There are new versions of Genesis albums on the shelves now. Not just “new” as in remastered, but totally remixed from the original tapes by engineer Nick Davis. The project began a while back as an attempt to bring The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway into SACD and/or 5.1 format. Davis and his team proceeded throughout the catalog, with new stereo mixes another result of the process. The first batch released was Trick through Abacab in Spring 2007 – on regular CD in America and on SACD elsewhere, both backed with DVD extras. The second box, covering 1983-1998, was released in Fall 2007. The Gabriel-era remixes emerged in late 2008, and the live albums followed in Fall 2009.
Audiophiles savaged the first batch quicker than you can say “all CDs produced after 1993 suck,” due to compression used in mixing and mastering. I empathize with this crowd to a degree, because a lot of modern discs do sound awful, or at least far less dynamic than they could or should. (And don’t get me started on companies mastering music that will sound good as computer files or in the car or whatever. Nowadays, I’m really starting to mourn vinyl LPs.) But I’m also a “take what I can get” listener, as life’s too short for me to nitpick mastering jobs to death. If I embarked on that particular crusade, I wouldn’t have a CD collection to listen to. Anyway, I bought the standard CD/DVD versions, and this page will run down the differences between the new mixes and those of the 1994 “Definitive Edition” Genesis CDs. I’ll also cover the content of the DVDs. My main concern is the stereo mixes; I only have periodic access to a really good surround system, so my observations about the 5.1 mixes will have to wait, if I even write about them at all. (I know the surround versions are the main attraction to a lot of people, but surely they are reviewed elsewhere in e-land.)
For reviews of the actual music, you can go to my Genesis review page. Any references there to mixing and recording refer to the original versions of the albums.
6 CD / 6 DVD set
You can get the new editions of Trick thru Abacab individually or you can get all five of them in one box, which also includes a hardbound booklet and a bonus CD/DVD of non-album tracks.
It’s interesting how a mix can trigger emotional dynamics within a track. Not just the loud/soft contrast, but also the relationships of the individual parts, and which instruments “carry” the transitions within an arrangement. I’ve known the original Genesis mixes for about fifteen years, and right away, I noticed all sorts of differences in the new editions, both subtle and glaring. I’ll probably repeat myself, but here are some general observations:
The sound is much brighter all around. Whether or not this translates to harshness could depend on your speakers and/or EQ.
The majority of the lead vocal tracks are louder than before, and some of the vox sound a little hot. I A/B’ed these with the originals and noticed some imperfections (crusty sibilants, etc) on the old vocal tracks. I guess the new mixes magnify things, for better or worse.
The CD levels are loud – maybe not with a capital L, but close. There’s some breathing room for quiet moments, but a lot of the time, the soundstage is swamped. I don’t necessarily find this fatiguing to listen to.
Stereo remix: We’re off to an iffy start, as the original mix had a warm character that didn’t require much tampering. This version clarifies and evens out a lot of the instruments, but not always for the good. “Squonk”, for example, sounds sharper but no longer feels as tight and springy as it did before. Same goes for “Dance on a Volcano”. “Ripples” overloads the final chorus, and similar squashiness is heard in the climactic middle section of “Mad Man Moon”. “Entangled” pulls back the bass pedals in the outro segment to my mild dismay. I like “Los Endos”, but some of the original peaks and valleys have disappeared. The only two tracks I’d rate better than the original mixes are “Trick of the Tail” and “Robbery Assault and Battery”. Anyway, aficionados might appreciate the new slant on some tracks, but don’t dispose of the old CD, because its magic has now mostly been computed out.
DVD visuals: Audio disc aside, the new Trick is worth acquiring for the 1976 In Concert performance segment. With Bill Bruford in the drum chair, the band tackles the climactic sections of “Cinema Show”, “Supper’s Ready”, some Lamb tunes, and more. The occasional extra visual effects aren’t too bad, and besides, it’s cool to see and hear Bruford with Genesis. The three music videos from Trick aren’t quite as cool, shall we say. As with each of these DVDs, you also get a band interview, where they (separately) reminisce about certain songs and the circumstances surrounding the album. Nothing the devoted Genesis fan hasn’t heard before, but still enjoyable to watch. All of the DVDs also have onscreen tour programs, but since the pages are not photographed up close, they’re pretty useless.
