With all of British mega-group Genesis' studio discography
now available in remixed/remastered form, including 5.1 surround mixes and a bevy of bonus audio and video features, the only commercial material left to receive engineer Nick Davis' careful attention is its series of four live albums. These begin with Genesis Live
(Charisma, 1973) and end with The Way We Walk
originally issued as two separate releases, The Shorts
(Atlantic, 1992) and The Longs
While Davis' work on the previous boxes1970-1975
(Rhino, 2008), 1976-1982
(Rhino, 2007) and 1983-1998
has been the subject of some controversy, Live 1973-2007
is going to be the most contentious box amongst hardcore Genesis fans, for a number of reasons. Unlike many bands that evolve over the years, Genesis morphed from its early, progressive rock beginnings into a stadium act in the 1980s and 1990s, one that could also be found in heavy rotation on MTVappearing, at least on the surface, to have deserted its art rock roots. While it is true that the group adopted a more decidedly pop approach in its later years, longer songs like "Driving the Last Spike" from We Can't Dance
(Atlantic, 1991), "Domino" from Invisible Touch
(Atlantic, 1986), and "Dodo/Lurker" from Abacab
(Atlantic, 1981), while less complex than, say, the group's epic "Supper's Ready" from Foxtrot
(Charisma, 1972), were all far from radio-friendly. In their largely episodic construction, they were clear descendents of early masterpieces like "The Knife" from Trespass
(Charisma, 1971) and "The Cinema Show" from Selling England By the Pound
Equally, while early episodic pieces like "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme
(Charisma, 1972) and Selling England
's "Firth of Fifth" were filled with shifting meters and challenging, interlocking parts, shorter songs like Selling England
's "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," Nursery Cryme
's "Seven Stones" and Foxtrot
's "Time Table" all demonstrated a group more concerned with songs
than the grandstanding instrumental virtuosity so often at the root of early 1970s progressive rock.
In the final analysis, even amidst the instrumental brilliance, Genesis was always a songwriting banda characteristic revealed, perhaps, most vividly by listening to the group's discography chronologically, from its earliest days to its final studio gasp on the unfairly overlooked Calling All Stations
(Atlantic, 1998). More than the previous boxes, which capture specific periods in the group's development, Live 1973-2007
documents the group's evolution in a more self-contained fashion. As such, it's bound to have fans who prefer the "prog" Genesis to the "hit making" Genesis content (or vice versa). But it's also possiblehopeful, eventhat this box might make at least partial converts of both factions; uniting, rather than polarizing.
Still, there's plenty more controversy to be found. Unlike previous boxeswhich had, in addition to 5.1 surround mixes on either SACD (in the UK) or DVD (in North America), a wealth of audio and video extras including interviews with the band, hard-to-find or previously unreleased odds and ends, and some terrific concert footageLive 1973-2007
has but three bonus DVD discs with only 5.1 surround mixes and no video content, and the transitional Three Sides Live
(Atlantic, 1982) and The Way We Walk
excluded (though they do receive new stereo mixes.
The reason for the 5.1 omissions on Three Sides
and The Way We Walk
is because the DVD box that's to come will have surround mixes of the concert performances from those tours. Still, it's nice to see the running order of The Way We Walk
restored to concert sequence over its two discs, with the three tracks either not performed or recorded on that tour"Mama," "That's All" and "In Too Deep"appended as bonus tracks at the end of the second disc. With the previously unavailable (other than as the "flip side" of the 1992 Tell Me Why
single/EP) "Turn It On Again" added, it makes a complete performance from the We Can't Dance
tour. There is a reason why there's no video footage, however: the next Genesis box will be an all-video one, reissuing its commercially available concert DVDs and, hopefully, more.
The addition of a full CD and DVD from the group's 1973 performance at The Rainbow in London, England raises yet another contentious issue: the dearth of previously unreleased material in this box setalthough, in truth, there's more than meets the eye. It's true that the five tracks from The Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
(Atco, 1974), that are appended to the end of Genesis Live
as bonus tracks, first appeared on the Genesis Archives, Vol. 1: 1967-1975
(Virgin, 1998) box set. It's equally true that five of the Rainbow tracks also appeared on Archives
was released, despite a full, two-disc performance of The Lamb
being its major attraction, there was
a sore point amongst fans that remains to this day. A combination of vocal flaws and logistical problems with Gabriel's elaborate costumes used on the tour (and an inherent inability to sing close enough to his microphone) making some original vocal tracks unusable, the decision was made to rerecord a substantial number of vocals by Gabriel in the mid-1990s, by which time his voice had changed considerably, being much huskier and deeper. He also rerecorded some of the vocals to "Supper's Ready," from the Rainbow set. The performances may have been more technically perfect (and audible), but the difference in the complexion of Gabriel's mid-1990s voice was simply too dramatic, offending purists who, having heard bootleg recordings from the same period, would have preferred the undoctored vocals from back in the day.
