GENESIS Albums Ranked From Worst to Best

GENESIS Albums Ranked From Worst to Best

Genesis started as an amalgam of two bands formed by schoolboys attending Charterhouse School in Godalming, England; the original lineup consisted of Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Chris Stewart, though Stewart was soon replaced as drummer by John Silver and then John Mayhew. By the end of 1970, Phillips and Mayhew had left the band, with Phil Collins joining as drummer, and by early 1971, guitarist Steve Hackett had filled the gap left by Phillips.The lineup of Gabriel, Banks, Hackett, Rutherford, and Collins remained in place until Gabriel’s departure in 1975.

During the period of 1970-1975, the band produced some of the most widely-acclaimed albums of the progressive rock era, including Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and the seminal album Selling England by the Pound, which generated Genesis’ first foray into the charts with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”. This lineup culminated with the band’s magnum opus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 1974. Following the tour promoting the album, frontman Peter Gabriel left the group in mid 1975.

The band regrouped and went on releasing three albums eight studio albums with Phil Collins stepping as a singer. Collins left the band in 1996, and was replaced by Ray Wilson with whom the band released their final studio effort, 1997’s Calling All Stations.

With the group’s impending 50th anniversary this year, we are looking back at Genesis’ albums and ranking them from their worst to the best.

15. Calling All Stations (1997)

Calling All Stations was the fifteenth and final studio record under the Genesis name, and has more than earned its prestigious status as the lowest point in their career. The basis for this absolute disappointment was built on the Banks‘ and Rutherford‘s inability to commit to a musical direction. Now, of course the band’s material, even at its most commercial, had always retained at least some “artful” elements. Many of these songs appear willing to return to a progressive sound, but try to accomplish this without sacrificing pop accessibility.

Whether they suffered from a temporary loss of creativity or just didn’t care much one way or the other, the effort on the band’s part seems minimal. The fact that two different drummers, Nir Zidkyahu and Nick D’Virgilio (ex-Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train), were brought in for the album only increases the sense that Genesis were no longer properly functioning as a group. Chester Thompson, who had been a constant additional live performer along with guitarist Daryl Stuermer for nearly 20 years, was actually denied permanent membership before this happened, and both joined Collins on his way out.

Ironically, it is Ray Wilson who seems to have put the most heart in his performance. His voice is fairly distinguishable, but maintains a very similar tone throughout the album, severely lacking in character compared to that of Peter Gabriel or even Phil Collins. As the record moves forward, it becomes painfully clear that his typical crooning does more harm than good.

14. We Can’t Dance (1991)

Once knights of prog, then masters of pop, Genesis had reached their commercial peak with 1986’s Invisible Touch, arguably one of the greatest pop albums of the decade. An understandable pause followed in the wake of its success, and Phil, Mike and Tony did not emerge with a new record until five years later. We Can’t Dance, the band’s fourteenth LP, did not climb to quite the same heights as its predecessor, but still spawned numerous hit singles and ended up selling millions, which was more than enough to uphold their popularity worldwide.

Despite all of this, even Genesis’ longest-standing power trio formation was slowly nearing its end. When Collins chose to fully dedicate himself to his solo career, finally leaving the band in 1996, they were left without that irreplaceable singing drummer who saved them from fading away after Peter Gabriel had left more than 15 years prior (note this is the short version). Banks and Rutherford were somehow crazy enough to attempt a final album under the Genesis name with some other guy, and well, we all know how that one turned out. Regardless of what came after however, We Can’t Dance had its own shortcomings. There are some great moments here, but the presentation as a whole is a rather uneven and overly long mix of catchy pop rock songs, (semi-)progressive tracks, and the unavoidable balladry.

Compared to the mostly upbeat Invisible Touch, the tempo of most of the songs is significantly lower here, giving the album a relaxed, sometimes even atmospheric vibe that mostly works in its favour. “No Son of Mine” and “I Can’t Dance,” both among Genesis’ best known singles, rely on their catchy choruses as always but never really shift into a higher gear. Their progression is more subtle, yet apparent enough to keep them enjoyable. An abundantly clear exception to this general set-up is “Jesus He Knows Me.” It’s the liveliest track on the record by some distance and well-known as a satire of televangelism; in this, the lyrics are all but subtle.

