Here I am, I ‘m very fierce and frightening…

For years every Sunday morning I would play Seconds Out. For some unknown reason my dad hated this album. It was my small piece of rebellion  at being forced to wear real IMG_7355trousers not jeans as we got ready for church. Being only twelve this was the best I could do. Later in life my rebellions got better and more extreme but as a 12 year old singing along to the Carpet Crawlers was the peak of insolence. I think it was the synth solo’s he really hated and that damn flower song.

My precious school army surplus backpack had my name spelled out in the same writing style as Seconds Out, I have to admit that this may be because it was easily replicated with a ruler and a permanent marker for an artistically challenged pre-teen. I remember  I had to draw it out first in pencil so I didn’t mess it up, if I had I would have had to continue to wear that  backpack regardless as it had been bought and would have to do. Imagine the 12 year olds shame, having the obviously unhip writing style of a progressive rock band on his backpack in the post punk age and then  the writing is messed up. Not only is this unhip but it’s badly done unhip, the kids at school would crucify me rather than just heap the usual ridicule on me.

For many years due to the paucity of funds available  these were the only versions of the Gabriel era songs I had heard, apart from a French copy of Foxtrot that I had inherited from cousin Tony. As I sit here listening tonight its like sitting down with an old friend. The arrangements are polished and comfortable. The playing is urgent and I have to say I find myself enjoying the version of that damn flower song more than the Gabriel version.

It’s also Sunday and I keep expecting to hear my dad bellowing up the stairs to turn off that damn song about a flower. Instead it is my wife who asks why do we have to listen to this loud music. No wonder some have a designated listening space. I however have the living room, which is strangely comforting as prior to moving out of my parenets my listening was confined to the cramped space of my bedroom. This does mean that when I take a left turn musically the family are forced to go with me, like some deranged road trip with the hitcher in tow.

All this reminiscence is because of Bruce at Vinyl Connection getting all 40 years ago with his 1977 moment. It’s here if you want a good read  1977.

I am however mystified why this album never made the cut or maybe that’s for part 2.

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As we relive our lives in what we tell you…

The Genesis album was the first time I was really disappointed by Genesis. I had enjoyed much of Abacab and thought that Duke was a great album.

I think I may have originally bought the album on the day of release, I remember then being disappointed by the cover. It really must be the ugliest original Genesis album cover ever, which is saying a lot considering it’s predecessor and it’s many versions.genesis It looked a little sickly as I carried it to the counter to pay.

Today when I bought this used copy in Goodwill  I had a deep sense of shame at buying it, I was worried someone may notice what I was buying. That sickly brown, yellow cover with strange children’s toy shapes scattered around. I did however realize that for the majority of people this would be more familiar than the Lamb or Foxtrot.

Then to the music, it all starts off well with Mama, possibly one of the best later Genesis singles, I remember I went out and bought the 12 inch single I liked it so much, That’s All seemed like a pretty harmless pop song that was not too offensive. Home By The Sea and Second Home By The Sea constitute the long song on the album. I remember earnestly trying to explain to friends that this was Genesis still showing their prog roots and acknowledging their older fans. As I listen to it today it is the other highlight on the album but it never reaches prog territory really. It is fairly intense but no flesh eating plants here or apocalyptic visions.

Then it all derails on side two with the offensive Illegal Alien, I remember trying to find some humor in this song as it could only be a failed joke but it is really not even remotely funny. This is the point I really remember thinking things had derailed. When I bought the album this was the moment I was dreading listening to this again. I have images in my mind of the stupid almost racist MTV video as the song plays.

At this point I gave up, it is too hard.

My verdict after sitting down with a cup of tea and listening to Supper’s Ready is that side one is actually a lot better than I thought it would be. If they got rid of Illegal Alien and Just A Job To Do for the cringe-worthy factor alone then it would be an o.k. album.

That’s the worst cover I ever saw…

A terrifying thing happened in my search for Nursery Cryme I found this 

  Of course I bought it but the cover is amazingly awful. It is almost awe inspiring in it’s lack of any artistic merit. 
Then to compound things it is so confusing. 

Side 1 of Nursery Cryme followed by Side 1 of Foxtrot on Side 2 then Side 3 is the second side of Nursery Cryme followed by the final side of Foxtrot on Side 4. 

