Thursday, February 4, 2010

Afterglow of the Undertow

We here at the Back-Up Plan remain convinced that the ORDER in which U hear an artist's work has a big impact on yr perceptions of them.
Bcos we heard the loud&loose YESSONGS B4 NE other Yes music (other than "Your Move" & "Roundabout"), we now find Yes's studio versions of mosta those same songs 2 B ... kinda stiff.
Bcos we heard Renaissance's LIVE album B4 NEthing else, we now find almost ALL of their early studio work 2 B 2 prissy & 4mal 2 listen 2 (w/ only a couple of Xceptions).
& tho we remember hearing (& not much liking) "Money" in the summer/fall of '73, we later heard the live version of "Astronome Domine" offa UMMAGUMMA under such stressful conditions that we barely remembered a note of it later, & this was long B4 we ever knew what a Pink Floyd WAS ... even tho the song later directly triggered the 1st piece of short fiction we ever had published.
So, we will now herewith attempt 2 Xplain R rather bass-ackward views on Genesis, specifically about R fixation on their Middle Period, & R lack of patience 4 both their later "pop" period & their earlier work w/ Peter Gabriel....
We bot Genesis's 1976 album A TRICK OF THE TAIL 2nd-hand after reading a coupla rave reviews about it. The reviews + the album's gently-fantastic/cartoony cover-art Cmd 2 rein4ce the idea that here was some textured, delicate, lite, flowing, fantasy-flavored, non-threatening, not-very-loud Mood Music of the sort we preferred R Art Rock 2 B back in that post-highschool period, when we were busy trying 2 creatively-write R asses off, & during which time we also had big addictions 4 Renaissance, Gentle Giant, Gryphon, Providence, Happy the Man, Moody Blues, etc.
Tho TAIL tended 2 trail-off toward the Nd, much of it was sublime melodic keyboard&guitar-dominated Art Rock. We especially liked Tony Banks' gorgeous keyboards & the ghostly gtr work of Steve Hackett & Mike Rutherford. & drummer Phil Collins' vocals were mostly almost-modest. The only place he showed-off much vocally was on the funny "Robbery, Assault and Battery," where he was clearly playing a part.
The big melodramatic showpieces really won us over: The ghostly gtr & the shivery Nding of "Entangled," the wistful epic "Madman Moon," & the supreme fantasy-drama & gorgeous choruses on the 9-min "Ripples."
The follow-up WIND AND WUTHERING was perhaps not so great, or mayB we just couldn't hear it, but there were still a few classics scattered thruout: The gorgeous melodramatic lovesongs "Your Own Special Way" & "Afterglow," the bouncy, charming (& overlooked) knockabout instrumental "Wot Gorilla?", & the flashy percussion-solo-middle-break & last 1/2 of the epic "One for the Vine," mayB the 1st hint we had that Collins was some kinda drummer. The good stuff was REALLY good -- but mosta the rest just sorta faded away, tho we were still big fans.
We weren't thrilled at 1st w/ the SECONDS OUT double-live album, tho 2 sides of it were pretty good, but it took awhile 2 grow on us. None of the recent material repeated here sounded very good -- we were 2 attached 2 those recent songs. But summa the remakes of their older stuff were glorious.
We had resisted buying the album at 1st, 4 whatever reason -- another delicate studio band ruining their best effects by bashing their songs out 2-loudly on-stage, mayB we thot. But then we heard "The Carpet Crawl" on the radio & started wondering if mayB there wasn't something there after all. That beautiful, restrained remake helped pull us in2 the resta the album.
Tho it took awhile 2 grow on us, 2 full sides of the album were especially good: More great keybs, ghostly gtr & that ominous feeling of lurking doom on "Firth of Fifth," the silly "I Know What I Like," the rather good&dramatic "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (tho R fave part was the Nd, stolen from the Drifters' "On Broadway"), & the gorgeous, 4ceful closing 2 "The Musical Box." & then there was the sublime full side of "Supper's Ready," just stunning in places. We started wondering if this (departed) Peter Gabriel guy mighta had some talent after all, tho we never liked his voice much (more on this later).
Then Genesis Bcame The Incredible Shrinking Band. Hackett left. The reviews 4 AND THEN THERE WERE THREE... were not good, many comparing the band's sound 2 "the dreaded Moody Blues," which was really all we needed 2 hear. We liked the album fine after some adjusting: Some trax continued the Xcellent melodrama of the past: "Undertow," "Snowbound," "Burning Rope," "Deep in the Motherlode" -- really superb melodramatic prog w/ lotsa keyboards. & we didn't even miss Hackett's work in the thick mix.
The attn-grabbing "Down and Out" gave Collins a chance 2 show off w/ its changing rhythms, & "The Lady Lies" was a nice dark fairytale. But some of the other songs were really weak, & the band's breakthru hit "Follow You, Follow Me" was just lame.
Around this time we started noticing the band's work on imported EP's. The melodramatic epic "Inside and Out" was supposedly Hackett's last work w/ the band, & featured a long gtr/keybs duel during the instrumental fade-out. Quite Xcellent.
Another EP featured a devastating 3-min piece called "Vancouver," about a girl running away from home -- restrained & haunting, a perfect miniature.
Did DUKE come next? We've blocked it out. We TRIED 2 get in2 this album, but found it sludgy & boring, the 2 hits didn't help much, & even a long instrumental piece at the Nd showed no real signs of life. Their worst.
ABACAB was a little more like it, tho it showed the 1st signs of "streamlining" the band's sound in an attempt 2 get more radio time. The title track was pretty lively, "No Reply at All" was an OK hit, "Keep it Dark" was intrestingly dark, & some of the others weren't 2 offensive. R fave, however, was "Like It or Not," which slowly built in in10sity & had some great swinging choruses especially toward the Nd. We thot Collins was really starting 2 Njoy Bing a singer, & that his divorce had apparently given him lotsa good material 4 songs....
THREE SIDES LIVE had a little bit of good stuff, tho we thot it was 2 quick 4 another live album. The studio side had 2 classics: "Paperlate" & the bubbly "You Might Recall...." The live stuff peaked w/ a vicious, driving version of the Gabriel-era "In the Cage."
After that we slowly lost intrest as Genesis Bcame more popular. The dramatic "Mama" sorta put us off, both the song & the video -- we WANTED 2 like it, but.... Then there was the silly "Illegal Alien" & the not-bad "That's All." But by the time of INVISIBLE TOUCH we gave up. Who needed 2 buy the album when U could hear the whole thing on the radio every hr?
As 4 Gabriel, we're on record saying we never liked his voice much, tho we DEFinitely think that lyrically he's much weirder than his old school chums. MayB we just haven't heard enuf. (We have Genesis's PLATINUM COLLECTION best-of & have tried 2 get in2 the disc of Gabriel-led stuff there, but Xcept 4 the funny "Counting Out Time," we haven't had much luck.)
We Njoyed Gabriel's hypnotic "Shock the Monkey" & the gorgeous "In Your Eyes" -- but R "fave" is the devastating "Family Snapshot," a metaphorical piece about kids growing up ignored & unloved & what could happen when they grow up. That song tears us up every time we hear it -- so we don't play it 2 often. U should try 2 track it down. Even if that was the only good thing Gabriel ever did, his career woulda bn worth it....