Here, Gabriel's original vocals are largely restored, and they do, at least to some extent, explain the vocalist's decision to re-record his tracks on a technical level: he lacked the stamina and, at times, range in live performance that would improve significantly in his post-Genesis solo career, and there are some major flaws to be found in these recovered vocals. Imperfections aside, however, the spirit of Gabriel's original performance is, most importantly, also largely restored, making these versionsalso remixed/remastered by Davisclearly the definitive ones. Where re-recorded vocals remain, they're less jarring, less in-your-face (except to die-hard Genesis fans who are familiar with every note, every nuance).
With the outcry against Gabriel's decision to re-record his vocals for Archives
, this restoration should be met happilythough, no doubt, there will be those who will complain that the entire Lamb
show hasn't been restored and included. Of course, the songs that have been included are ones that didn't involve complex costumes, rendering vocal issues technical rather than logistical. Without hearing the original vocals, of course, and considering the flaws that Gabriel lets through here, it's impossible to know the shape of those other vocal tracks. Hackett also made some overdubbed fixes on Archives
, but those remain intact on Live 1973-2007
All of this means that Live 1973-2007
possesses only four absolutely brand-new, never-before-heard bonus tracks, all from the Rainbow show: "Watcher of the Skies" and "Musical Box," both only available on the DVD (a sensible decision, since they're very close to the versions on Genesis Live
and including them in CD form would have necessitated stretching the single, full Rainbow
CD into a less-than-packed double) and, on both CD and DVD, "The Cinema Show" and "The Battle of Epping Forest."
So, with all these potential issues, what does Live 1973-2007
have going for it?
First, Davis' remixes/remasters are as good as those on 1970-1975
, which has been met with less criticism for what some consider excessive compression on the other two studio box sets. All four live albums sound richer, fuller and more alive than earlier versions. There will be the inevitable discussion about Davis' mixing choicesdecisions that have been approved by the bandthe truth is that there are now plenty of hidden details revealed for the first time. Genesis co-founder/keyboardist Tony Banks may consider Genesis Live
to be an inferior performance (originally a radio broadcast, but the only one available from that time with multi-track masters), but equally, he's said that Davis' remix/remaster significantly improves the disc, and he's absolutely right. This new version possesses far more of the power, energy and, especially, magic of Gabriel-era Genesisa quality that, despite plenty of other positives to describe post-Gabriel incarnations, was lost when the singer left after the Lamb
tour completed in 1975. Seconds Out
, often considered the group's best live release, has never sounded better, and Three Sides Live
, which suffered from especially poor sound on initial release, now matches the rest of the albums in sonic depth. It's great to have the running order of The Way We Walk
restored, especially with the curious decision to end the original The Longs
with a drum duet (The Drum Thing"). The group has, smartly, not remixed or remastered the double-disc from its 2007 reunion tour, Live Over Europe 2007
(Atlantic, 2007), but space is left in the box to slide that set in, making Live 1973-2007
a complete document of Genesis' entire, commercially available live albums.