Obviously so you can play it on a stacker or whatever they were called but so confusing when you are not expecting it. 

It’s a Buddha record release and is described as a Best Of Genesis album so there must have been some really confused people in 1976 when it was released. It is however a fine stop gap as I search out a decent copy of Nursery Cryme although I have to hide it away in case a visitor sees it 

Was it summer when the river ran dry?

I have never been an audiophile but I do enjoy things that sound right. I don’t necessarily believe that vinyl sounds better, I just think it is cooler looking and more fun to own, I also like the search for things I want as in an age of constant communication and access to things it is nice to engage with people about something you enjoy.

I have had a couple of versions of some albums over the years looking for  the best sounding version but often I am happy with the music on most releases unless they are brick walled.

This post from Vinyl Connection

http://vinylconnection.com.au/2015/04/07/dont-wuther-be-happy/

had me searching for a copy of Wind and Wuthering as I was reminded of how much I loved that album despite the silly mouse song and I only have the CD which lets face it is just not as satisfying to hold as an album.

As I searched, well in Portland you don’t necessarily have to search as there are so many opportunities to just stumble onto things, I found my copy of Wind and Wuthering and next to it in the rack a copy of A Trick of the Tail. atrickWhy not they go together and it’s a cool album. I looked at the vinyl and it had a significant mark across side one, After 10 minutes at the listening station I decided it was worth the $2 and headed home with my prizes.

Well Wind and Wuthering was excellent. As I played Trick all was going well until the bass pedals in Squonk kicked in and then wow, what happened there? I really started listening. Damn vinyl really can sound better given the right pressing and all those other considerations. The bass pedals boomed, the piano was light and the vocals sounded like they are in the room and no I had not returned to some of my younger pursuits.

Well it is really an enjoyable experience listening to the album and it still sounds good this morning and it’s my third play now. Apparently I don’t have a great pressing according to the Steve Hoffman forums but they don’t have my damaged ears and this album sounds great so they can suck eggs.

The problem I have always had with A Trick of the Tail has been the silly songs about mythical creatures. It all went a little Lewis Carroll here for Genesis. The music and melodies are as usual right there and catchy as ever but the lyrics are a little twee. Although my favorite post Gabriel tracks are on  here with Mad Man Moon and Ripples and Squonk if it had different lyrics would be the equal to Kashmir in power.It’s an album I have always enjoyed since I came home with a copy from Portugal which is now long gone between moves and other things.

The only Genesis left from my old collection is Selling England, The Lamb and Foxtrot. Since getting  a new turntable I seem to be getting more Genesis and it is still fun although sometimes I wish I had all those old albums again. IN fact I often sit here and wish that I had all those albums again.

So on to the blazing Oregon heat this weekend and it seems the rivers have run dry before summer really got going as fire season hits early and the rivers are at late August levels. I did get to visit some of my old vinyl today in my sons collection and that was quite fun.

somebody help me I am falling…

I seem to write a lot about Progressive Rock, maybe because it is I am really going back to when I started buying records right now. I spent a lot of my teen years listening to progressive rock while my contemporaries spent time with Joy Division and Magazine. Over time I have got some of my prog tendencies under control, although I am still fascinated by the music, recently in a record store I spent time thinking about the Police, The Clash, some Stiff Little Fingers and other albums I ignored as a youth, I ended up carrying out some Tull, Genesis, Fairport Convention and Beatles, totally predictable as always.

generator

Not many progressive rock bands can claim to have influenced punk but Johnny Rotten was good enough to cite Peter Hamill as an influence. He never managed to make Van Der Graaf Generator hip but it did give them some kudos in 1977. Of course the album he chose was Nadir’s Big Chance which was technically a solo album at the time but contained all the members of the band. Nowadays punks are appearing on all sorts of albums by those dinosaurs they were seeking to replace at the time or at least admitting that those were the albums they were listening to prior to ripping their shirts and piercing whatever piece of the anatomy they could find. Some are even delving into the concept album.

You can hear the show here:

http://www.vandergraafgenerator.co.uk/johnnyrotten.htm

This album must be one of the most aggressive progressive rock albums, it is consistently disturbing throughout which King Crimson at this point would only achieve in small doses and eternally fascinating. It does have Mr Fripp on one track and I have to think some of the brutal attack present on this album leaked over into Crimson.