rastronomicals said...

What I heard first from Genesis was "Misunderstanding," and I'm pretty sure "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" came second. Neither impressed me in the slightest.

Yours is the second reference to the "The Firth of Forth" that I've seen in the last few weeks. Maybe if it had been that song rather than "Misunderstanding" that I'd been exposed to initially, I'd have become a fan.

But it wasn't, and I didn't, and we're much too far along in our programme to do anything about it at this late date . . . .

Still, I have some strong opinions about a few songs. "ABACAB" the track not the album is pretty much brilliant, I think. You can see where it might be streamlined or even simplified, but it still feels like prog . . . and the center jammy part feels improvised, extemporaneous, and exciting . . . exactly the opposite of how "Lamb" feels to me. If they'd made an album full of songs like "ABACAB," it's simple: I would have bought it.

I still have never heard the album in its entirety, but I always hated "No Reply At All" and thought "Keep It Dark" was passable at best. Love "Man on the Corner," though, even though it\s not prog at all. Love the understated organ, and Collins just wails with his singing.

Seemed like the songs you'd hear on the radio from Genesis just got worse and worse with each passing album--and with each passing solo disc from Phil. But I DID like "Land of Confusion" and I loved the Claymation video for it, with all the Reagan era political and cultural references.

I know even less about Peter Gabriel than I know about his former band. Like you, I'd always liked "Shock the Monkey." But it'd been a while since I'd heard, and when it came on my iPod the other week as I was driving home, it was, to steal a phrase from a great movie, like getting shot in my forehead with a diamond bullet. The song feels so . . . substantial, weighty somehow, important, even as it kind of insists that you shake yo' ass . . . . just another reason why all your best funk comes from English art rock dudes.

You don't mention Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers." I had the single, plucked it from the bags of records my old man came home with. Weird song, as weird as "Shock The Monkey." I like it.

BTW, first Yessong I ever heard was "Yours Is No Disgrace," the studio version from The Yes Album, and for what it's worth, I've never been much into their live albums. 'Course, now that I think of it, I'm not that much into live albums in general . . . usually (and perhaps I'll bolster your point here) if a live album stays with me, it's when it's the first record I've heard from a band, Cheap Trick, Frank Marino, Hot Tuna, Humble Pie, Live Skull all fit this pattern.

Meanwhile, live alubms from faves like Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, and Rush never impressed me all that much.

Perhaps my favorite live album that's not the first one I'd heard from a band might be Two For the Show, that or Live at Leeds, anyway, hate to keep talking about Kansas all the time, but there it is.

tad said...

Hey R, U talk about Kansas all U want. I've bn listening 2 LEFTOVERTURE since highschool & think it's just about perfect, & I like a lot of their stuff from B4 & after that. On their 1st album, "Journey from MariaBronn" is at least as good as "Song for America," & U already know how I feel about stuff like "Reason to Be" & "Back Door." Just wish they coulda kept that kinda delicate balance they had going Btween the arty stuff & the boogie. When they leaned 2 far toward the heavy stuff they always lost my intrest....
& 4 some reason I've never heard NE of TWO FOR THE SHOW, I've just missed hearing it somehow.... But they sure chose some bad live tracks 4 their best-of box set: "Death of Mother Nature Suite" is just ugly, & "Incomudro" has this low-register hummm all thru it, tho the rest of the per4mance is good....
I guess in this write-up I was trying 2 say it was the delicate-ness of Genesis's Middle Period that grabbed me. Even when they were tryin 2 B all heavy, like on say "Dance on a Volcano," they were still pretty wimpy. But I liked that sorta ornate, delicate wimpiness. I'm pretty wimpy myself, mosta the time.
I've always hated "Misunderstanding," & I'm not sure what about it grabbed people. & the album it's from (DUKE) is sure wretched.... Summa the later hits R OK, but.... I just think those guys hadda lotta talent & they watered it all down 2 much. But mayB they were tired of Bing starving musicians....?
Thanx as always 4 yr views.... -- TAD.