This page collects my reviews of Genesis albums. Please be aware that some of these were written many years ago when I actively disliked the pop/trio version of the band. I have not gone back through their entire catalogue in many years.
1969: From Genesis to Revelation (5/10)
Review lost to time. Read my reviews of albums released in 1969.
1970: Trespass (5/10)
Review lost to time. Read my reviews of albums released in 1970.
1971: Nursery Chryme (6/10)
Review lost to time. Read my reviews of 1971 albums.
1972: Foxtrot (10/10)
This is the record on which Genesis finally added some muscle to their sort of poppy, sort of folky prog thing. Sure, they had started getting louder but here, at long last, they “rock” in the classic sense of the word.
So now you’ve got their crazy rhythms mixed in with an actual power that is missing in a fair amount of prog rock, allowing the whimsy to be, well, less whimsical. Even the ballad feels like it has more of an edge. Which is good.
The songs are pretty strong too; despite their complicated rhythms, the melodies are really strong (and there are a lot of melodic elements, never a problem with this band). And the lyrics are mostly above average for prog rock.
It would already be Genesis’ best album to date if it was just the music on the first side plus some other tracks (though I don’t know what those would have been). But what elevates this record to among the very, very best prog rock albums ever is “Supper’s Ready.”
Since 1969 (perhaps earlier), prog rock bands had been exploring the idea of side-long suites, essentially 20+ minute songs. There had already been a slew of them before Genesis attempted theirs (and there was even an album-long one, courtesy of Jethro Tull). But,to me, Genesis’ attempt is the best to date, and possibly the very best ever.
“Supper’s Ready” manages to achieve everything you would want in a suite as long as it is: there are strong melodies in the individual sections, with call backs to the main theme (and there might be some melodic relationships as well, though I am no musician). There is a real sense of forward momentum, culminating in the awesome climax of “Apocalypse in 9/8” which, if you concentrate too hard on, will turn your stomach into knots. There is a story to the suite as well. Maybe it’s somewhat incomprehensible, but at least it’s a story and not just a bunch of different ideas strung together. “Supper’s Ready” is the band’s finest moment outside of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and one of the essential prog tracks. And it makes this record Genesis’ second best and an absolute classic of the genre.
1973: Selling England by the Pound (9/10)
This is the first Genesis album I ever heard and it is the record that made me fall in love with the (Gabriel-era) version of the band.
Over the years I have come to love both the previous and the subsequent albums much more, even though this record is definitely better produced (or at least better sounding) than Foxtrot.
It’s still one of the great prog rock albums of the era, and part of the Annus Mirabilis of prog rock. It would be on the list of albums I would recommend to anyone trying to get into or understand prog rock. It is nearly flawless.
But I still think there’s a misstep or two, and I think they made better records. So, years, after falling in love with it, I can’t quite justify the old 10/10 rating I used to give it.
1974: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (10/10)
I cannot be objective about this record – it is my favourite rock opera of all time. But I guess I can try to explain why I love it so much and I why I think that it should be appreciated by more than just Genesis and prog rock fans.
This is some of Genesis’ most compelling music – the songs are mostly way shorter than in the past and even one of the longest is actually a suite rather than a massive piece. The shorter songs show off their ability with melody a lot more than their longer and more ambitious pieces. (Yes, that’s right. Though this is a rock opera the individual pieces are almost entirely less ambitious than most previous music made by this iteration of the band. It’s a little like The Wall that way.) That means there are actual songs here (in addition to song fragments) and that they out number the long solo passages. The music manages to walk a good line between being accessible and still sounding proggy.
Though some band members don’t like the concept, I find it has held up rather well, especially in comparison to the other rock operas of the day. Gabriel does a very good job of painting pictures of the individual scenes and the science fiction/fantasy angle helps make the thing a lot more engaging and fun. Moreover, whether he intended it or not, Gabriel’s reliance on American pop culture references gives the whole thing an incredibly post modern feel, which comes to a climax in the final song. It’s just popular music – it’s not literature and it’s not some grand philosophical statement.