Hearing Gabriel's original delivery on the Rainbow
discespecially on "Supper's Ready," for which the Seconds Out
version has long been considered the gold standardand the five bonus live Lamb
tracks demonstrates the significant difference between his approach and that of Phil Collins. Even in the drummer-turned-lead vocalist's early days as Genesis front man around the time of Seconds Out
, where he was intentionally aping Gabriel's delivery, Collins may have possessed greater range and stamina, but he lacked Gabriel's narrative beauty. Gabriel always wasand would remain, in his solo careera more considered singer, but it was that very consideration which made Genesis' early, tale-driven material especially compelling, in particular songs like "Epping Forest" and "Get 'Em Out By Friday"miniature musical theater both, with Gabriel assuming multiple roles. Live 1973-2007
encapsulates, in one self-contained box, the remarkable evolution of Genesis, from its progressive roots on Genesis Live
and Seconds Out
, through the transitional period of Three Sides Live
, through to the arena and million album-selling megastars of The Way We Walk
and Live Over Europe
Yes, there are plenty of radio shows out there but Live 1973-2007
, like the previous box sets, is about releasing Genesis' commercial releases in significantly improved form. Despite less overt bonus material (though, with Gabriel's restored vocals, there's actually nearly 100 minutes of music that's not been commercially available in precisely this form), that should be reason enough. But if another one is need, it's this: there's no other place to experience, so clearly, the constant thread that winds through Genesis' lengthy existenceand, despite a number of emphatic shifts over the years, there is
a thread. Genesis, an emphatically songwriting
band with the added benefit of outstanding instrumental performances, is all here on Live 1973-2007
, a box set that suggests serious reconsideration of the clear arc that defines its entire career.
And that is, in the final analysis, the purpose of Live 1973-2007
. There are plenty of radio shows out there, of near-excellent quality, that the group could have culled for this box, but the entire Genesis box set series has been about releasing its already available commercial discs, in significantly improved sonic form. Genesis Live
At the time, Genesis Live
(Charisma, 1973) seemed largely intended to maintain group's momentum since guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins joined original group members Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford for its second Charisma disc (and third overall release), Nursery Cryme
(1971). As strong as that album was, with three major epics in "The Musical Box," "The Fountain of Salmacis" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," Foxtrot
(1972) was even better, with its dramatic album and live show opener, "Watcher of the Skies" and nearly side-long epic, "Supper's Ready," an episodic masterpiece that's still considered one of the pinnacles of progressive rock. Genesis Live
a performance originally recorded for a radio broadcastwas released while the group was in the studio, preparing for Selling England By the Pound
(1973)considered by many to be its best overall Gabriel-era album. Genesis Live
may well be less-than-perfect, both to Banks' ears and to careful listeners, but Nick Davis' remix/remaster restores much of its vitality, revealing a group that may still have been finding its performing legs, but possessed a distinctive narrative magic unique amidst its British progressive rock brethren.
While Yes' Jon Anderson was writing incomprehensible lyrics that still sounded
right with the group's music, and King Crimson was shifting from the early, flowery poetry of Peter Sinfield to Richard Palmer-James' more direct prose, Genesis was creating a small theatrical universe through its story-telling lyrics. The subjects were broadfrom the science fiction-informed "Watcher of the Skies" to the curious tale of sexually deprived ghosts in "The Musical Box" and a cautionary tale of big business and overcrowded housing in "Get 'Em Out By Friday"and lent themselves to the group's increasingly theatrical presentation. No usual walls of amplification for Genesis; its stage was spare and clean, with all but Gabriel seated, placing the visual focus on Gabriel, his masks and his costumes. Genesis Live
may suffer from the lack of those visuals, but there's still plenty to recommend.
While the group almost painstakingly avoided overt virtuosity, it had, instead, established a wealth of personal stylistic markers. With Rutherford using bass pedals so that he could also play 12-string electric guitar alongside Hackett on songs like "The Musical Box," Genesis had a clearly recognizable harmonic and textural voice, owing something small to the traditional folk tradition and unmistakably English
but, with Collins' muscular drumming, also possessing no shortage of rock and roll strength. Banks' dramatic mellotron opening to "Watcher of the Skies" remains one of progressive rock's most spine-tingling moments, while his organ worka particularly dominant voice on early Genesis music that, sadly, gradually diminished as the band evolvedmay not posses the fire of Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman, but it was as compositionally strong as eitherin some cases, perhaps, even more, as the focus on writing and not "look at me" grandstanding yielded far more memorable melodies and dramaturgy.
Only the closing "The Knife" comes from the pre-Hackett/pre-Collins incarnation and, while founding guitarist Anthony Phillips' work Trespass
' original from 1970 was far from shabby, Hackett proves himself the superior guitarist, one who may not have taken the spotlight in Genesis often, but whose supporting contributions and stylistic innovations are even more impressive in the previously unheard clarity of this remix/remaster.