13. Abacab (1981)

In spite of prog rock’s dwindling relevancy, things were definitely looking up for Genesis at the start of the 1980’s. Duke remains one of the few fine examples of a prog-gone-pop record done right, combining upbeat melodies and catchy choruses with the adventurous spirit of progressive music. It did what had to be done, namely reforming a sound that just wasn’t right for the times anymore. The band were initially wise to adapt to this new sort of fashion, but when they released Abacab a year later, their credibility became a lot more questionable.

Apparently, the trio did not intend to continue where their previous LP had left them, discarding a number of compositions meant for its follow-up that they felt sounded too familiar. In taking further distance from the remains of classic Genesis, Abacab couldn’t have done a better job. The album’s “bold” experimentation does indeed deliver some different tunes, but in the attempt to introduce their audience to another face, Banks, Collins and Rutherford lose too much of what they were.

The 7-minute title track is one of the few occasions during which the record at least attempts to keep things a little progressive. While it succeeds in creating a punchy enough opening, the charm tends to wear off eventually: the revolving assault of synthesizers, guitar hook and chorus is far too simplistic to be allowed this level of repetition. “Dodo/Lurker” is the other epic that Abacab has in store, featuring some great organ portions but coming across as messy overall, especially in Collins’ odd vocal contributions. Although it seemed that he’d found out how to best work the limited range of his voice on Duke, he strays a little here; his varying accents on “Who Dunnit?” also fail to make an impression.

Abacab was an unfortunate entry into Genesis’ catalogue, even more so when considering how well the trio had at first adapted themselves to evolving musical trends. It remains one of the group’s weakest and most inconsistent albums, providing virtually nothing of note in the progressive field and not exactly too much in the form of great pop songs.

12. From Genesis to Revelation (1969)

Before the name Genesis became associated with poppy love songs sung by Phil Collins, it stood for one of the genre-defining progressive bands of the ‘70s. And before the band earned that status, they recorded a debut pop album. Collins had nothing to do with it; he would only join the group two years after they made their first recording, as would guitarist Steve Hackett. Genesis initially consisted of vocalist Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, bass player Mike Rutherford and guitarist Anthony Philips, and experienced somewhat of a slow, directionless start before discovering their actual potential.

Fans of pop Genesis are unlikely to have even heard about it, and their progressive followers probably won’t care about From Genesis to Revelation. Fact is, this often unmentioned debut is neither worth knowing nor caring about, and doesn’t fit in with anything else in the remainder of their discography. Producer Jonathan King, who gave the group the opportunity to record their first LP, even after they released two low-charting singles, is also partly to blame for the unimpressive result. His hand in the recording process had the inexperienced band compose songs based on Biblical subjects (clarifying the origin of their name), which he later “enhanced” with orchestral sections, further pushing back their own input.

The eventual result offers little excitement, going through thirteen tracks at a consistently dreary pace. The arrangements here are built on little more than piano/organ and vocals, with some acoustic guitar, and are forgotten all too quickly. There’s some historical value to be found, at least: Banks would of course ensure a leading role as keyboardist in Genesis’ unique progressive brand, while a recognizable but very timid Peter Gabriel gives little indication of the vocal strength and extravagance that would soon make him into a truly unique singer. The band’s musical talents remain mostly hidden below the surface of this forgettable debut, proven no more than a stepping stone for one of the most remarkable forces in progressive rock.

11. Genesis (1983)

With 1981’s Abacab, Genesis had shed most of their progressive sensibilities, becoming more and more acquainted with commercial success. Banks, Collins and Rutherford released their self-titled follow-up two years later, which, after a period of divided songwriting in the post-Gabriel years, credited all songs to the collective trio. Though it can hardly be considered fine taste for any prog rock connoisseur, Genesis does come out slightly stronger than its predecessor.