Hackett has complained that he didn’t get enough parts to show off and, while that’s true, I think that the finished product really shows off how great this band was. Banks in particular shines, showing off all sorts of different capabilities and it sounds as though he bought a new synthesizer or two, as a lot of his parts and solos sound distinct from previous records, as if they were new instruments. And the band as a whole is just excellent, whether they are making an absolute racket or whether they are playing their catchiest material to date. Gabriel continues to do very strange things with his voice, allowing him to believably portray different characters.
And they just sound different than on previous records. I don’t know if its Banks’ synthesizers and the effects used on various instruments or what but not only does Gabriel sound different (attributable both to his voice being recorded in weird ways and Brian Eno’s involvement on a few tracks) but the whole band does. It’s the rare album from the golden age of prog rock where a band manages to sound both entirely different and entirely recognizable. I can’t quite put my finger on how – I’d describe it as a change of hue or something subtle like that. But this record just doesn’t sound like Foxtrot or Selling England by the Pound.
For me, the songs work, the performances work, the production has somehow managed not to sound dated despite how weird it is – it’s a band at the top of their form pulling off a grand concept that manages to sound foreign and familiar at the same time. It’s one of my favourite albums of the decade and my favourite rock opera ever.
It is an absolute classic.
At this point Peter Gabriel went solo.
Genesis albums release in 1976:
A Trick of the Tail (5/10)
Review lost of time but I suspect this rating comes from the feeling of disappointment that this is nowhere near as interesting as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Wind & Wuthering (6/10)
Review lost of to time.
1978: …And Then There Were Three (4/10)
Review lost to time.
1980: Duke (6/10)
Many, many years ago I did a run through all the post-Gabriel Genesis records and rated most of them 4/10 because I was just determined to insist that prog genesis > pop genesis. I don’t know how much thought I gave this one, or any of them, really, nor how many listens. I just said “This sucks!” and moved on. [Editor’s note: I guess that explains all the missing reviews.]
Well, that wasn’t fair. Whatever I might think of pop Genesis, they wrote catchy songs and they thought at lot about production (even if I don’t like where they went).
This record finds them somewhere in between the early post-Gabriel prog stuff and their ’80s pop peak – it’s clear they are still on the fence as to how commercial they should get. There are some songs that feel like they are borderline shooting for the pop charts and there are plenty of pieces – and often intros to pieces – which see them trying to find some kind of less ambitious, ’80s version of their old sound, where the influence isn’t so much Romantic music as something much less ambitious and dramatic (which I cannot place right now).
The one advantage this relative lack of ambition has is that the band no longer sounds like Gabriel-era Genesis. Something you can criticize their first few post-Gabriel albums for is how much they are trying to sound like some kind of idealized, Gabriel-sanitzed version of the band and that is very much not true here, which is to their credit.
I am a prog rock fan, even at this late date, and just don’t particularly like these pop prog records, so this doesn’t do much for me. But I will admit that it’s much better than I remember it being, and I can see why lots of people think it’s the last good Genesis record (from the point of few of the fans of the earlier version of the band).
1981: Abacab (5/10)
When I first listened to Genesis and fell in love with a few of their classic prog albums, I spent a very brief time listening to all their post-Gabriel work. I rated all of it (poorly) without reviews and left it at that. Many years later, I am properly listening to those records as their anniversaries come up and I’m realizing that I was fairly unfair.
But though I was unfair at the time, I still don’t like what they became. And honestly this album is a good example of one of the problems I now have with ’80s Genesis: they had a really hard time making up their mind what they wanted to be. The title track is perhaps the best example, which starts out with a song that is all but unrecognizable to fans of the original band and concludes with a pretty directionless jam, featuring some decent soloing from Rutherford but like really directionless soloing from Banks. (I invite you to listen to Tony Banks solos on, like Foxtrot or Selling England by the Pound and then listen to the solo on Abacab. Is it the same guy?)