The inclusion of five bonus tracks from the January, 1975 performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
in Los Angeles initially seems like an odd choice. The group had evolved considerably between the time of Genesis Live
and The Lamb
a couple years later, but as a self-contained, five-song medley, it's a nice addition to flesh out the length of the CD. "Back in N.Y.C.," "Fly on a Windshield," "Broadway Melody of 1974," "Anyway" and "Chamber of 32 Doors" are not in even proper sequential order, but still work even out of context. With Gabriel's vocals restored, replacing the re-recorded tracks heard on Genesis Archives, Vol. 1: 1967-1975
, the spirit is back but so, too, are the flaws in range and stamina, most noticeably on "Back in N.Y.C," where he almost painfully misses a couple of high notes. Rather than detracting from the performance, however, Gabriel's imperfections just make the performance more human, and his original delivery is far more in-character as The Lamb
's hero, Rael. Live at The Rainbow 1973
Containing the most new material in the box, much of Live at the Rainbow
has been available before (in the Archives, Vol. 1
box), but not in exactly this format. Like the bonus Lamb
tracks on Genesis Live
, "Supper's Ready" featured, in the Archives
box, some re-recorded vocals by Gabriel in the mid-1990s. The rest of the materialSelling England
's "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight," "Firth of Fifth" and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"is largely the same as on Archives
, including the less-vilified guitar overdubs by Hackett. Only Selling England
's Rutherford/Banks duet, "More Fool Me," was issued in completely original form. Live at the Rainbow
restores everything largely to its original form, though Hackett's overdubs and some of Gabriel's remain. Expanded out to a full CD, it also includes Selling England
's "Cinema Show" and "The Battle of Epping Forest." The DVD disc also includes two additional songs that, since already appearing on Genesis Live
, were deemed if not exactly superfluous, then an unnecessary duplication that would have necessitated stretching the single CD to a double-disc set. Given the group's largely literal, solo-light performances, the Rainbow
takes of "Watcher of the Skies" and "The Musical Box" are simply not different enough to warrant changing the formatting of the release, but for those who want to experience a full Selling England
concert (minus the group's usual encore, "The Knife"), it's all there on the DVD.
Equally, in order to fit all the material onto the CDand another potential bone of contention for Genesis purists and completistsGabriel's curiously enigmatic introductions to songs like "Supper's Ready," originally included on Archives, Vol. 1
, have been excised here. A purely practical decision, and thankfully it's still possible to hear them on the less time-constrained DVD version.
With a couple of almost cringe-worthy flaws in Gabriel's Lamb
performances (that still don't stop them from being a significant improvement over his re-dos), it's hard to imagine why he was so unhappy with his original Rainbow
performances as to compel him to re-record them with a voice that had aged considerably, deepened and no longer sounded the same as it did back in the day. There are, indeed, a few pitch problems in the Rainbow
show, but in this case authenticity trumps perfection, with Gabriel's delivery far more in context with the musicand possessing a certain in-character playfulness as well. Gabriel's delivery on "The Battle of Epping Forest," surely Genesis' zaniest epic, is a treat as he shifts persona throughout its constantly shifting 12 minutesas are Banks' dramatic mellotron parts, especially near the song's end, pushed up in the mix by Davis. And even though Collins replaces Genesis' touring drummer, Bill Bruford
, behind the kit during Banks' iconic keyboard solo on Seconds Out
's version of "Cinema Show," there's a transcendent vibe on the Rainbow
take that, with the Gabriel-era line-up, simply couldn't be duplicated.
While Seconds Out
has long been considered the pinnacle of Genesis' live recordings, the energy and theatricality of the Rainbow
set makes it less clear. Certainly "Supper's Ready," "Cinema Show" and "Firth of Fifth," being closer to the studio recordings with Collins behind the kit, feel somehow truer to their original spirit. There's no denying Collins had, at that time, a better voice from a technical perspective; but Gabriel-era Genesis was a group that transported its audiences with performances that surpassed faithful replication of its studio material, and it's all here, again even without the visuals. With Gabriel a mysterious and charismatic front-man, in contrast to Collins' more direct and audience-friendly approach, Genesis' focus was differentthis wasn't so much a playing band as it was one telling tales through musicand as close as Collins came to replicating Gabriel in his early days as the group's front man, there's still no replacing him.