Stereo remix: This never sounded all that great to begin with, and there aren’t many improvements to the irrevocably bulky synthesizers – see “Eleventh Earl of Mar” and “Mouse’s Night”. Davis does caress the keyboards and warm the drums to some degree, but the overall chill remains. Nice piano and percussion tones, though. I’m happy that the dynamic romanticism of “Blood on the Rooftops” survives, and I think the instrumental “Unquiet Slumbers” tops its original mix, even though the bass parts are less evident in places. The “nasty” section at the end sounds better, mainly because Tony’s synth lead isn’t quite so abrasive. Another good point is the softening of the sappy background vocals in “Afterglow”. “Wot Gorilla” sounds like a brand new tune. Apart from all that, the high end is bothersome throughout most of the album, particularly on the lead vocals and cymbals. Since I didn’t like the original mix much, this wins by default.
DVD visuals: The two bootleg TV “performances” (mimed) are of such wretched quality that I can’t even crack a joke about seeing Genesis on the Mike Douglas show. That leaves the band interview, which is good. No promo videos for this album, hardly a loss.
Stereo remix: The new version is just as overbearing as ATTW3’s original wall of sound, but at least you can distinctly hear the components now. The drums are clearer, the keys and guitars more defined, and the all-encasing reverb no longer there. “Down and Out” comes across with a more visceral attack, as it should, and I even found myself enjoying parts of “Deep in the Motherlode”, which I’d never done before. “Snowbound” misses some original dynamics but compensates with more detail. I can’t tell you how many minor changes exist because the original mix was so jumbled to my ears. This album still has its artistic problems, but I consider the new edition a sonic upgrade for sure.
DVD visuals: The band interview covers Steve Hackett’s departure among other things. Interesting to hear Tony Banks refer to Hackett as a departed ally since they both liked the “weird” stuff. The “Three Dates with Genesis” 1978 documentary follows the group on tour, and it’s a minor hoot thanks to the earnestness of the narrator as he describes the lights ‘n lasers, the trucking logistics, and how many feet of urinal are at the Knebworth festival. One may recognize parts of this documentary that were excerpted in 1990’s “Genesis: A History” video. The quality is shoddy, but it provides cackle or two, and the musicians come across as normal blokes. Rutherford, amused by the question, says that no, they aren’t millionaires. You also get videos for “Follow You” and “Many Too Many”. I bet Phil got tired of these video shoots where he had to be filmed at the front microphone and also back at the drums. I wonder if anyone watching ever got confused. “Are they twins? Is that Rael and his brother John?”
Stereo remix: Duke originally had sort of a bright yet cloudy mix, if that makes any sense – you could hear what was going on, but it seemed a little distant. Remixed, the elements are crisper and more present, particularly the drums. This is exactly what I would have wanted from a remix. “Man of Our Times”, “Heathaze”, and the first few minutes of “Duke’s Travels” are among the remarkable improvements. On the down side, the mega fortissimo moments of “Behind the Lines”, “Cul De Sac”, and the climax of “Duke’s Travels” and “Duke’s End” are all horribly crunched. The keyboards dominate the mix, and when you add big bass pedals and crashing kick/cymbal hits, you can actually hear the levels kick back from the ceiling. Ugh. One might notice the same thing on the original versions, but it’s more pronounced on the remix. So I give the new Duke a 90% success rate with 10% serious reservations.
DVD visuals: In the longest band interview, Tony calls Duke his favorite. There are three ho-hum videos of the album’s songs. The real treat is the Live at the Lyceum 1980 video, where the band (plus Stuermer and Thompson) rolls through several selections. The quality’s not perfect, but as a freebie it’s pretty nice.