They are perpetually caught between being a pop band and sounding like some pale imitation of what they used to be – one of the best prog rock bands of all time. It’s a combination that makes no sense and yet it made them one of the most successful groups of the 1980s. But it’s more extreme on these early albums, at least as far as I can remember.
Sure, there are some catchy songs here – though nothing as catchy as the catchiest songs on Duke or, especially their big hits from later in the decade – but I just cannot figure out who this is for. As a fan of the earlier band, this doesn’t remotely satisfy me. But it’s also, like, not great pop music.
1983: Genesis [Self-titled] (6/10)
Years and years ago, when I first discovered Genesis and was absolutely infatuated with their prog rock, I listened to their pop albums and dismissed all of them, rating virtually all of them 4/10 and not writing any reviews. (I have no idea if I even listened to them 3 times each, I don’t remember this one so I doubt I gave it my requisite listens.)
As the years have passed, I have more respect for pop music than I did when I was an angry young man. And the first thing that jumps out at me with this record is how relatively unconventional it is for mainstream ’80s pop. In fact, calling it mainstream ’80s pop is unfair, since there’s definitely artistry here that you wouldn’t find in most pop music of the day.
So I definitely like it more than I thought I would. (I figured I would stand “That’s All,” which I already knew, and that would be it.) But there are some major missteps – none more than “Illegal Alien,” which has dated, um, poorly to put it mildly – and I can’t help but miss the Gabriel version of the band. (Hell, I would rather listen to Gabriel’s solo career than most post-Gabriel Genesis.)
Still, it’s better than I thought it would be.
1986: Invisible Touch (6/10)
Not long after I first got into Genesis, I listened to every single Genesis album and rated them (I believe without my customary three listens). This was around 2005. I gave this one 4/10 as well as every other Genesis album from the ’80s and ’90s (except for …Calling All Stations…). I can’t say I did much actual listening to this album or any of the others.
Over time I’ve become a lot less critical and a lot more accepting of when bands go pop. It’s hard to blame people for wanting to be more famous or make more money. It’s hard to blame people for wanting to do something different. And it’s especially hard because I have no musical talent and who am I to judge these very talented musicians that harshly. (Also, I don’t see how I could have been fair.)
But all these years later I still don’t like what happened to Genesis. I don’t hate their ’80s music any more but I don’t care about it either. It’s just not my thing. And it remains so curious that these talented musicians went from making some of the best prog rock ever made to…this. (In their defense, they’re far from the only people who found themselves making generic ’80s pop after a career doing something different.)
“In Too Deep” is definitely the catchiest song here and feels very much like a Phil Collins solo track to my ears. The title track is maybe not quite as catchy as I remembered and “Land of Confusion” is unmemorable enough that, even in this moment, I remember the video far more than the actual song. But they still do have some catchy songs.
As others have noted, it’s funny how they insist on still sorta, kinda making “progressive rock.” There are a couple tracks here that violate mainstream pop rock conventions but do so in ways that aren’t particularly interesting (except perhaps for the part in “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” where it almost sounds like it’s skipping). I think it’s likely this stuff is far more impressive – and fun! – for people who have never heard the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis. If you have, these pseudo prog tracks are always the least successful of pop Genesis, because you wonder why they are bothering.
But it’s well made, of course. They are talented musicians, they can write the odd catchy song and this record has managed to sound less horribly dated than some 1986 records. (It still sounds pretty horribly dated.)
I just wish they had continued using their talents for good, not evil.
1991: We Can’t Dance (4/10)
Review lost to time if I even wrote one. Read my reviews of albums released in 1991.
1997: …Calling All Stations… (1/10)
Review lost to time but, I basically never give this rating to anything any more so this feels very unfair no matter how sacrilegious this record is. Read my reviews of music from 1997.