I bought this album as a cheap pressing sometime in the early 80’s because it was on the Charisma label, home of Genesis, Lindisfarne and Monty Python among others.  I had no idea what to expect, I was expecting melodies and whimsy, some fantastical elements and beauty, what I got was songs of dark violence.

The first lyrics are:

So you live in the bottom of the sea
And you kill all that come near you
But you are very lonely
Because all the other fish fear you

The vocal was delivered in a dramatic, aggressive manner with a range I had never heard before. The major instruments were keyboards and saxes but at times it sounded like violins or the screeching of strange animals, the songs were about killer sharks,  homicidal and ultimately remorseful emperors, loneliness and disillusion and  I was dumbfounded, I played it three times straight through on the fourth time my dad complained so much I had to stop.

I spent days trying to understand the lyrics. I tried to get my head around the music, few if any guitars, violent imagery about loneliness, torture and death. It is an album that has stuck in my head since I first heard it. I have owned that cheap vinyl, the CD and mp3 it has apparently always been around since the first day I bought it.

So when I had a $12 dollar coupon for ebreggae and found the vinyl on sale I got excited as all I would pay was the postage and what can be better than that? The package arrived all nicely protected and sealed up pristine and then I looked at the label, 4 Men With Beards.

When I got back into buying vinyl I did a little research especially about reissues and this label has a patchy reputation. There is speculation about mastering from CD’s, poor sound quality. little quality assurance. Ultimately the album sounds fine to my ears, it has a warm rich sound I remember from that 8o’s vinyl and is clear so maybe I got away with it this time and at the end of the day it was $4 postage so not so bad.

Buying records has certainly got more difficult than it used to be, as usual the popularity of something is causing a certain amount of cashing in and taking advantage of the hipness of something. It is a significant investment to buy an album which it always really was as a teen as well regardless of how rose tinted we see the past. However it is more difficult to spot the good deals with so many fakes and bad pressings out there.

Guide Vocal

I am going to say, well write, this in public for the first time ever.

Duke is the best Genesis album without Peter Gabriel.

I am well aware this contravenes common opinion, we are all supposed to bow down to the glory and pomp of A dukeTrick of the Tail or the flawed genius of Wind and Wuthering, we are not supposed to raise the three piece band up as excellent. It is ok to admire the longevity of the band or their pop sensibilities but we are not supposed to prefer their output.

Don’t get me wrong I love Mad Man Moon and One For The Vine but Trick and Wind and Wuthering would have made a great album if combined without the silly songs about mice and Squonks.

Duke is a classic album, it is the first that really breaks away from Gabriel and it thankfully has no songs on it about animals.  It even has a  concept for the old progheads among us.The strange story of the funny Duke guy Albert. It is often referred to as the Duke suite and was meant to be, Behind the Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal, Turn It On Again, Duke’s Travels, and Duke’s End. On one side of the album and the other songs on side 2.

Instead of doing this the band decided to integrate all those songs from side 2 into the album proper and thereby in my opinion created a masterpiece, Songs of loss alienation, confusion and love all mixed in with some serious prog leanings and no songs about mice.

FullSizeRenderDuke was the first Genesis album I bought, I remember listening to it while my Dad watched the news to realize that the band were playing the Liverpool Empire that night and I did not have a ticket. So I never saw Genesis but I certainly played this album to death.

The German pressing I am listening to tonight does not have the crazy Duke guy running around the label like my old vinyl but it does have my favorite label of all time the Famous Charisma Label. There is that cray mad hatter going round and round on the turntable all out of focus and fun. I miss watching the little Duke guy running around though.

The Collins songs on this album are truly things of beauty as well, they are some of the simplest things Genesis had played they are also not as calculated as some of the later songs after Abacab.

There you have it then the word is out, I am out of the closet, Duke rocks it is the best post Gabriel album by Genesis and I shall continue to relive my teenage fascination with this album through the wonder of second hand German vinyl. Remember now Turn It On Again.

I defy any band to produce as exciting an end to an album as Duke’s Travels and Duke’s End, they are transcendent and worth the price of admission alone.

Play Me My Song

Been a few weeks, it’s not like I was busy I just had little or really nothing to say.

There has been much music and a few books, the books are mostly about work, Farrell’s the Myth of Male Power and Gurian’s How Do I Help Him? Both are really useful if you live with a man or boy, or work with one.