Stereo remix: Like Trick, the original Abacab mix – despite some shadowy bits – had perfect character that is mysteriously altered in the new version. I think that’s because Nick Davis’ goal was to de-Padghamize things – dial back the gated reverb drums (my favorite snare burst in “Who Dunnit” is minimized), sharpen the keyboard sounds, and fill space. Thankfully, one can still hear the stark new style the band achieved with this record, but part of that effect came from the original mix. There isn’t much for me to complain about, though. The finale of “Dodo/Lurker” sounds crunched up, but so did the first version. I miss the original balance of subtle details in “Me and Sarah Jane”, yet interesting counterlines emerge this time out. The title track undergoes a few tweaks but is largely true to the original. I heard a newly emphasized keyboard part in the middle of “Keep It Dark”. Eh, another tough call. The original is undeniably special, but I enjoy the revamp, too.
DVD visuals: More promo videos plus the band interview, and that’s all. Hey Tony, I like “Who Dunnit” too. Maybe it’s just too bad-ass for all the naysayers to understand.
Remixes: Here are the B-sides and EPs of the day, including “Me and Virgil” and “Match of the Day”, whose exclusion from 2000’s Archive #2 box I bitched about. I don’t see what’s so embarrassing about the cute throwaway “Match of the Day”; I’d rather hear that than ever listen to “Alone Tonight” or “In Too Deep” again. All of the other eleven tracks did appear on the second Archive box. Most of them sound cleaner here (“Evidence of Autumn”, “Submarine”), and you get some significant differences in the mixes, too (“Naminanu”, “Pigeons”). Nevertheless, I prefer the earlier versions of “You Might Recall” and “Naminanu”, and what “The Day the Light Went Out” gains from a clearer vocal, it loses in an overly crispy top end. “Paperlate” makes a good case study: the original had some murkiness but sat just right, while the new mix is more exact but loses the concise punch. This disc is definitely a nice bonus for the box set, but in no way does it tempt me to ditch Archive #2.
DVD visuals: A mimed “Paperlate” video and a band interview that discusses the remixing project in general. Tony Banks was the most involved and thus has the most commentary to offer. He says that the original mixes up through Duke were rushed; well, that might be true for the middle three records, but I’d say that producer David Hentschel did an effective job on Trick of the Tail, at least.
5 CD / 5 DVD set
I’m not gung ho on Invisible Touch, We Can’t Dance, or Calling All Stations, and hearing their remixes wasn’t high on my list of priorities, but the collector in me had to snag this box. Turned out to be worthwhile. These recordings (plus the self-titled 1983 album) were much clearer to begin with than those of the 1976-81 period, thus there are fewer questionable moments of “did this distortion occur in the mastering or was it on the original tapes?” Web surfers will encounter the opinions of folks who are determined to not like Nick Davis’ remixing, but I was never attached to the previous mixes of these particular albums, so I enjoy the new versions for what they are. They don’t really change my evaluations of the music, though.
As before, you can find the titles individually or all together in one box with a booklet and bonus disc of rarities.
Stereo remix: This album always sounded a little flat to me, especially in comparison to Abacab. Perhaps that was due to the influx of digital instruments (and recording techniques) the band was using. The remix adds life and depth without changing things radically. For those concerned about excessive volume on these remasters, I actually had to turn the volume UP on some tracks. “Mama” builds in much the same way as the original, although the drums are thinner at the end. Rutherford’s guitar is more prominent in the rise and fall of “Second Home by the Sea”. I’m not a fan of “Taking It All Too Hard” but the remix is very colorful and sounds less like a robotic Collins single now. My only complaint would be that the bass guitar gets buried in “Silver Rainbow”; I prefer the original version of that one. (And maybe “That’s All” has less bounce than before, but it’s not an important song to me, so I don’t care.) Despite this minor carping, I give the remix a thumbs-up.