Taken together with Genesis Live
performance, live versions of almost all of Genesis' Gabriel-era classicscertainly all of its epics, with the exception of "Fountains of Salmacis," which can be heard in a post-Gabriel version on Three Sides Live
are now available in one place. And it's also possible to look at Seconds Out
from a different perspective, now that all the Gabriel-era classics are available with their original singer, where Phil Collins' assumption of vocal duties, but just as importantly his overall desertion of the drum seat, make for a very different set of performances, despite the largely scripted nature of the writing.
A lot had happened by the time Seconds Out
was released in 1977. Gabriel had left the band, and was already in the process of kick-starting a solo career that would grow in parallel with Genesis' (it's curious how, together, the two would likely never have achieved the commercial success both managed separately). Collins had taken over lead vocals and, on the group's first two post-Gabriel releasesthe stunning one-two punch of Trick of the Tail
(Atlantic, 1976) and Wind & Wuthering
(Atlantic, 1976) that proved Genesis could easily withstand the loss of a figure once considered essentialhe'd largely tried to replicate Gabriel's vibe, range and courser texture. Hackett had also left the band, though he was still a participant on Seconds Out
, documenting, as it did, the tours following each studio release.
Considered by many, at least until now, to be Genesis' best commercial live release, Seconds Out
also documented an equally important instrumental shift. With Collins' out front and center, he had to relinquish the drum chair, outside of longer instrumental passages, where he could jump back behind the kit. For the group's first post-Gabriel tour, Bill Bruford was recruited to take over, and it seemed like a logical choice given the percussionist's art rock background with Yes and King Crimson. As it turns out, it was a less-than-perfect marriage. Bruford was focused increasingly on improvisation, a position that couldn't have been more diametrically opposed to Genesis' tight arrangements. Bruford's live performance on the DVD that accompanies the Trick of the Tail
remix/remaster of 1976-1982
as undeniably good as he isfeels strangely out of place, as he turfs scripted rhythmic ideas for in-the-moment spontaneity. The solution was, just as surprisingly, the recruitment of ex-Weather Report
drummer Chester Thompson
. But while Thompson's résumé would suggest a player with an equal improvisational bent, he was also a consummate session musicianready, willing and able to stick with the group's arrangements and only inject his personality within its confines.
The result is that the Gabriel-era material that makes up much of Seconds Out
nicely mirrors earlier performances, but there are differences. During the instrumental "Apocalypse in 9/8" section of "Supper's Ready," for example, while Banks' organ lines are melodically definitive, so, too, does it become a rhythm feature as Collins and Thompson attack its driving "da-da-da
" rhythm together. The two also solo in the medley of Trick
's "Dance on a Volcano" and "Los Endos" that closes the double-disc set. But Thompson's drum tone, echoing the more muted tom sound of American studio recording of the time, is very different from Collins' more expansive tone, and it changes the texture of the material when Collins' is out front singing and he's the sole drummer. It's not better, not worse; only different.
Past complaints that Hackett was brought down in the mix during the post-production of Second Out
leaving, as he did, with a phone call during the mixing sessionsmay have had an element of truth, possibly not; here, detractors won't find any noticeable difference in his levels. Certainly his solo in "Firth of Fifth" is as dominant as it needs to be, although some of his ensemble work remains further down in the mix than might be expecteda function, no doubt, of Davis trying to retain the overall authenticity of the new mix while still adding more detail, depth and clarity. Wind & Wuthering
marked a change in direction, with the radio-friendly "Your Own Special Way" the most direct, pop-friendly song the group had ever written, and a significant move towards a simpler "verse-chorus" style. While not on Seconds Out
, it still loomed over the group at the time, as its album sales, rather than being hurt by Gabriel's departure, appeared to be on the ascendancy. Collins was still, at this point, searching for his own voice, so his singing is largely literal, something that would change in later years when singing not only material from the Gabriel-era, but also songs from this period. Still, his increased range and accuracy made some of the performances here definitive at the time of release. With the Rainbow
performance now available in the box with Gabriel's original vocals restored, it's a tough call. Gabriel's careful delivery of "Supper's Ready," "Cinema Show" and "Firth of Fifth," was more about theater, while Collins was more about the singing.
