Thursday, May 31, 2007

1976-1982

Posted on Thu, May 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

1976-1982
Label: Rhino/Atlantic
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: 1976-1982

Being a Genesis fan with music-snob acquaintances means always having to answer the condescending clarifying question, 'Only the Peter Gabriel years, right?â?� Actually, as this six-disc collection demonstrates, the group evolved gradually, almost glacially, from prog fantasia to polished pop, and the clearest delineation occurred not with Gabriel's departure but with the later exodus of guitar virtuoso Steve Hackett.

The first post-Gabriel album, 1976's A Trick of the Tail, opens with the bombastic 'Dance on a Volcano,â?� which features frenzied guitar and synthesizer solos, and one of Phil Collins' most powerful vocal performances. During the DVD commentary (the set includes one for each album), keyboardist Tony Banks says he knew Collins had a 'lovely, soft voice,â?� but the group wasn't sure if he could withstand the more intense material. 'Volcanoâ?� addresses that issue immediately, and the rest of the record affirmatively answers the other pressing question ' whether the group would remain committed to complex art-rock without its longtime ringleader.

The Wind and the Wuthering, Hackett's swan song, masterfully incorporates his ornate fractal leads. Banks' keyboards swirl and flare during the surging choruses, then delicately accompany Collins' surprisingly subtle vocals during placid segments that foreshadow Genesis' radio-ballad breakthroughs. Bassist Mike Rutherford calls Wuthering 'feminine,â?� but it also includes some of the band's heaviest guitar grooves.

And Then There Were Three sees the group abridging its compositions to compensate for Hackett's absence. Several songs fade prematurely at the three-minute mark, forfeiting melodic momentum. Rutherford was still learning lead: His most intriguing creation, a staggered, distorted riff, introduces the group's first U.S. hit, the otherwise mild 'Follow You, Follow Me.â?� On the categorically solid Duke and Abacab, Genesis merged its fledgling pop sensibilities with its symphonic ambitions, splitting the records between hits such as 'Turn It On Againâ?� and 'Misunderstandingâ?� and compelling oddities such as 'Dodo/Lurkerâ?� and 'Cul-de-Sac.â?� Collins became more confident in his singing, and the group started constructing songs that used vocal hooks rather than instrumental crescendos as their cornerstones.

The box's extra disc hints at Collins' solo career, from 'Paperlate,â?� with its soulful horns, to 'Naminanu,â?� which presaged the similarly nonsensical 'Sussudio.â?� The rarities collection's experiments include ambling Americana ('Me and Virgilâ?�), chipper pub tunes ('Match of the Dayâ?�) and organic Brit-pop ('Pigeonsâ?�), none of which fit this era's proper albums but all of which offer better-than-usual B-side quality. All the discs, available in both remixed CD and surround-sound DVD versions, sound phenomenal.

Genesis recently returned to the road, but with Hackett not participating in the reunion, Trick of the Tail and Wuthering selections won't come into play. That makes this box the impetus for re-examination of those overlooked efforts, which disprove conventional wisdom about Genesis' post-Gabriel creative bankruptcy.

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