Opener “Mama” runs on little more than a heavy drum machine and eerie synthesizer, Collins moving in and out of the mix with desperation-laden vocals. It’s a fairly un-poppy way to start, building definite potential, but the happily bouncing melody of “That’s All” is worlds apart, creating a staggering contrast between the record’s first two tracks; too many songs tend to go off into entirely different directions.

There are the obligatory ballad inclusions, of course (“Taking It All Too Hard”), along with a mix of material that’s not as serious-minded. The latter category ranges from pretty entertaining (“Just a Job to Do”) to just plain silly (“Illegal Alien”). The most “progressive” piece is “Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea.” Part one throws more classic pop hooks into action, and good ones at that, whereas part two provides the much-needed instrumental stretch. A great suite, but admittedly one that cannot live up to similar compositions on Duke.

Even if they were on their way to recording a masterful pop album in 1986, Genesis hadn’t really been able to regain their footing at this point. The group’s 12th LP is decent at best, again lacking a real sense of direction. Despite a few memorable tunes, it is unworthy of its title.

10. …And Then There Were Three… (1978)

Following the respective departures of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett in ’75 and ’77, Genesis entered into what was to be their longest and most successful period as a trio. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford signified this second rearrangement with ...And Then There Were Three…, which served as the transition from Wind & Wuthering’s fading progressive wanderings to the pop-infested Duke. Essentially, this means that the band’s final ‘70s recording still seems a little unsure about accepting the popular breakthrough that beckoned. It’s an unsteady merger of Genesis’ artistic and commercial sides, one that ultimately allowed the fan-hated pop to sneak in.

Divided as it is, there are plenty of parts to the album that manage to appease the progressive crowd, even if the average song length is shortened. Collins is coming into his own as a vocalist at this point, seeming more confident and having a far larger presence than before, although the sound still relies heavily on Banks’ keyboards. Rutherford took over as lead guitarist when Hackett’s position wasn’t filled, keeping his bass duties the same way Collins kept his drumming. Obviously, tour musicians were added, but the remaining Genesis core continued to be fully responsible for their output.

During the record’s strongest moments, the pop/prog mix works out well. “Burning Rope” balances the two nicely, revealing some classic Genesis passages among catchy melodies. The band’s characteristic storytelling is still upheld with “The Lady Lies,” though the narrative is much more straightforward. Accessibility does persist even within the prog-oriented material, and the muddy production doesn’t do much to add some punch to the songs. The positively chaotic rhythm of “Down and Out” makes it a misleading opener, which ever so slightly recalls the more intense sections of The Lamb; references to the past are generally a good thing here.

When the band truly ventures into pop territory, the results are uneven. The oddly placed “Follow You Follow Me” is the unavoidable hit, catchy and cleverly written, but lacking in substance. For those who believe the group ever sold their soul for success, this is a particularly great track to blame. “Ballad of Big” is their first attempt at a simple rocker, which really fails to make an impression, and the equally unremarkable “Many Too Many” finds itself a throwaway among too many (no pun intended) other ballads. Despite the overall inconsistency, there are gems to be found, particularly the “Afterglow”-esque “Undertow” and the quiet “Snowbound.” Genesis clearly went downhill after the losses of two crucial members, but …And Then There Were Three… is just interesting enough to look into.

09. Invisible Touch (1986)

As Genesis marched through the 1980s with a multitude of hits but a number of uneven records, Phil Collins’ tenure as a solo artist came to a point where it had overtaken the popularity of the group. After the success of No Jacket Required, his pop career became so intertwined with the band’s output that the two could barely kept separate. This eventually led to Invisible Touch, by far Genesis‘ best-selling album. Firing up the kind of catchy pop anthems and tender love ballads that others would have killed for around the time, it has also been dismissed by fans of their older work for its ultimate commercial viability. Michael, Philip and Anthony had steered right into the loving arms of the masses, and there was no going back.

