(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their 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 necessarily written by the point of view of a Genesis fan.)
Overall Score: 5/5
Best song: Everything!!!
Worst song: Nothing!!!
Amazingly despite my professed love and affection for early Genesis albums, I've never totally gotten into their live albums. “What's the point of them?” I've been known to ask myself. “They did their songs perfectly in the studio, and it's not like there were any major virtuosos like Pete Townsend or Eric Clapton in the group.” On the other hand, I was thinking those things before I even bothered listening to them. Isn't that just like me, completely talking out of my butt?
And yet my more ignorant previous self did have a point. The only people who need to purchase this live album are those who are already bona fide Genesis eggheads, and they certainly don't need to read my thoughts on this before they go out and buy it. Well, perhaps they would part more easily with their hard earned cash after I tell them that this album is a total hoot, but chances are they would have gotten it even if I said it was donkey crap. So, why do I even need to write this? ...When it comes down to it, I guess it's the same reason I felt the need to write about Foxtrot. I feel like it...
True, there are no major virtuosos in Genesis, but they were capable of jamming, and they do it differently than they did in the studio, which I'm sure the fans would lap up. For instance, the guitar solo in the final third of “The Knife” is surprisingly blistering for Genesis! I'd even say that the entire song is more hardened and edgier than it was in the studio, and a marked improvement. So that right there already makes Genesis Live a valuable product for any fan. Surely, the highlights of this album are “Get 'Em Out By Friday” and “The Musical Box,” but those were pretty much perfect masterpieces to begin with and it shouldn't be a big surprise that they sound great live. “The Knife,” on the other hand, might surprise you.
Peter Gabriel is probably at his peak as a singer, and his vocal performances sound remarkably bold and confident. He was known for wearing elaborate costumes during their concerts and making it seem like they were in woodland fairy plays. If that were me in his shoes, I would have felt like a complete idiot, but all that nonsense seemed to empower Peter Gabriel! It's easy to fall in love with his vocal performance in “Get 'Em Out By Friday,” where he does the same amount of play acting as he did in the studio version and perhaps with even more gusto. Gabriel was having so much fun at the time that he even cracked a joke at the beginning of “The Musical Box.” That is amazing since I didn't figure that Gabriel was the sort of person who usually cracks jokes.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Genesis Live is that there are only five songs in it. A double live album is usually standard for prog bands... I would even expect a triple live album before a double one. I kind of regret that they didn't go for a double album, since there's a notable lack of “Supper's Ready,” and I would have also liked to hear live versions of their shorter songs such as “Time Table” and “For Absent Friends.” That said, since this is a short album, they're only covering their best work, and thus this is probably the most purely entertaining live album that they were capable of at the time. Things tend to be more entertaining when they're succinct, right? It forces you to edit. It's funny describing early Genesis as succinct, but I guess releasing a single live album is an instance where that applies.
So, yes. This is an excellent live album that every fan should eventually pick up some day. The only downside I can see of it is that it doesn't contain any material from Selling England By the Pound! Of course that's an idiotic thing to be disappointed over since that album didn't exist when they released this, but I would nonetheless have loved to hear live versions of those songs in their main discography! And no, Seconds Out doesn't count, because that's Phil “Bloody” Collins doing the lead vocals. He was quite a drummer, but he was no Peter Gabriel. Oh god he was no Peter Gabriel.
Watcher of the Skies A
Peter Gabriel sounds like he's enjoying himself, but his vocals seem a bit too quiet over the instrumentals. That's a common complaint I have with live albums, and it's the generic reason I rarely buy into these things. On the other hand, Gabriel continues to sound like he's play acting, and he sounds like he's having a lot of fun with this. Sure, Genesis music is pretentious as hell, but Gabriel has the nice ability to sound like he's not taking it more seriously than necessary. The instrumentals were probably done better in the studio, but the live performances seem slightly more grimey, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few fans lurking around who prefer this version. Most importantly, this was a great song to begin with, and they do all they can to make it sound awesome in concert. This is quite a treat if you know this song already but you want to hear a slightly different but equally good version of it. You don't hear the audience much at all... except at the beginning and end... which is nice.
Get 'Em Out By Friday A
Gabriel's lead vocals are a hoot, and he's doing the play acting more intensely than he was in the studio. That's amazing since he was probably wearing a heavy costume at the time, and perhaps even prancing around a bit on the stage. As far as my limited, non-photographic memory can tell, they're playing mostly the same thing that they were in the studio. I seem to be marveling over the same things, anyway. Phil Collins is still a crackerjack drummer, and I love how they weave themselves masterfully in and out of crescendos. (Most people who hate early Genesis find the quiet parts of their songs tedious... But I really get into it!!!) They do sound really great live, which surprised me at first for some reason. I guess they didn't sound so great in Trespass, but they've clearly improved since then. They're bona fide professional live musicians!
Return of the Giant Hogweed A
Probably safe to say that Gabriel's vocals are loads more fun than they were in the studio. I almost wonder if they go over-the-top at times, but …...... eh, this is Peter Gabriel and I don't often get the impression that he's having this much fun when he sings. It was a weaker song in its original form than the previous two, but they've actually improved it quite significantly here! Notably, I wrote that I was bored with the final third in the studio version, but they completely removed the boring bits and made it rock. Simply put, the guitars are louder and harder. Nicely done! I wish they let that guitar solo rip like that in the studio version! Did they improve it? I'd say so. Phil Collins does those thundering rolls at the very end, and he totally brought down the house!
The Musical Box A
Is that a joke Peter Gabriel says at the beginning of this? Michael Rutherford apparently slipped up and played a note on his bass by accident, and Gabriel announces dryly “That was an unaccompanied bass pedal solo from Michael Rutherford.” These people with dry senses of humor... you don't think they have a sense of humor at all until they crack a joke. Anyway, this is easily one of the most moving and pastoral songs from Genesis' early albums, and they do a very nice job recreating that feeling in the live setting. God, I love soaking up these beautiful, quiet textures they brought us in their stage performances, and their crescendos are just as exciting as ever. Really, it's impeccable that they're able to make such nice, intricate textures... I figured that was more of a studio creation on their part, but I was clearly mistaken. These guys rule live.
The Knife A
Appropriately so, this live rendition sounds much sharper and edgier than that somewhat loose and uncertain version that we saw in Trespass. I wouldn't call this song the highlight of Genesis Live, but I'd say this is the best actual reason to own it. Gabriel sounds much more engaged with his singing, and the guitars almost start to rock out in a heavy metal way. The musical interludes have been made more entertaining, too, particularly with plenty of air-guitar-worthy solos.
Of course this is nothing for a Genesis newbie, but their fans would really be amiss of they passed up this album!
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)
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