Collins' drumming behind Gabriel possessed a different kind of edge, a different kind of sound and the kind of élan that only comes from being the one who defined what the parts were, as opposed to Thompson, whose job was to replicate them. Still, Thompson, who would become Genesis' permanent touring drummer from this point on (with the exception of the Collins-less Calling All Stations
tour), was already forging a real role in the overall group sound, and his more direct approach was clearly an inspiration for the increasingly pared down approach that Collins would begin taking from Duke
(Atlantic, 1980) forward. Three Sides Live
If Seconds Out
represented a change in Genesis' direction, 1982's Three Sides Live
augured a virtual paradigm shift. With "Follow You, Follow Me" the group's biggest radio hit yet, from the transitional ...And Then There Were Three
(Atlantic, 1978)the group's first recording without Hackett, and with Rutherford assuming all the guitar dutiesBanks, Collins and Rutherford began a gradual move away from their progressive rock roots and an evolution towards simpler, more widely accessible form. Duke
, considered by purists to be the group's progressive rock swan song with the multi-part, continuous titular suite that opened and closes the album, also continued the group's commercial climb with two huge hitsthe easy shuffle of "Misunderstanding" and more driving "Turn It On Again," which proved that was possibleeven in 1980 after the popular death-knell for progressive rockto have a hit in an irregular meter. Abacab
(Atlantic, 1981) continued the stylistic shift, though with longer tracks like "Dodo," it still possessed some of Banks' unmistakable voicings. Still, Genesis had gone from being a progressive rock band to, well, just plain rock, with Abacab
's title track a pulsing, four-on-the-floor piece of dance music. The original US release of Three Sides
originally comprised three vinyl sides of the group's more radio-friendly live performances and one studio side of EP material including the Top 40 hit "Paperlate" and other tracks that would later surface on the 1976-1982
box. The rest of the world was treated to a fourth side of more progressive material, a cross-section culled from the Second Out
tour of 1976/77, the 1978 tour in support of ...And Then There Were Three...
(Atco, 1978), and the 1980 Duke
tour. In some ways, it was all a bit confusing for new Genesis fans, and a tease to its longtime progressive contingent. It was this latter version that would later be released on CD, and it's this version that's included here.
Longer tracks like Wind & Wuthering
's outstanding "One for the Vine" and a powerful live version of Nursery Cryme
's "Fountain of Salmacis" went a long way to appease the increasingly alienated progressive contingent, but with "Misunderstanding" back-to-back with a lengthy medley of The Lamb
's "In the Cage" and "Colony of Slippermen," and an excerpt from "Cinema Show," it felt, at the time, like an album that didn't know what it wanted to be. The good news is that, with the perspective of time, the majority of the music on Three Sides
sounds remarkably unified, still the voice of as single group.
With Hackett gone and Rutherford assuming all string instrument duties, Genesis badly needed to recruit another member for its touring band. Fortunately, Collinswhose voice had emerged from Gabriel's shadow by this time and who'd had a major hit of his own with his first solo album, Face Value
(Atlantic, 1981) and its massive radio single, "In the Air Tonight"already had the perfect musician in mind. Enter guitarist Daryl Stuermer
, who had emerged in the 1970s fusion arena with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
and was Collins' guitarist on Face Value
, though he'd been touring with Genesis since 1978. Like Chester Thompson, Stuermer was a studio chameleon; a guitarist who could fit into almost any context and was also capable of doubling on bass. He was just what Genesis needed to replicate Rutherford's layered studio parts and
provide greater virtuosity as required, to handle Hackett's parts on older material.
The problem with the initial release of Three Sides
was the sound, but Davis has done an especially good job at making it sound as good as the rest of the discs in Live 1973-2007
. With this album, the touring Genesis took on a personality of its own, as Collins' confidence increased from both his and Genesis' seemingly meteoric success and even older material took on a somewhat stripped-down sound. If anything, the only flaw with Three Sides
is the dated "yooows" that Collins used to great excess throughout the album. By this time Gabriel-era Genesis was a thing of the distant past and, even when the group tackled older material, its choices seemed to fit in the context of its now leaner approach. The only odd man out, though a welcome one, is the closer to the second disc. A medley of The Lamb
's "It" with an excerpt from "Watcher of the Skies" from the group's 1976 tour with Hackett and Bruforddespite a clear line through the group's entire historyonly serves to highlight the radical shift that had taken place in the ensuing five years.