Now, perhaps the above may be something of an exaggerated bit of history, but Invisible Touch did not become a landmark of its era by chance; all necessary trademarks are in place. The tracks are laden with keyboards and synthesizers, and seem paired with programmed drums more often than they are not. No room exists for any real guitar parts, which are pushed back to a minimum presence. The sound is outdated and the album arguably makes very little use of the band’s proven talents. True, when comparing it to the brilliance of many of their past works, it’s a poor accomplishment at best. But Genesis were, almost literally, only half the group they had once been. They had evolved under the influence of the decade, and ended up making one of its defining records. With that in mind, worse things could have happened.

Since it more closely resembled the sound of his own work, this has been called an unofficial Phil Collins album, and during many songs it does feel as such. Collins was the one responsible for those vocal hooks, after all, having made these love songs so damn catchy. Whether he’s singing of women with an “Invisible Touch,” messing around with your feelings, or about being “In Too Deep” a relationship, or how you might simply be “Throwing It All Away” for them; he sells it and sells it well. But in the end, of course, it is the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford that makes these tunes into something that’s more moving than your average pop song.

Indeed it is still a Genesis record at its core, and so there are tracks capable of challenging the one-dimensional pop formula. “Land of Confusion” was one of the record’s biggest hits, thanks to its infectious rhythm, simple message, and memorable video, which featured puppet caricatures of the band, various world leaders and other celebrities. Notably, both “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and “Domino” pass the 8-minute mark, keeping at least a hint of prog intact. The former succeeds particularly well in combining lengthier instrumental sections with yet another appealing chorus, which backs in and out again as the songs plods along at a pleasant slower pace. The latter is the closest thing to a traditional progressive song that can be found here, coming in no less than two parts. It may be of small comfort to those that love classic Genesis, needing to be accessible for a broader audience like everything else, but that does make it a better fit on the album.

Like it or not, Invisible Touch is a classic of the 1980s. It’s a product of its time above all else, created by a band that realized playing by the new rules was a better idea than stubbornly sticking to the old ones. In this regard, Genesis handled things far better than any of their former peers, no longer operating under a compromise that has, in most cases, only resulted in inconsistent, unconvincing records that failed to express which side of the crowd they wanted to please. This was the exact opposite, maybe a nightmare to some, but a glorious thing for those who just enjoy a great pop album.

08. Duke (1980)

Duke is Genesis’ first proper venture into pop music, marking the start of an era that heavily divided fans. Its share of accessible, upbeat songs did not fare too well with all of their longer-serving supporters, but the hearts of the larger public were easily won. The album doesn’t deserve every bit of harsh judgement, as the band’s creative skills were anything but a spent force; within Duke’s conformity to pop are plenty of sections that match a certain reputation. It was a marriage doomed to fail, but for the time being, pop and prog lived in acceptance of each other. Genesis couldn’t have faced the 1980’s in a more fitting way.

At this point, their more adventurous writing was still coming out stronger; the album’s prog-oriented moments hold together its relatively straightforward portions. After the unsure direction of …And Then There Were Three…, the band once more played to their strengths. Rutherford really wasn’t too capable of filling the gap that Steve Hackett left, and shifted some weight back to his tested role as bassist. In turn, this allowed him and Collins to put their fine rhythm work as usual. With Banks’ keyboards going unchallenged as instrumental lead, the trio’s slightly reformed sound remained very distinct.

Opinions have always differed when it comes to final worthwhile Genesis release. Many progressive purists already find anything without the presence of Gabriel and/or Hackett unworthy of any claim, and the surviving formation didn’t build much of a better case for them. Duke however deserves plenty of credit, going far beyond blatant pop appeal. Despite the inclusion of a few average songs, Banks, Collins and Rutherford were still firmly rooted in established trademarks, delivering their first and finest work of the 1980s; it has every right to be called the last truly great Genesis album.

07. Trespass (1970)

Following the release of their largely unimpressive and overproduced debut, Genesis broke free from the restrictions of their original producer, taking creative matters into their own hands and moving beyond their initial pop songs rather quickly. Trespass is a crucial transitional album, taking a daring step into progressive territory; a step that would prove too large for guitarist Anthony Philips, who developed stage fright and had to quit the band. Despite this, his fondness of the acoustic remained an influence on their later compositions.

