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Genesis - Genesis 1970 -75 CD (album) cover

GENESIS 1970 -75



Symphonic Prog

4.56 | 224 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I have to agree with the negative reviews here: the subpar sound quality ruins what should be the definitive retrospective of one of the definitive prog bands. The music here has become yet another victim of the loudness war, a trend in which modern records are mastered at increasingly loud volumes in a mistaken belief that doing this raises record sales. Unfortunately, since the peak of loudness that was attainable in a digital recording without sacrificing audio quality was already reached long ago, the only way to raise the loudness further is to break out the dynamic range compression, which has been raised to ridiculous levels in recent years. This trend now sucks much of the dynamic range out of the recording, which, as any Genesis fan worth their salt knows, is a large part of what made their music so appealing in the first place. It's like playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with every note at equal volume: it misses the point of the original music. The loudness war frequently results in audible "pumping", where the artefacts of compression result in unnatural-sounding, rapid volume changes, or digital clipping, a phenomenon in which the troughs and peaks of waveforms are flattened and the sound comes out sounding muffled and distorted. It also frequently results in listener fatigue - the music a listener loves actually becomes tiresome to listen to.

I'll admit that this isn't the least dynamic recording to be released on a major label in recent years (it's not a Death Magnetic-level disaster, at least), but it's a major step down from any of the previously available sets, even the heavily EQ'd Atlantic "Definitive Edition Remasters" from 1994. The albums also often seem to have been remixed, which may be regarded by some listeners as an improvement since they reveal new details that were buried in previous mixes, but it may also be a huge distraction. Personally, I had no problem with the production on even the band's early albums, and trying to make them sound more like the drum sound of "In the Air Tonight" and "Mama", which seems to have been what the engineers here intended, does not strike me as an improvement - that sound worked wonderfully for those songs (which, unlike some Gabriel-era fanatics, I quite like), but it is not what was intended for this music, and remixing them this way is roughly comparable to hiring Ernest Hemingway to rewrite Shakespeare: Hemingway's writing may be wonderful for what it is, but Shakespeare's original works stand on their own and there is no need to rewrite them in a more "modern" style.

I'm giving this collection two stars (edit: see below) because the packaging is nicely assembled, and the bonus material and 5.1 mixes will be of interest to hardcore fans (though the best of the bonus material already appeared on the Archive 1967-75 set). I also can't give any collection that contains Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (arguably the finest five-album streak ever managed by any progressive rock band) one star. However, don't have any delusions: of the many ways available to hear this material, the CDs on this box set (as well as the concurrent standalone CD reissues) are the worst of them. My first recommendation is to track down original Charisma vinyl pressings (or good rips thereof), followed by the original Virgin/Charisma CDs. And even the heavily EQ'd "Definitive Edition Remasters" are vastly preferable to the versions available here.

In short, there is little point to this compilation apart from the 5.1 mixes (which will not be accessible to many listeners, myself included) and the bonus material (which is not momentous enough to justify purchasing six additional poorly mastered CDs). Most listeners who are interested in this collection will already have better-sounding versions of most of it, and those who do not are advised to track down those versions first and pick this set up only if they truly need to have everything.


Edit, 2022: I still don't have equipment on which to play the 5.1 mixes, but I've mixed them down to stereo. For that reason and that reason alone, I'm bumping this up from two to three stars - the mixdowns are substantially better than the CDs and, in all cases, at least on par with the LPs. The drums and vocals have a small amount of dynamic range compression, but it's hardly noticeable by modern standards; the other instruments don't sound like they have any compression at all. The mixdowns of Trespass and Nursery Cryme are by far the best-sounding versions I've ever heard - the mix is almost Steven Wilson-calibre in terms of how much sonic detail it reveals. Foxtrot, Selling England, and The Lamb didn't improve as much because they already sounded good, but the mixdowns are perfectly serviceable, and these days I probably find myself listening to them as often as I listen to pbthal's vinyl rips.

I will reiterate that the CDs are not really "remasters" - they're in fact full remixes that often change the instrument balance, apply new filters and EQ to the instruments, add entirely new parts, occasionally subtract some, may occasionally use different takes. For that reason, they're interesting alternate takes on the music, but the packaging should make this clear, and the fact that these have entirely supplanted the original mixes from circulation is an act of historical revisionism comparable to the Star Wars Special Editions. Owing to the comparatively poor dynamic range, these remain my least favourite CD issues of Foxtrot, Selling England, and The Lamb, and while the clarity of the mix has led me to warm up to the CDs of Trespass and Nursery Cryme, they're still a pale shadow of what they could've been with better dynamic range.

In summation, my ranking of releases is something like:

Trespass & Nursery Cryme: 5.1 mix > LP = 2007/2008 CD > 1985 CD > 1994 CD Foxtrot, Selling England, The Lamb: LP = 5.1 mix > 1985 CD > 1994 CD >>>>>>> 2007/2008 CD

If this collection consisted of only the 5.1 mixes (or of the 5.1 mixes and direct stereo mixdowns thereof without any form of dynamic range compression), I'd give it five stars without hesitation, but it does too much harm to Foxtrot, Selling England, and The Lamb in other media for me to give it more than three.

CassandraLeo | 3/5 |


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