DVD visuals: Here are the usual array of regulars – promo videos, tour program screenshots, and a band interview, which in this case is pretty thorough. The Mama Tour Rehearsal is a single-camera video of the group running through a variety of tunes for about an hour on stage. The sound and picture are not very good but the G-Fan might find it interesting, especially if they’re desperate for footage they’ve never seen before. I like it just enough to wish that it had been better recorded.
Stereo remix: I thought the original recording/mix was distractingly busy. It’s still a digital ‘80s jungle in here but not quite so frigid. By spreading out the perspective on some of the tracks, the remix makes the music breathe a bit more (for me, anyhow). This is best heard in the longer pieces “Tonight Tonight Tonight” and “Domino”; while not High Art, they do let the band stretch out. “The Brazilian” sounds good, too, despite the clattering electro-percussion loopiness. I can’t say how much has changed in the Top 40 hits, though they do seem more spacious. “Land of Confusion” already sounded like postmodern cyberpop two decades ago, and it’s still meaty beaty big ‘n bouncy. This disc gets another thumbs-up, though you must note that I never put the original mix on any pedestal.
DVD visuals: Thanks in part to Phil’s pop infamy, Genesis circa 1986 had acquired a rather unbearable demeanor; witness the corny bonhomie of the “Invisible Touch” video, which makes me want to barf into my socks. The mugging doesn’t get much better in the Visible Touch tour documentary, which has almost zero real content (and was thus perfect for MTV, I guess). The Old Grey Whistle Test doc attempts to be slightly more informative, addressing Phil’s entry into the band, Pete’s departure, etc., on up to the symphonic wonderments of “In Too Deep”. Anyway, as you can tell, this isn’t my favorite page in the G book.
Stereo remix: Nick Davis originally produced this one, and he doesn’t do much second-guessing. Seems to me he tweaked a few elements and gave the album a “bigger” (but not squashed) feel. This is a nice sounding record – too bad at least half the songs are so banal. Again, I think the long-form pieces benefit most. “Driving the Last Spike” and “Fading Lights” are both pleasurable and build their emotional heights as well as before, if not better. “Dreaming While You Sleep” doesn’t have the same scope as the original when it comes to the final section, but it sounds fine nonetheless. Most of the rest of the songs have such vanilla arrangements that the remix makes little difference. I still had the original disc squirreled away, and after some A/B comparing, I don’t think I’ll need it anymore.
DVD visuals: Promo videos (I chuckle at Tony’s sedate performance in “Jesus”) and a band interview that possibly makes the album appear even duller than it is. The “No Admittance” doc goes behind the scenes into the studio sessions, where the group comes across with less smugness than they did in the mid-80s, and there are some candid recording moments, even if they are within nondescript songs. (Do I really care how “Never a Time” went down? No.) Worth a look.
Stereo remix: Perhaps because the album was tepidly received the first time, the remix is more aggressive than the original. The second half of “Alien Afternoon”, for example, cranks up the guitars and loses the shimmering atmosphere it used to have. Similarly, the title track sounds “tougher” in a less spacious way. Not everything is changed, but brittleness settles over some tracks, and up close, you’ll notice slight distortion on a few things, like Nir Zidkyahu’s awesome drumming on “The Dividing Line”. (Or perhaps the lo-fi “fuzziness” that surrounds the drums on that track is intentional.) I don’t mean that whole tracks are jacked up and ruined, just some individual elements in the mix. The much maligned CAS has a handful of worthy Genesis moments and might have been a positive album had some of the execution been different. And if they’d spent more than ten minutes on the lyrics.
DVD visuals: Ray Wilson and Nir Z add insightful comments to the band interview, in which Mike and Tony are perched between nitpicky endorsement and dismissal. I enjoy the promotional featurette (EPK) for the album and the three live performances are okay – observe the contrast between Ray’s subdued stage persona and Phil’s smarmy ‘80s antics. I like Ray’s voice in certain songs and he seems like a nice enough person, but it was nearly impossible for Banks and Rutherford to reinvent Genesis from the top down, even if they were the main songwriters all along. This is their Drama tangent, if you like.