In line with genre tradition, Trespass features a smaller amount of longer-running tracks, indeed showing a lot of ambition for a young band that just released a record of three-minute pop songs. Genesis obviously meant business, but were still looking for the right manner of execution. There’s multiple song sections, tempo shifts and instrumental knowhow, here based more around folk melodies than symphonic elements.

Gabriel’s a cappella opening to “Looking for Someone” succeeds at introducing the band’s uniqueness straight off, his characteristic voice not yet at full confidence but already in place. Philips whips up some dominating electric leads during the opener, something that’s actually uncommon for this era of Genesis. Though his playing is not quite as defined as it is on later albums, Banks’ organ is never far off, already assuring its position as primary instrument. This is especially true for “Visions of Angels,” which perhaps comes closest to classic Genesis as far as the keyboards are concerned.

It’s a major leap from where they started out, but the album can feel barren at some points. Some sections don’t seem entirely fleshed out, and the music seems to become one-sided. Right up until the final track that is, because “The Knife” is something else, coming unexpectedly after the calm “Dusk.” A darker, angrier piece with a soaring organ, distorted guitars and frantic drums, it is an ideal closer that surpasses everything before it. Overall, Trespass may not be up to par with what the classic line-up created, but remains enjoyable in its own right.

06. Wind & Wuthering (1976)

Even after Genesis were left as a four-piece during the mid-‘70s, carrying on the progressive torch as best they could with one man less, friction between their numbers persisted. With A Trick of the Tail arriving earlier and Wind & Wuthering later in the year, 1976 was a productive time for the newly Collins-led ensemble, but their upholding creativity could not prevent another member from stepping out. Despite his phenomenal playing, Steve Hackett had been continually underused as a lead guitarist, eventually growing dissatisfied with the weight of his input in the recording process. He fully devoted himself to his solo career after leaving the band, though not before providing his valuable contributions to the essential live release Seconds Out, arguably the final snapshot of “progressive” Genesis.

Wind & Wuthering follows the course laid down before, although it is a calmer, once again more orchestral work. Gone are the elements of jazz fusion, and back are Tony Banks’ all-dominating keyboards. Judging by his proficiency throughout and the execution of “One for the Vine” and “All in a Mouse’s Night,” both of which he takes sole credit for, that really doesn’t seem to have been a bad development. Unfortunately, the band’s interplay does suffer for it. The full extent of their sound presents itself strongly during “Eleventh Earl of Mar,” as well as the two-part instrumental “Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…” “In That Quiet Earth,” but the particular vibe that gave a lot of life to A Trick of the Tail did not make it all the way through.

It can still be safely qualified as progressive, but the album does contain the first real hints at Genesis’ future direction. “Your Own Special Way” is a first love song from them, and a very average, overly lengthy one at that. It’s the only clear low point, as “Afterglow” wraps up things in much better fashion. The slow-moving ballad is a perfect fit for Collins, who ironically enough had no part in any sort of love song here. Soon enough, the remaining trio would ready to seal the deal with pop music. They were in for a lot of success; prog was not.

05. Nursery Crime (1971)

While Trespass proved a step in the right direction, Genesis didn’t start to develop the full extent of their sound until their third record. Bolstered with the more versatile Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, the classic quintet was finally realized on Nursery Cryme, introducing what many (rightfully) consider the greatest period in the band’s history. Genesis were not afraid to be different and continued to distinguish themselves not only from the general standards of pop music, but also among the rest of the British progressive wave that emerged during the early ‘70s.

Nursery Cryme further expanded upon the kind of theatrical rock epic first exercised on Trespass, specifically its culminating closer, “The Knife.” The record is more or less centred around three of these lengthier compositions, alternated with somewhat shorter tales and pleasant interludes: a basic structure that would also be applied to later albums. What makes their third album an immediate greater accomplishment is that Genesis are mastering the build and release of tension, something that was one of the underdeveloped aspects of its less extrovert predecessor.

