Selling England By The PoundGenesis
This is a tough one for me. Not the rating - that's a five, easy. It's tough because I'm trying to listen to this the same way I'm listening to the other 1001 albums, even though I'm a huge fan and I've listened to this album easily 100 times. But, when I think back to my original impressions, I found early Genesis difficult to get into, unlike other early prog bands like King Crimson and Yes. There always seemed to be something a little "off" about early Genesis. They'd mix a surprisingly hard edge with songs that referred to things like "unifauns" and "lily fair." Or, some of the sounds are dated: Hackett's guitar often sounds muffled to me and some of the synth sounds are dated. But their music is the proverbial onion...peel it back and you find layer upon layer (it doesn't make me cry, but there are moments like the middle of Steve Hackett's solo in Firth of Fifth that always give me chills. Their album Foxtrot is not in the 1001 albums or I'd be saying the same about the end of Supper's Ready. Heck, I'd be writing a book about Supper's Ready). What's more is this music is many times better live than recorded. I've seen latter day Genesis play the instrumental parts of Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show. I've seen Steve Hackett and his band play many of these songs. Both are amazing. For a more "historic" version, go see the cover band "The Musical Box" who play an amazing version of the early band that even the band members acknowledge is authentic. So, my listen of this album is colored by my knowledge of just how good it CAN sound. The fact is: this music is amazing. Firth of Fifth is a rock symphony with one of my favorite melodic guitar solos of all time. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight starts with Peter Gabriel a capella and turns into a musical tour de force around 2:25 (listen for Steve Hackett's tapping solo, something he was doing years before Eddie Van Halen made it famous). Listen to Phil Collins' drumming throughout the album - while most people know him from the 80s (with most thinking of the gated reverb fill from In the Air Tonight), this album showcases why he was one of the most in demand session drummers of the 70s and 80s. The man is doing 50 things at once and if you've ever seen video of him playing, you know he looks relaxed as can be. Mike Rutherford lays down backing guitars and excellent driving bass lines throughout much of the album. And then there's Tony Banks, the man who later sticks to "happy chords" and "sad chords" droning over simple hit songs. Listen to his keyboard playing on this album and other early Genesis albums. His solo at the end of The Cinema Show mixes the best of melody and speed and shows he belongs in the conversation of "who is the best prog keyboardist?" Other great examples - everything he plays on Firth of Fifth, the keyboards in Supper's Ready and Watcher of the Skies (sorry, annoyed that Foxtrot isn't in the 1001). For me, the main weak spot on this album is The Battle of Epping Forest. Even after all those listens it still doesn't do much for me, plus it's too long (I don't have a problem with long songs...again, I wish I could write about Supper's Ready!). Bottom line, this is an outstanding band at its best. After one more album, they lose Peter Gabriel. Two more albums after that, they lose Steve Hackett. Then the band starts to become the Genesis most people know. Don't get me wrong - I like that Genesis also. But this Genesis was a prog giant. To those listening to this for the first time, keep listening and unpeel this onion. It's worth it.