emotional and musical triumph.

The end result of this album is an extremely good impression after every listen, and though I'm reluctant to allow my third-favourite album by a group, and one with a large, weaker song, the fifth star, I have to admit that the overwhelming majority of great material is a match for Selling England By The Pound and Trespass. Furthermore, I keep finding new aspects of the music, or noticing effects and background parts that I didn't really notice before, something not evident on Trespass. Although on a personal level, Trespass and Selling England By The Pound touch me much more deeply, they don't really challenge me as a listener like Nursery Cryme does.

Rating: Five Stars (the extended flaw that is Return Of The Giant Hogweed has some great moments, and there are, in my mind, four six-star tracks here)

Favourite Track: The Musical Box

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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