From cool to critically reviled. From worthy to wealthy. Genesis' story is an...
Chris Jones 2004
The fact that this nifty retrospective of rock's favourite public schoolboys comes in three parts is entirely fitting. Genesis were definitely a band of three halves. 30 years saw them go from prog to pop, alienating one fanbase and gaining a far larger and more lucrative one in the process and the story's here for the telling.
The approach is strangely anti-chronological. For all the fox mask/twelve string and mellotron madness you have to skip to disc three. Depending on which kind of Genesis fan you are, this will either seem like an attempt to hide the embarrassing stuff at the end of the album, or to leave the best until last. Ignoring their disowned first studio effort (helmed by mentor and fellow Charterhouse old boy, Jonathan King) we get one track apiece from the albums Trespass and Nursery Cryme (the second being their first 'classic' line up album with Phil Collins and Steve Hackett on board). If this appears mean it's more than compensated by the entire 20 plus minutes of "Supper's Ready" from Foxtrot - The number which transformed the band from fey English prog wannabes into a major live attraction, with Peter Gabriel donning costumes aplenty while spinning apocalyptic allegory. Numbers from Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (the double that saw the Gabriel part company with band) complete this first stage of the band's career.
Disc two gives us the years when people realised that Phil Collins could sing quite like Gabriel and for a couple of years and albums (Trick Of The Tail, Wind And Wuthering) they continued to give the prog-lite loving public what they wanted: fearsome technical ability with a canny ear for a great tune. Unfortunately guitarist Hackett was the next casualty, jumping ship in the face of an increasingly blatant commercialism (after all, such Englishness was never going to net them the US acceptance they needed for superstardom).
While a whole flared and bearded contingent threw up their hands in despair the hits began to flow. And Then There Were Three gave us the massive hit "Follow You Follow Me". It was also the band's first gold album and the States finally welcomed them with open arms. Now more likely to appear on Top Of The Pops than at Aylesbury Friar's, Collins - with his solo career in the ascendant - was now the public face of the band. Disc one is nearly all hit singles. "Turn It On Again"; "Mama"; "Abacab"; "Illegal Alien"; "That's All"; " I Can't Dance"; "Throwing It All Away"; "Invisible Touch"; "Jesus He Knows Me"; "Tonight Tonight Tonight" - they conquered the charts again and again. Inevitably having two careers proved too distracting for Phil and he called it a day. Nobody seemed too surprised when the remaining duo of Mike Rutherford (already doing quite alright, thank you, with Mike And The Mechanics) and Tony Banks finally threw in the towel after recruiting c-list singer Ray Wilson from Stiltskin for 1997's Calling All Stations.
From cool to critically reviled. From worthy to wealthy. Genesis' story is an oft-repeated one of proper musicians spent chasing bucks. But (after putting aside a 'remix' job that leaves the early classics sounding horribly dry) this is a collection that shows just how talented and adaptable this very English band were. That's all...