A full decadethe longest gap between Genesis live albumspassed before The Way We Walk
, first releases as two CDs a year apart1992's The Shorts
, a collection of its shorter hits, and the 1993 follow-up, The Longs
, featuring longer, more progressive-oriented tunes. The touring unit remained the same as on Three Sides
, but even more had changed around it. The Way We Walk
Collins' commercial success continued to rise on a sharp trajectory with no sign of letting up, but so, too, did Rutherford's. Mike + The Mechanics began humbly as a side project, but took on a life of its own with hits like "All I Need is a Miracle" and "The Living Years." What was, perhaps, most significant about the massive success both Rutherford and Collins had achieved outside of Genesis was just how much their flagship group remained a different
project for both of thema true collective with Banks, that was greater than the sum of its parts. Gabriel-era Genesis credited all songs to the group, even though there were plenty of individual contributions and collaborative subsets within the quintet. As post-Gabriel albums deserted collective crediting for individual songwriting acknowledgement, the music became more personal. Despite contributions from Rutherford, Hackett and Collins, Wind & Wuthering
, for example, was largely driven by Bankswhose role in the overall Genesis sound may have initially seemed less dominant because of his reticent nature, but over the years has become increasingly clear.
The group returned to collective songwriting with Genesis
(Atlantic, 1983) and the emphasis remained on more direct song-form, even on longer tracks like We Can't Dance
's rock-heavy "Driving the Last Spike." But the group was, in its own way, as experimental as ever, with a song like the thundering "Mama" accessible, but hardly catchy in the conventional sense. Progressive rock had, in some ways, taken on the same kind of label-mania and rigid definition that was truly anathema in its earliest days, but it's clear, with tracks like "Mama" and "Silver Rainbow," also from Genesis
, that there was no lack of forward-thinking going on in the Banks/Rutherford/Collins writing camp.
The restoration of The Way We Walk
to proper concert sequence makes it a welcome addition to Live 1973-2007
, providing a solid document of Genesis' final tour before Collins decided to throw in the towel. There's a greater emphasis on hits like "Land of Confusion" and No Son of Mine," though recent epics like "Driving the Last Spike" and "Domino" are well represented. The group's earlier progressive roots are represented only by a 20-minute "Old Medley," beginning with Trick of the Tail
's "Dance on a Volcano" and seamlessly incorporating excerpts from "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," "The Musical Box," "Firth of Fifth" and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)," where Collins also tosses in quick references to radio hits that didn't make it into the tour's set list"Illegal Alien," "That's All," "Your Own Special Way" and "Follow You, Follow Me." The group dips right back to Trespass
with a closing reference to "Stagnation" that had been part of its live arrangement of "I Know What I Like" beginning with the Trick of the Tail
tour, and can also be heard on Seconds Out
. What's perhaps most remarkable is that, by this time, Genesis had racked up so many chart hits that it couldn't fit them all into a single concert.
While certain markers would always define Genesis' songs, by this time the group had broken some of its own sacrosanct arrangements as Stuermer, in particular, takes greater liberties with Hackett's guitar parts, especially in the instrumental section of "Firth of Fifth," where he gets his biggest feature. Collins rarely jumps behind the drums by this point, with Thompson driving the entire set with power, economy and unshakable groove, though he works hand-in-glove with the ex-Weather Reporter on the six-minute "The Drum Thing" which, positioned before the group's 1991 hit "I Can't Dance," makes far more sense than its original place at the end of The Longs
, where it seemed almost an afterthought.
By this point Collins was truly an iconic pop personalitylike it or notwho had, thankfully, deserted some of the dated phrasing and exclamations of Three Sides Live
. His approachable stage presence turned Genesis into a group that was as much about entertainment as it was content, despite the Banks and Rutherford's more distant personae. It was the end of a long evolutionary path for a group that started as a "serious" art rock group but, by the 1990s, had become more easygoing and fun, albeit somewhat fluffy with songs like "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" (despite admittedly deeper subject matter) and "In Too Deep."
While some might say they'd devolved, the truth is that Banks, Rutherford and Collins had evolved as songwriters, now just as capable of finding accessible hooks and memorable melodies as they were complex and epic epics in the past. Still, supported by Banks' still unmistakable harmonies and Rutherford's deceptively simple but effective guitar and bass work, there was a depth to the writing that remained at the core of every song the group produced. It's too easy to accuse songs like "Invisible Touch" of being simplistic, of a song like "Follow You, Follow Me" being overly sentimental. But the reality is that Genesis, more than most groups, managed to straddle the fence between greater depth and leaner, pop simplicity. For every "I Can't Dance" there's a "Domino"; for every "Hold on My Heart" there's a "Home By the Sea."