The contrast shows quickly on the 10-minute “The Musical Box,” which Gabriel opens softly along some beautiful guitar work. The vocals hint only very subtly at the upcoming aggression, which enters with sudden electrified guitar and an alarming organ melody, while Collins goes out to show his chops behind the kit. The drummer-turned-singer didn’t take long to receive his first vocal spotlight, effectively singing lead on the pleasant “For Absent Friends.”

Although his part would be somewhat diminished in favour of Banks’ leading role, Hackett extensively displays his unique tone on the brilliant opener, which introduces the classic Genesis sound in truly great fashion. Another one of his finest contributions is the raw, distorted solo during “The Return of the Giant Hogweed;” not the tale of an actual giant that it may seem, but of the introduction of a certain plant named giant hogweed in the United Kingdom, which had hazardous environmental consequences.

Gabriel’s trademark storytelling, whether playful or serious, soon became one of Genesis’ signature traits. He fires his lyrics rapidly on the shorter “Harold the Barrel,” voicing multiple characters in a scenario describing a restaurant owner who jumps to his death in front of a crowd. He is also at his dramatic best on “The Fountain of Salmacis,” concerning a nymph in Greek mythology that attempted to rape Hermaphroditus (the child of Hermes and Aphrodite). The final track is perhaps the most bombastic piece on the album and employs the mellotron in a way that recalls King Crimson’s “Epitaph.”

Nursery Cryme was another milestone for Genesis, improving on their previous effort in every possible sense and allowing their imagination to run wild, thanks to the successful chemistry and combined ability of the classic five-piece. The first of four essentials.

04. A Trick of the Tail (1976)

With the departure of Peter Gabriel, Genesis took a massive hit. That much may be clear, but Phil Collins didn’t just start taking things over when the chance presented itself. Despite receiving two minor lead spots in the past, he had been very much comfortable in his backing role, perfectly accentuating Gabriel and creating an effective vocal dynamic; this drummer had no intention of stepping up to the microphone full-time. Still, the band were faced with the task of replacing an irreplaceable singer. They briefly discussed the option of carrying on as an instrumental four-piece, but eventually commenced the search for a new front figure. Many came in to audition, but not a single candidate felt right for the job.

In the meantime, an album’s worth of music had already been written. Collins entered the studio to have a go at “Squonk,” and the rest is history. Or so it would be, because things changed gradually before the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford created Invisible Touch. The group’s initial impulse was to stay true to their progressive roots, and A Trick of the Tail, marking the start of a transition period, does exactly that. Even while disregarding the absence of Gabriel’s voice however, four-man Genesis grew into a different musical creature than they used to be. With Steve Hackett still on board, they remained worthy of their name regardless.

The band’s seventh LP recalls the British tales of Selling England by the Pound more strongly than it does The Lamb’s scope and ambition. A logical development, since the story of Rael had exacted its toll. The fact that it emerged during a time when Genesis were in an unsure position singer-wise shows. The album is mainly a product of instruments, guided rather than narrated by vocals. The basic structure of the songs is simpler, but the music no less challenging.

Genesis pulled out of a tough situation after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, finding new direction as a four-piece instead of simply revisiting their past work. The lack of Gabriel’s presence cannot be avoided, but even without him, the band managed to excel. The material that’s on offer here appears more conventional at first, but may actually take more time to sink in and be fully appreciated. When that happens, A Trick of the Tail reveals itself to be truly a quality Genesis album.

03. Foxtrot (1972)

If Trespass was a practice run and Nursery Cryme merely a first realization of Genesis’ potential, their fourth record shows a power that’s fully unleashed. Foxtrot is grander in sound and simultaneously manages to rock harder. With a great deal of progressive fans listing it as their favourite within the classic period, it can be ranked among the top three Genesis albums.

For one thing, Foxtrot carries what is arguably the greatest opening/closing duo in the group’s history. “Watcher of the Skies” has a majestic mellotron intro that meets a pounding rhythm section. Banks’ playing is stunning and asserts his dominance as leading instrumentalist, while Rutherford finally emerges as a valuable bass player, driving a forceful foundation with Collins that they keep up throughout the remaining songs.

