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Genesis - Duke CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.52 | 1701 ratings

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Mr. Gone
5 stars I'm not sure why "pop" is considered a four letter word by some prog fans. I love a good rock/pop album with progressive overtones. And in this offering, Genesis may have come up with the perfect example of that very idea.

"Behind the Lines" is a great opener. Great song. Bursting with energy and propelled nicely by Phil Collins' excellent drumming and Mike Rutherford's driving bass in its extended intro, it winds down into a deceptively simple-sounding pop number which many would probably find difficult to play. It blends into "Duchess", a tale of a girl trying to make the big time as a singer supported by the bands first recorded use of a drum machine (including for all the percussive effects in its also-extended intro). In some ways, this track would sound a bit better live, but it's still a great song in its studio incarnation. Then, a near-full stop with "Guide Vocal" - mostly just piano, a little guitar, and Phil Collins' voice. A nice range of moods moved through in just three songs. These three would be combined with "Turn It on Again" and "Duke's Travels/Duke's End" in live performances to form the "Duke Suite", which were originally supposed to be all wound together on the album but were broken up to avoid comparisons to "Supper's Ready". Taken together, they still make a powerful statement, comparisons to previous material aside.

"Man of Our Times" is a somewhat bizarre track penned by Rutherford. Crashing drums, highly processed vocals and flutish-sounding keys with lyrics which seem to be simply about "me-ism". It's fun in a way and a nice mood-shifter from the somber-sounding "Guide Vocal". Not an essential track, by any stretch, but enjoyable in an odd way.

Now, onto what is probably the most controversial track - "Misunderstanding". Yes, the melody sounds a lot like "Hot Fun in the Summertime". I don't doubt that it wasn't a plagiarism - all band members have admitted an affinity for Motown, and Collins likely was unwittingly inspired by this tune. However you may feel about this track, it's tightly played, with excellent piano/synth work by Tony Banks and great bass and guitar work by Rutherford. I, for one, have no problem with this track and still enjoy it when I play the CD (even if it's not my total favorite).

The next five tracks are, quite honestly, stellar. "Heathaze" is one of my all-time favorites - a lush number supported by some beautiful piano and guitar, telling a dreamy tale of a hot late-summer day (and perhaps featuring the only use of the word "whereas" in a rock song). The music and lyrics fit perfectly together and almost make you feel the environment being described. Then comes the deceptively simple-sounding rocker "Turn It on Again", a 13/4 thumper about a guy obsessed with a woman on TV. "Alone Tonight" is probably the weakest of the five tracks, but even it has a beauty about it in sound and lyric as a simple ballad. "Cul de Sac" kind of fits into the "Duke" theme a bit (though not intentionally), as a song about a leader meeting his Waterloo. It's well-written and well-played. And last is the heartfelt "Please Don't Ask", written by Collins about his divorce from his first wife and a (hypothetical?) chance meeting it its wake. It features some lovely keyboard work and some very bluesy-sounding guitar from Rutherford. Just a great track.

"Duke's Travels/Duke's End" make up the ending. "Travels" goes through several movements with a distinctly Irish/Saxon feel in many of them thanks to Banks' keys, which make up most of the melody here. The drumming is excellent, and the bass is both melodic and propulsive. It finally winds up in a reiteration of the lyrics in "Guide Vocal", sung much more harshly over the uneasy-sounding melody. After slowly petering down, a synth flute bit ushers in "Duke's End", which repeats the intro of "Behind the Lines" with a slightly different rhythm.

This is the last album by the band that I would describe as having a really "organic" feel (the others being "Trespass", "Selling England By the Pound" and "A Trick of the Tail"). Lots of piano, with the synthesizers being used more for mood or as a wallpaper or wash as opposed to completely pushing the sound ("Duke's Travels" aside), as synthesizers would overwhelm the sound of most of the material going forward. It's a wonderful formula, and with material this strong, it works like a charm.

This album is not a sellout. It's a new direction, no doubt - but there's still plenty of challenging, progressive material here presented in a truly delectable fashion. Listen to it with no preconceptions and you will be truly blown away. Five stars.

Mr. Gone | 5/5 |


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