One of the Great Genesis Albums
Written: Aug 17, 2009 (Updated Jan 2, 2011)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Great textures, atmospheres, melodies and lyrics.
Cons:It drags in a few spots.
The Bottom Line: NORMAL people might find this boring. But I find it to be a gorgeous masterpiece filled with interesting ideas. Don't make this your first Genesis purchase, but get it eventually.
(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what they're looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not written in the point of view of a Genesis fan.)
Overall Score: 4.5/5
Best song: “The Fountain of Salamacis”
Worst song: “Seven Stones”
This Medieval-progressive-folk album sounds exactly like Trespass except it's about a billion times better. And, look! They got a new drummer! Phil Collins! You might not recognize this guy if you were to see a photograph of him, since he had more or less a full head of hair, but he would later go on to become one of the most popular stars of the 1980s. How a major '80s pop star came from rock 'n' roll's geekiest band is one of the world's most tantalizing mysteries. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. This was 1971. It was the year of wonder and magic. (I wasn't born yet, but if this album is any indication, living in 1971 was like living in a princess fairy tale.) Steve Hackett joined the group, too. Not that the previous guitarist Anthony Phillips was terrible, but he couldn't take the stress of live performances.
And thus, Genesis had their classic line-up. They not only seemed to hit their stride as a collective unit, but they also started to write more consistently interesting melodies, had a better handle on instrumentation, and figured out how to write more engaging lyrics. In other words, Nursery Cryme is a bona fide progressive-rock classic. Let's talk more about Phil Collins, because that man was awesome in ways that were completely unrelated to his '80s career. The way he was able to so expertly throw in complicated fill after complicated fill is enough to make my head spin. In particular, take a listen to his work “Fountain of Salamacis.” Sheesh! I could try to imagine that song without Collins' drumming, but that would make me too depressed. That song rules.
One of my favorite things about Trespass was Genesis' constant ability to connect a song through a series of crescendos. Rest assured, Genesis hadn't given up that art, but they're using it more gracefully now. “The Musical Box” is a 10-minute song and only goes through a couple major build-ups. But each build-up seems very well deserved, and usually gets me on the edge of my seat. The first few minutes of that song is some terribly enchanting Medieval folk with sweet, pastoral textures and a haunting melody gently delivered by Peter Gabriel. But old Steve Hackett ups the ante somewhere in the middle by delivering some gruff electric guitar passages, and Tony Banks comes forth with some bouncy organ chords. ...In short, its ups are exciting and its downs are gorgeous. I suppose these guys could have figured out how to noodle a little better... I'm not nearly as impressed with Genesis as I am with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, for instance. But I guess Genesis were a texture-oriented group anyway, and they were quite good at it. All in all, “The Musical Box” is about as good as it gets in prog-rock. ...Well, with the exception of the other songs Genesis did in Foxtrot and Selling England By the Pound. Those didn't exist yet, though.
“Harold the Barrel” is a major highlight of Nursery Cryme even though it's not one of the 5+-minute prog epics. It's more of a silly, bouncy-piano pop tune, but the melody is FANTASTIC, and it develops astoundingly. The number of different melodies and textures they cram into just three minutes had enough ideas to fill up at least half of a good album. And it's utterly thrilling. Other short songs, the Medieval folky “For Absent Friends” and “Harlequin” don't make quite the same impression, but they're both interesting melodically and they make terribly sweet listens. Peter Gabriel might as well be the star of those songs; his gentle, high-pitched vocals help lend the song a bittersweet flavor that I fall in love with.
When it comes to epic tracks, it doesn't get much more epic than “The Return of the Giant Hogweed.” It is a BIG song that has BIG ambitions and accomplishes BIG things! OK... maybe I'm overrating it since its loud organ chords and drum patterns don't quite seem to make up for the weakish melody. But that's still a fun song to listen to. “Seven Stones” is also, a nice, sweet folky ballad, but I suppose it drags just a little bit.
I've heard reports from a number of factions that Nursery Cryme is a boring album. I've never understood this. I can listen to an album like this and find it so exciting that I practically pee my pants. But I suppose there are some people who can't get themselves immersed in the beautiful folky sections and can't get too excited with the epic, drum-heavy moments. Maybe other people find Peter Gabriel's fantasy lyrics too pretentious. ...These people are nuts, if you ask me, but each to his own. Let them listen to their stupid Kiss albums. (Sorry about not discussing the lyrics. You can read them for yourself on the Internet, you know!)
