Genesis: A Trick of the Tail

The following is a review by a guest review from Blog Called T. I hope you enjoy the review!

It’s a quagmire being a Genesis fan. Is it an evolution or devolution for a band to go from 10+ minute progressive rock opuses to 3 minute pop hits? Is the band changing with the times or with the roster Genesis’ 2 major front-men – Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins both went on to have lucrative careers in the music industry as solo artists; both solo careers let you know the influences each had on their former band making polar opposites of Genesis’ beginning and ending.

But that wasn’t what fans were thinking in 1975 with the departure of Peter Gabriel.They were thinking that Genesis couldn’t exist without Gabriel.He took with him the stage performances and showmanship that made Genesis a favorite among the progressive rock crowds. He defined their sound, how would they exist without him? After a fruitless search for a replacement and the realization that the band’s drummer, Phil Collins, could sing all the songs as well as all the potential singers auditioned, he was made Genesis’ new singer and the band released the unremarkable 1976 album Wind and Wuthering. The album sounded exactly what the band was: Phil Collins singing Peter Gabriel’s lines. He’s a competent singer, but he isn’t Gabriel.

And then their 1978 album came – Trick of the Trail, a turning point for both the band and the songs. The pop sensibilities of Phil Collins would peak its head for the first time here, but not enough to scare away the loyal fans. It’s also one of my favorite albums from the band because it’s their most unique. This isn’t a rock album as much as a folk and blues album. Ethereal tracks like “Ripples”, “Mad Man Moon” and the title track “A Trick of the Tail” dominate the album’s mood. It’s unexpected and leaves a blank slate to experience the album: this isn’t a Peter Gabriel Genesis album, this is Genesis redefining themselves, previous standards of comparison no longer apply.There are still the heavier ‘rock’ songs: “Robbery, Assault and Battery” and “Dance on a Volcano.” The latter might be one final attempt to return to the days of Gabriel as it mimics his “Dancing with the Moonlight Knight” opus on the bands breakthrough album ‘Selling England by the Pound’. But altogether Phil Collins isn’t trying to mimic Gabriel anymore or front the same Genesis band. His softer voice is put to better use here and Banks, Rutherford, and Hackett are able to accommodate him and widen their musical palette in the process. The band begins to develop their ear for 3 minute melodies. Areas of lacking without Gabriel’s influence can still be noticed: the story telling of the songs isn’t nearly as complex or intriguing. Collins’ singing works well for the quieter songs (“Entangled”), but still feels misplaced when the storytelling and structure does get complex (“Robbery, Assault and Battery” feels too forced).

This isn’t epic Genesis, this is Genesis actually reinventing themselves and not for the better. Fortunately this album hasn’t aged with time as does most classic rock, especially the progressive genre. And while it is different, Collins and the band don’t cross the line into pop music and alienate their audience; though, they later will with the departure of Hackett from the band and the release of their first true pop single ‘Follow You Follow Me’. From that point on, the influence of the Genesis of old is truly gone.

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Lost Genre: Jug Band Music

“For me, jug band music is the mud that my toes are planted in”
Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir.

I wrote about jug band music in the past and am excited that there is a new documentary about jug band innovator Gus Cannon called Chasin’ Gus’ Ghost and features Bob Weir, David Grisman, Jug Band Revivalist Jim Kweskin, Taj Mahal, and Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian. The movie will premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival on October 13th. I hope it has a wider release and would like to write about it when I see it. Be sure to check out the trailer.

Also, check out this youtube video of Mungo Jerry’s 1971 song “Summertime.” It is a “modern jug” band song. Even if you aren’t into the style, you should check out the video. The lead singer Ray Dorset’s Afro and mutton chops are about as legendary as the song.

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