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The Genesis Songbook (2001)

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Credited cast:
Tony Banks ...
Steve Hackett ...
David Hentschel ...
Hugh Padgham ...
Anthony Phillips ...
Mike Rutherford ...
Tony Smith ...
Daryl Stuermer ...
Chester Thompson ...
Ray Wilson ...
James Yukich ...


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Good band history
13 December 2006 | by See all my reviews

Genesis released their first album in 1969, and went on to do almost twenty albums. Covering all that history in 99 minutes is hard, and must necessarily get superficial in places, but this movie manages the task very well. We basically get a historical (if not that detailed) overview of all the major albums, especially the more commercially successful ones, with comments by the band members (incl. those who left), record producers, managers, and even a few fans. The most valuable comments are the ones from Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, because they comprise, to a great extent, the soul of the band, and never really desired the kind of "pop star status" that the infinitely more extroverted Phil Collins seemed to accrue for the band. It's interesting to note that many of the most distinctive tracks, from "Follow Me Follow You" (1978) to "I Can't Dance" (1991), are based around Rutherford's guitar riffs. Such details tend to get lost in all the publicity surrounding the big hits that the band churned out after they got really popular.

It's a shame that the 1997 album, with new vocalist Ray Wilson, didn't succeed. I do think it's an extremely weak album, and I don't think Wilson's voice is distinctive enough to make much of an impression. Too mainstream. It goes to show that lightning doesn't strike twice - they had a successful replacement of Peter Gabriel in Phil Collins, but you'd have to be something pretty damn special to successfully replace Phil Collins.

I was 15 in 1986 when the Invisible Touch album came out and first exposed me to Genesis. Over the next year or two I found, to my infinite surprise, that I loved everything they'd done before as well, and now I consider myself a long-time fan, complete with all the much older fans' appreciation for the progressive and experimental Gabriel era. But I also love the 1976-1991 Collins era (and his solo work up until and including ...But Seriously), and am loath to choose which era is my favorite, since they are so different and each have their full spectrum of strengths. Gabriel was weird and avantgarde, while Collins is a balladeer at heart, and both worked very well for Genesis at the band's various stages. I do confess a fondness for the more intellectual and mythologically inspired lyrics and music of the Gabriel era, compared to which most of the Collins material is "easy listening". As entire albums go, my ultimate favorites are probably the two very first albums, which I think work very well in their entireties. My single favorite track has to be "Supper's Ready" from the Foxtrot album (1972), which is a track that epitomizes every cardinal value about the band, from the lyrics to the instrumental passages. From the Collins era I have a particular soft spot for And Then There Were Three (1978), which is an album filled with great ballads and perfect off-beat and distinctive pop/rock songs, like the wild west song "Ballad of Big", the powerful "Burning Rope", the pensive "Undertow" and the dreamy fairytale song "The Lady Lies". To be honest, the big hit from that album, "Follow Me Follow You", always struck me as perhaps the weakest track on that record.

Genesis went downhill with the band's last two albums. There are a handful of good tracks on We Can't Dance (1991), but it was still the weakest album thus far, and the final album, Calling All Stations (1997), really didn't do anything for me at all. A great shame, as I would have loved to have seen the band find a third incarnation that actually worked. But the luck had run out, and I think everybody involved should be happy that it worked as well as it did for as long as it did. Ultimately it came to more than two full decades of superb, progressive rock and pop/rock, and Genesis was undoubtedly one of the world's greatest, most creative and most successful rock bands.

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