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Taken from Shepherd Express (Jan 02, 2015)

Genesis: Sum of the Parts

by David Luhrssen

Photo by Courtesy

Peter Gabriel rejoined Genesis—for an interview, not an album or a tour. Gabriel sat down with Phil Collins, Tony Banks and company to answer questions for BBC-TV documentary, released with previously unseen footage as Sum of the Parts on DVD and Blu-ray.

With group and individual interviews and archival footage, Sum of the Parts provides an entertaining overview of a remarkable run. Genesis formed in 1967 at Charterhouse, a British public school (equivalent to an American college preparatory academy) at a time when popular music seemed to advance with every week and each new release. Gabriel speaks of the inspiration of Otis Redding, and their earliest demos reveal an echo of R&B. But their 1969 debut album, which satisfied none of the band members and sold few copies, pointed the way toward the grand, elaborate, sprawling ethos of progressive rock. If Charterhouse imposed lines and limits, its rebellious students were determined to break out and embrace wider possibilities.

Personnel changes helped define the band as they entered the British album charts and found a small but avid American following. When Phil Collins joined in 1970, the drummer brought professionalism and proficiency, anchoring a band still in search of their sound. Also joining the band that same year, Steve Hackett took Genesis forward with accomplished but never flashy lead guitar lines. Along with the surviving original members )(Gabriel, Banks and Mike Rutherford), this became the classic lineup on such signature progressive rock albums as Nursery Cryme (1971), Fox Trot (1972) and Selling England by the Pound (1973). Their distinct, often lengthy and involved compositions were presented with characteristic English reserve.

During those years, Gabriel began slipping onstage in his wife’s frocks, wearing a fox’s head and other costumes. He explains the introduction of theatricality as simply something to do during the band’s long instrumental passages and tune-ups. Others propose that Gabriel was shy, reticent, and masked himself through stage personae. Whatever the inspiration, the effect was entirely different than the transgressive androgyny of David Bowie or Marc Bolan.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974), conceived by Gabriel as a Pilgrim’s Progress set on the streets of New York, marked the summit and the end of the classic lineup as Banks came to blows with Gabriel over the band’s direction. Unaccountably, Genesis launched an American tour with the album barely released. Audiences were puzzled by the unfamiliar music along with the frequent failure of the rear-screen slide show and the difficulty of miking Gabriel’s cumbersome, grotesque masks. At the end of the tour, Gabriel left the band and embarked on a commercially successful, aesthetically challenging solo career.

Genesis auditioned singers but chose Collins as their new vocalist. A Trick of the Tail (1976) continued the band’s trajectory of prog rock compressed into tighter songs. Their popularity increased after Hackett’s departure in 1977. With their 1978 hit “Follow You, Follow Me,” Genesis became the once-progressive band that supplied the slow dance number on prom night.

Genesis carried on with two drummers, Weather Report’s Chester Thompson played opposite Collins, and Milwaukee fusion guitarist Daryl Stuermer filled Hackett’s spot. The melodically inoffensive Collins devoted increasing time to his solo career, even as Genesis filled stadiums and reached the pinnacle of the charts. During the 1980s Collins alone or with his band seemed ubiquitous. And then, as the ‘90s began, the hits stopped coming. Collins left Genesis in 1996 and regrouped with the ‘80s lineup for a 2006 final tour.


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