With science fiction. I became disappointed by Frederick Pohl’s Gateway, it was an incredible idea but the main character was so unlikable.gateway It was set in a universe were humanity was a disposable commodity, starvation the norm and medical care something to be striven for, far too close to reality at times maybe? It’s a shame as I’ve really enjoyed the other Pohl books I’ve read.

It  has been a struggle to read, I have spent much more time watching TV, Glee, Once Upon A Time, the new season of Grimm and the new Sherlock Holmes show Elementary, although there is no need for the Sherlock connection apart from to attract an audience which I guess it did with me. Most promising worst TV has to be Arrow, it’s so out there and yet cliched that we may become hooked and another season of Being Human.

Thanksgiving has now come and gone, the turkey, well most of it, is eaten and all that is left is the remains. The carcass may be destined for soup but by then we may be tired of turkey all together. It was a good day and as an Englishman living in the USA it is my favorite holiday as there is no pressure to bring a gift for anyone.

Musically it has been a Genesis fest,revisitiedI am not ready to admit that Duke is my favorite but it is the one I know all the words to. This all began with Steve Hackett’s latest Genesis revisited album. Out of curiosity I bought it and the versions on the album were so close but the singing so different I had to revisit the originals. Of course Gabriel’ s  reading of the lyrics will always be the best but Hackett has managed to revisit the songs with enough passion to make the album enjoyable.

Genesis are a band I have obsessed over as much if not more than Fairport Convention and Pink Floyd. They are also the band I have managed to shamefully hide my love of over the years. Let’s face it they are not as acceptable as most of their much more pompous contemporaries. It is still alright to love Yes, enjoy ELP and King Crimson have become beattified. Genesis however largely because of their success in the 80’s have become the prog band everyone loves to ridicule. Even in their 80’s shame they could still knock out Mama or Heathaze, yes they would never sing about giant plants, supper, or mythical beasts but they could still crack the 8 minute barrier when they wanted to and the magic of Genesis was always the melodies. Even if their guitarist invented tapping they were never going to shake their heads although their lead singer might fly and wear a flower or foxes head and a dress.

Genesis were never as flamboyant as a whole, they left that up to the singer.gen gabriel They did however always have a pop sensibility that could be heard in their melodies. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway may be an almost indecipherable prog rock masterpiece but it is filled with 4-5 minute classic songs, the longest being In The Cage. It is a series of short songs tied together by an at best tenuous story, and what other English band would attempt to write the bizarre story of a Puerto Rican punk sucked into the underworld from Times Square. Carpet Crawlers, Fly On A Windshield and the others are all great songs that do not rely on the story to carry them, they succeed almost despite the story.

When Gabriel left the melodies remained and the costumes and theatrics left, Collins filled the void with his charm. For some reason Collins is blamed for the demise of Genesis but they entered their most successful phase with him out front. Yes they got more approachable as a band but they always acknowledged their prog roots, live and even on record. We Can’t Dance had Fading Lights to end the album, it was a brave move for a “pop” band to throw a 10 minute track on an album, Invisible Touch had Domino and the Genesis album had Home By The Sea and 2nd Home By the Sea, all adventurous tracks nestled among the pop songs.

gensis collinsThe Collin’s years also had A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering, two albums filled with progressive masterpieces such as One For The Vine, Ripples and so many others. Live they were still knocking out White Mountain and Supper’s Ready almost to the end. The true reason for fans distaste is that they actually progressed as a band and allowed their love of pop music to spill out and become part of their sound. Without some of that awful 80’s production the albums would have sounded so much better but that was the time.

Well this post has been a long time coming. It’s kind of fun to put my love of Genesis out there. I watched Prog Rock Brittania the other day on youtube, it’s a fascinating look at the Prog movement and how it is viewed as the porn of music, anyway take a look it;s wirth the hour and a half:

If after all that you want to listen to Genesis here is my considered list:

Nursery Cryme

Foxtrot

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Wind and Wuthering

Seconds Out

Duke

Of course you could just go an immerse yourself in the music and have fun with all the albums.

I started writing this in November and so much has happened since then, anyway my hope for this New Year is that we pay attention this year to our similarities and not be so focused on our differences and that politicians can look beyond their reelection hopes.