Peter Gabriel’s creative, often quirky storytelling is once again inescapable on the rest of the material. “Get ‘Em Out by Friday” continues the trend set with “Harold the Barrel,” the singer voicing a whole set of different characters. The lyrical content itself is a cleverly written social commentary on some of the corrupted British landlords at the time.

Foxtrot’s two shorter songs are interspersed among its more attention-grabbing epics, which makes them pale in comparison, but not free of their own merits. “Time Table’s” piano arrangement is positively understated, and “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” employs some wonderful acoustic guitars (played by Hackett, Banks and Rutherford), building towards an increasingly upbeat ending. Eventually though, the entire middle section seems nothing more than a preparation for what’s to come

The album’s grand finale is the 23-minute “Supper’s Ready,” preceded by Hackett’s gorgeous solo piece “Horizons.” It remains the longest track Genesis ever recorded, its seven sections flowing into each other flawlessly. Though still predominantly keyboard-led, the entire band’s array of skills and sounds comes forward, growing and waning in intensity. Gabriel once again holds it all together with his trademark narrative and incredible sense of intonation. Whether presented as delicate whispers or with raspy exuberance, his vocals are unmatched in their delivery, leading and defining Foxtrot as strongly as any other progressive Genesis record. The album’s status as genre classic is well-deserved.

02. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of the highest landmarks in the history of double concepts, sprung from the collective and curious creativity of Genesis, who were for the final time fronted by Peter Gabriel. As he was experiencing personal problems prior to the recording of the album, the group’s collaborative writing method became an unusually divided process. Gabriel penned most of the lyrics (several of them inspired by his own dreams), while the others were largely responsible for the instrumental aspect. A great part of the text remains completely ambiguous, which has led to an unending discussion about its actual content and many differing interpretations of the concept’s meaning. Even despite this separation, music and words fit each other remarkably well, shaping something that goes beyond anything that Genesis had ever done or would ever do.

GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down Broadway is an absolutely breathtaking journey, a concept record that the world may never see the likes of again. Not only is the story brilliant and intriguing, but the music fits the concept perfectly. This is Gabriel‘s final stand as a member of Genesis, and a damn incredible one at that. Everything from his lyricism to his vocals are outstanding. His usage of his voice is both innovative and versatile; delivering passion and creativity on songs such as the title track. None of the other members deserve to be overlooked either, for the synthesizers are a tremendous factor in the success of the album, as is Phil Collins‘ drumming and Steve Hackett‘s guitar work. The Lamb Lies Down Broadway is a masterpiece that may be overlooked by other concept records such as Pink Floyd‘s The Wall and The Who‘s Quadrophenia. When it comes down to all of the factors; the musicianship, the storyline, the lyrics, and the atmosphere, The Lamb Lies Down Broadway is as damn near perfect as it gets.

01. Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Somehow, Genesis were able to keep getting better at what they were doing every step of the way, surpassing each previous work with a more refined one. Foxtrot stood as their best record yet, containing the masterful epics “Watcher of the Skies” and the massive “Supper’s Ready.” The band’s tested formula for theatrical compositions, filled with magnificent instrumental passages and a proper dose of Britishness, was arguably brought to perfection on their seminal fifth LP, Selling England by the Pound. The penultimate album by the five-piece formation can be seen as a final sharpening of these signature Genesis elements that first truly came to life on Nursery Cryme, right before the group were pushed to, and ultimately divided by another kind of brilliance. Though not entirely flawless, Selling England is a truly phenomenal work that counts among the greatest in ‘70s progressive rock.

As had become more or less of a Genesis (or general progressive) tradition, the album shows its merits most abundantly during its epics, four of them divided among another four tracks. Though it can hardly be called a concept, most songs contain distinctively English themes that are served with both irony and playfulness. The bombast is more restrained than before; most instrumental parts are tightly constructed and seem better calculated to employ the entire band, rather than its separate members. This may not allow the music to suddenly burst out as strongly, but strengthens the compositions considerably.

