12 January 2011

Red Box

I had fetched in the two other Genesis boxes some little time ago. At the time, I was fairly sure I shouldn’t trouble with the 1983-1998 box.

Unusually for me, I was actually following the band in ‘real time’ when they issued the Duke and Abacab LPs (and attended a concert of each of those tours). I was crazy about Duke, and really liked a couple of tracks on Abacab (no really good reason why I didn’t get to know the full album back at that time, unless it’s that I was at Wooster, and I took my studies fairly seriously . . . so that my pop listening was mostly a matter of cherry-picking the tried-&-true, and it was a time when I hardly absorbed any new pop albums).

Checking the calendar, the album Genesis must have come out while I was Wooster . . . and my junior and senior years were if anything a little more concentrated (I was a double-major in composition and clarinet performance). Anyway, the singles that got radio play from the album didn't ‘click’ with me (though heaven knows why I should have no trouble with, say, “Every Step You Take” by the Police, and yet somehow hold “That’s All” against Genesis). I think that I was even negatively affected by the cover of the new album . . . that was a kid’s toy back at home, and I took the homey minimalism of the cover for a disappointment . . . pretty silly, really; I mean, why not, right?

At some point (while I was at UVa? Probably) I did pick up Invisible Touch on CD. As while at Wooster, my studies meant that I really did not pay attention to it as a full album. I did like all the singles (the first half of the disc is all hits, isn’t it? And “Throwing It All Away” is the next to last track), but I was already half-dismissive of ‘this “block-buster” Genesis,’ so I was not being fair to the band or their work in my thinking.

That’s pretty much where my head was with post-Duke Genesis for a long time. The change began (I think) with my watching the When in Rome DVD. Of course the newer material (notably “Home by the Sea” and “Domino” — to which apparently I never listened when I first owned the Invisible Touch disc) I was a complete stranger to. But it was an obvious case where, unless I was prepared to be a blockhead and think that the early stuff was good, and the later stuff bad, just because of a watershed date — it was just plain a good show, and they’re obiously a fine band, and really impressive songwriters — if anything, even more impressive because they evolved with such assurance.

Well, somewhere in the middle of that was a New York friend’s advocacy for the 1983 album. I thought, I really at last listen to it. (Oh! Another video reinforcement was the Genesis Songbook DVD, which spans their entire career . . . again, underscoring the point of their astonishing versatility as both a performing band, and a songwriting collective.) So with an eye to longer-term economizing, I was rather thinking I should probably want the box.

Which brings us to the present. I owe it to Abacab to go back and listen to it closely (and in its entirety) again, but offhand, I think Genesis is a yet better album. And I couldn’t help thinking, while listening to We Can't Dance last night and this morning, that in all fairness, this sounded like the album they wish they could have made of ...And Then There Were Three...

With all the twists and turns of fortune through the course of the band’s career, I hardly thought I should ever find myself owning their entire studio output, let alone pleased with it. But, in fact, I am pleased, because I am musically impressed.

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