The Musical Box A+
Oh man. This is 10 minutes long! We're really getting progressive now!! From the opening chords, you can tell that Genesis polished their act substantially. Not that things on Trespass weren't excellent, but that gentle, pastoral feeling I get from those opening chords immediately gives me that impression. Their textures are more finely crafted (instead of being clunkier, which is what I thought of Trespass most of the way through), and the songs are more smoothly developed. I remember most of my favorite songs from Trespass seemed to be crescendo after crescendo, which I liked. But this song seems to limit crescendos, perhaps to make them seem more powerful, which is a tactic that works as well! I suppose the beginning drags on a little bit, but the textures are beautiful and it contains a number of interesting melodies. Midway through, things get more dramatic and violent. ...Right there you can tell why they wanted to get a new drummer. Good old Phil Collins could do fills like a kung-fu master! All in all, this is a beautiful song, and if this was the only reason Genesis is one of rock's most highly celebrated bands, then I'd be with it right there. ...But, boy would they ever top this!
For Absent Friends A-
A nice, laid-back folk song! It isn't even two minutes long, but it has such a strong melody that it makes enough of an impression to strike me as “memorable.” You can't say that about everything, you know. I wish Joan Baez were more like this.
The Return of the Giant Hogweed A-
Here is another epic-length Genesis song that's pure awesome from beginning to end. I don't seem to like it as much as “The Musical Box” because it lacks the transition between the calm, beautiful parts and the more tense passages. This song is pretty much just one intense passage. On that same note, however, I might understand why some listeners might prefer this one. ...I suppose some might have thought the calm parts were “boring.” ...Yeah, like anyone thinks early Genesis is boring. Once again, these guys seemed to figure out what they were doing. The instrumentals are tight and expertly played. Tony Banks, who seemed a bit rough all throughout Trespass has a nice handle on those keyboards. And of course, Phil Collins, one of the great drummers out there, comes up with so many inventive fills throughout that it'll make your head spin. My biggest criticism of this is the themes, which don't seem especially memorable. Perhaps the instrumental interlude in the final third is a tad overextended without there being anything greatly interesting in it. But that's just nitpicking. This is still positively wonderful compared to most prog acts. The textures throughout are excellent.
Seven Stones B+
The fact that I'm fighting the urge to give this song an A is evident that I am way too far into my Genesis fandom to even think straight. But I suppose that this song isn't nearly as exciting, epic or as melodic as the others. The melody is quite good and the way they present it is fun to listen to, in particular that classic Mellotron sound and those angelic, layered vocals. (Hey, is it a coincidence that Peter Gabriel shares his name with an archangel?) Comparatively speaking, this is a minor moment in Genesis' discography, so I guess that just means it's beautiful as opposed to awe-inspiring.
Harold the Barrel A
I don't think anyone accused Peter-Gabriel-era of being pop music, but here is a nice, three-minute ditty with a hella catchy melody and a beat you can (probably) dance to. The piano is upbeat, it meanders like a showtune, and some of the vocals are pretty goofy, which I suppose means this probably wouldn't have gone anywhere on the radio. ...But this was 1970s England, so anything was possible, I guess. Even though this song is only three minutes long, there are so many sections in it that it's boggling my mind! They probably could have come up with half an album based on the textures and tunes they squished in here.
Man, this is beautiful. It's not very eventful, and it seems somewhat pale compared to Harold the Barrel, but you cannot argue with this melody! Like “For Absent Friends” this is a laid-back folk-ballad with a great, pastoral atmosphere and interesting lyrics that tell a story. So, get back in ye easy chair and let these guys sing to your heart for a few minutes!
The Fountain of Salamacis A
The grand finale. This is probably better than most of the songs I give A+s to, but you also have to realize that I have listened to Genesis' discography so much that I'm basically comparing this to their future masterpieces. So, please excuse me!! What I like most about Genesis is not only their ability to create such songs that come off as undeniably epic, but they do it keeping interesting melodies and they develop it so well that it never gets boring to listen to. Those huge Mellotron chords Tony Banks throws in there at times might have been a bit much, but I love them for the life of me. Nothing gets more epic than huge Mellotron chords! All throughout this piece, Phil Collins really gets to strut his stuff... All those freaking complicated fills he tosses in there completely blows Genesis' previous drummer out of the water. No wonder this guy would get such a huge, piece-of-crap smash hit in the '80s called “Sussudio.” Karma owed him something.
Another great pick for the eggheads. It's a major progressive-rock classic, and everyone interested in the genre should own it. I still wouldn't start with this album first, since Genesis would perfect their craft even more with their following two albums.
Read More Genesis Reviews by Starcollector!
From Genesis to Revelation (1969) | Trespass (1970) | Nursery Cryme (1971) | Foxtrot (1972) | Genesis Live (1973) | Selling England By the Pound (1973) | The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) | A Trick of the Tail (1976) | Wind & Wuthering (1977) | Seconds Out (1977) | And Then There Were Three (1978) | Duke (1980) | Abacab (1981) | Three Sides Live (1982) | Genesis (1983) | Invisible Touch (1986) | We Can't Dance (1991) | The Way We Walk, Volume 1: The Shorts (1992) | The Way We Walk, Volume 2: The Longs (1993) | Calling All Stations (1997) | Genesis Archive 1967-75 (1998) | Genesis Archive 2: 1976-92 (2000)
Read all 6 Reviews
Write a Review