While not exactly bonus tracks, "Mama" "In Too Deep" and "That's All"either performed occasionally or not at all during the We Can't Dance
tour from which The Way We Walk
is culledhave been placed at the end of the second disc. "Turn It On Again," which closed the show during the tour and was curiously left off the original The Shorts
, has been restored, making The Way We Walk
a complete concert, and will be new to those who don't have the Tell Me Why
CD-single/EP. Live Over Europe 2007
While not included in the Live 1973-2007
box, there is
a space for Live Over Europe 2007
, released after Genesis' heralded 2007, 48-city reunion tour. While there was plenty of speculation before the tour details were announcedwould Gabriel be back? would Hackett return to the fold?it ultimately turned out to be the same core trifecta and touring group that, coming together as a five-piece in 1978 in support of ...And Then There Were Three
, has ultimately proven to be Genesis' longest-lasting and most stable line-up.
While the expectation, once the line-up was confirmed, was that the music would weigh heavily on Genesis' radio-friendly music from the 1980s on, both the tour and Live Over Europe
proved to be a far more balanced repertoire than on The Way We Walk
. Given its recent release, there was no reason to remix/remaster the disc, and with Davis the same engineer, sonically it fits in perfectly with the remixed/remastered music of Live 1973-2007
. Yes, there are all the chart-toppers, including "Turn It On Again," "No Son of Mine," "Land of Confusion," "I Can't Dance," "Invisible Touch" and more; but there's also a 13-minute medley of "In the Cage," with excerpts from "Cinema Show" and "Dukes Travels"; the opening salvo of "Dukes Intro," which is a powerfully proggy way to open the show; and an excerpt from "Firth of Fifth" that, featuring Stuermer, leads into the audience participation of "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe." For the first time in 30 years, the group revisits Trick of the Tail
's compelling "Ripples," and Collins' drum duo with Thompson, "Conversation With 2 Stools" leads more appropriately into "Los Endos." The final encore is even a look back at The Lamb
, with the soft "Carpet Crawlers."
Banks' synth tones are better than on The Way We Walk
and, while a physical condition that has recently been announced as permanently scuttling Collins as a drummer (and, most likely, any future Genesis reunions) could be seen to be painful to the Genesis front man on the DVD release from the tour, When in Rome
(WEA, 2008), without the visuals he sounds as good as ever. Nick Davis feels that Collins wasn't at his best, vocally, on The Way We Walk
, but he's at his absolute best on Live Over Europe
. There are no dated exclamations as on Three Sides
and, taken as the end of a long journey that began with Seconds Out
, where he had all the building blocks but no personal direction, his voice has clearly come a long way in the 30-plus years since he first took center stage with the group.
The instrumental performances of older, more progressive material on Live Over Europe
almost all surpass those from The Way We Walk
as well, even though the rhythms that drive them remained just as stripped down. Proof that good music transcends time and avoids being dated, what's perhaps most impressive about the entire Live Over Europe 2007
is just how relevant
everything still sounds. By tempering some of the earlier versions' dated sounds with newer, more organic-sounding technology, Genesis may not surpass some of its original, more progressive music in terms of innovation, but it brings the music into the 21st century with a set list that was surprising in its coverage of the group's music, from 1971 on.
There will, no doubt, be plenty of discussion about the merits and omissions of Live 1973-2007
. Still, perhaps the most important aspect to the box seteight CDs (not including Live Over Europe
) and three DVD-Asis its portrayal of Genesis as a group that evolved gradually over time, but never completely deserted its roots. While its music simplified and became more pop-oriented, Genesis was a band always devoted to song
, regardless of the context; a fact that has never been clearer or more self-contained than in this career-spanning box set. It's a set that, if nothing else, will spark revisiting/ reevaluation by some, the surprise of discovery for others. For those who have followed the group during any of its stylistic periods, any of its gradually diminishing creative line-ups, the beautifully packaged Live 1973-2007
provides hours of sonically upgraded material, bolstered with bonus tracks that may have largely been available in other forms in the past, but have never been presented as they are here: as they were first recorded, with original performances intact.