Can you tell me where my country lies?

Said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes.

It lies with me, cried the Queen of Maybe;

For her merchandise, he traded in his prize.

So opens “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” with Gabriel’s a cappella intro mimicking Trespass’ “Looking for Someone” and immediately becoming one of the album’s most memorable moments. The singer is in his finest voice yet and commands the ebb and flow of volume taking place behind him. The band’s more unified approach is immediately notable here, as everyone’s tricks have an effective, continuing role in the arrangement, even when it quickly changes its direction: Hackett is once more proven a masterful guitar player whether it comes to an electric or acoustic, Banks as always a genius on any type of keyboard, and Rutherford with Collins forming a rock-solid foundation. Selling England could well be Genesis’ cooperative peak, even if the group may not have written and recorded it in that state of mind. The balanced production works wonders in that regard.

This comes forward especially well in the largely instrumental “Firth of Fifth.” The classical piano part and stunning guitar solo during the middle of the track are two clear individual standouts, and despite that, neither feels like an ego trip, fitting very comfortably within the song and only working to enhance it. Even “After the Ordeal,” essentially a solo Hackett piece that both Gabriel and Banks were against including, comes across as a combined effort with some great keys behind that guitar.

In turn, Banks retaliates with a four-minute solo during the final section of “The Cinema Show;” it is “saved” from being nothing more than a keyboard show-off by a thunderous rhythm section. The first part is also quite beautiful, with gorgeous acoustic parts and vocal harmonies between Gabriel and Collins. Similar harmonies emerge during “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” featuring a strangely poppy chorus that made it Genesis’ most successful single until “Follow You, Follow Me.”

The only thing that’s somewhat of a dud is “The Battle of Epping Forest,” the epic that doesn’t live up to its potential. It’s mainly Gabriel that goes overboard here, providing an overload of information in his obligatory multi-character theatre episode. The instrumental part is already pretty busy on its own, and doesn’t get a lot of room to breathe with the amount of lyrics being constantly thrown out, though there are a number of interesting parts to it. Some would consider “More Fool Me” the weakest link on the record, which is a pretty simple love song that features Collins on lead vocals with only some accompanying guitar. As with “For Absent Friends” though, it’s effective and pleasant enough in that simplicity. The only real piece of “filler” doesn’t fit the name since it comes in at the very end. “Aisle of Plenty” is basically a “Moonlit Knight” theme reprise that serves to wrap things up.

With Foxtrot and The Lamb closely rivalling it for the title of best Genesis album, Selling England by the Pound is easily one of their greatest, and definitely the album I hold as the dearest to my heart.

6 Comments

  1. Vin

    May 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I think Seconds Out should have been included. Forty years later it’s still a great listen!

    • Anthony Abdoella

      May 14, 2017 at 7:10 am

      This is all about the studio albums, Seconds Out is a live album.

  2. Nichy D'Andrea

    May 14, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Don’t agree much with this chart… CAS is not a total failure and Invisible Touch should be lower. The long tracks are great but the pop ones are irritating. ATOTT better than Nursery Cryme? Are you serious???? Ughhhh

  3. Jeff Henry

    May 14, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Amazing. Your preferences pretty much parallel my own. Certainly “Selling England” is my favorite, followed by the awesome “Lamb” and then the redoubtable “Foxtrot” is third for me, with your other preferences falling for the most part in line with my own. Good job!

  4. Dino

    May 14, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Ok with the 1st place for Selling… but for me Foxtrot should be 2nd and Lamb the 3rd

  5. Rick Kasten

    May 15, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I must take issue with the bottom end of this list. Calling All Stations and From Genesis To Revelations are far and away the worst albums from Genesis. CAS… well, there’s not much to say, but FGTR is, as you correctly noted, a completely forgettable collection of songs whose value is seen only in the sheer potential that Genesis displayed. That potential amidst such a bland, immature and hamstrung collection of tunes does not save it from the bottom of the list, and the suggestion that later albums that produced multiple top-40 hits is irresponsible and highly biased against the value of the later-era Genesis.

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