by Nicholas Tristan, Features Editor
Let’s start with Selling England by the Pound, Genesis’ seminal 1973 album that represents so much of the genre so well.
The album starts out with a classic progressive rock song called “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, which is a great showcase for multiple members of the band. Peter Gabriel’s plaintive, emotive vocals are a highlight, Phil Collins’ drumming is both manic and focused, and Hackett, Banks, and Rutherford are all doing their respective things!
Genesis, while strong musicians in their own right, was never as focused on tightrope virtuosity as King Crimson or ELP were, and that allows the band more semblance of crossover appeal. Genesis may not have achieved mainstream success until Gabriel and Hackett left the band, allowing Phil Collins to rule the roost with decidedly non-prog hits like “Follow You Follow Me”, but the band’s more restrained musicality has allowed to avoid sounding ludicrously over the top.
The lyrics are pure pablum, though, loaded with sub-Tolkein level allusions that Gabriel attempts to mold into pointed satire, but the entire thing sounds so much like a parody of itself that it crumbles under its own weight. From here, the album pulls no punches: there are “wacky” Peter Gabriel voices (take that, rich people!!), prominently featured flues (a decadent trend seen throughout the decade, certainly), lengthy Tony Banks piano solos, and songs called things like “The Battle of Epping Forest”.
And here’s the thing: even with all that, I still like this record. I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome from having listened so many times, or if it’s just pretty well-made and it stands up pretty well compared to some of the other ridiculous examples in the genre.
From here, Genesis moved onto their landmark 1974 double-album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”. Now, I’ve spoken extensively about the record in the past, but it’s interesting having spent time with both albums lately that I think, overall, Selling England by the Pound is a stronger record. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway goes for ambition and bombast, but as an overstuffed double record it transposes the album lows to be even lower. Not that “Lamb” is a bad record, but it shows there was a certain completeness to earlier Genesis records like Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound that the band never quite matched.
With that out of the way, let’s listen to something even more ridiculous. And what could be more ridiculous than the universally derided first ever winners of the Best Heavy Metal Album at the Grammys - flute-rock pioneers Jethro Tull. I used to like them!