Stereo remix: The first five tracks are also found on the second Archive box. “On the Shoreline” remains a minor treasure that I think should have replaced “Tell Me Why” on Dance, just as “Feeding the Fire” should have booted something stinky-poo from Touch. You’ll notice a few changes in the instrumental “Do the Neurotic” along with louder backing vocals in “Shoreline”, but for the most part these selections don’t differ much from the way they sounded before. The last three tracks are outtakes from Calling All Stations. “Anything Now” has a cool groove, a couple of hooks, and a nice little “jam” section, while “Run Out of Time” is an unusual ballad with nice vocal leaps from Ray and a lush synth-string crescendo. These two would have given CAS a lift. “Sign Your Life Away” has one good vocal hook but is otherwise forgettable.
DVD visuals: A generous program that includes a Knebworth performance from the Dance tour (including the “Old Medley”, but abruptly aborting “Second Home by the Sea”), an electronic press kit for the Archive #2 box, and a short acoustic set from 2000.
7 CD / 6 DVD set
Because the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis albums are the oldest of the catalog, they would seem to be the ripest for sonic improvement, and because they are often the most revered of the catalog, they would seem to leave the most room for remixing disasters. I lean towards the former conclusion. I hear improvements on every one of these albums: Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. While the original mixes served in their slightly flawed ways for decades, I’d always listen to them and wish this or that part sounded a bit clearer or stronger, or that I could hear what Peter was singing. I’ve got my wish.
Stereo remix: My only previous reference was an MCA cassette, so this version can’t help but sound ten times better. Since I didn’t review Trespass on my other Genesis page, I should mention that it is a worthwhile record and more progressive than the group’s poppy debut From Genesis to Revelation, if not as complex or accomplished as later works. “Looking for Someone” has a streak of soul in Gabriel’s verses, followed by pomp-rock instrumental portions, and the early classics “Stagnation” and “The Knife” blend multiple themes into mini-epic prototypes. The other three tracks are just as interesting in their own ways, and founding guitarist and writer Anthony Phillips makes some nice contributions. The drummer is John Mayhew, who followed Chris Stewart and John Silver into the Genesis drum chair. Anyway, Trespass sounds quite good and my appreciation of this album has shot upward. (Although I’ve always liked “The Knife”; you could listen to a third generation cassette copy and it would still knock you over.)
DVD visuals: Just a 2007 reissues interview here, albeit a lengthy one (42 mins.) where the group talks about their “first album as a proper band” (Mike Rutherford) and their early days in general. As on the preceding boxes, members are interviewed separately. Peter Gabriel comments on the “differing sensibilities” between playing bands and songwriting bands; most bands start by playing and find songwriting along the way, while Genesis began by writing but found the playing aspect. Anthony Phillips also takes part in the reminiscences, including the reasons (health, stage fright) behind his departure. I wonder how Genesis would have shaped up if Phillips hadn’t left, given that he was a key writer from the get go.
Stereo remix: The previously indistinct drums, buried vocals, and general dullness hampered this album somewhat. In fact, it’s a testament to Nursery Cryme’s material that it could be so memorable despite the less than optimal sound. The new sheen improves the picture, and even if some of the vocals are still mixed a bit low, they are more detailed, as is everything else. The guitar and keyboard riffs of “The Musical Box”, the gentle arpeggios of “For Absent Friends” and “Harlequin”, and the busy rockscapes of “Giant Hogweed” and “Fountain of Salmacis” are all shined up. “Harold the Barrel” is as funny as ever, and the dreaminess of “Seven Stones” sounds nice. The more dramatic peaks (as in the “Hogweed” finale) reveal some limitations of the original recording, which doesn’t bother me much. Meanwhile, the quiet parts remain quiet, if not as quiet as before, and that’s mostly a good thing, in my opinion. The music retains an effective dynamic range, but not so much that you have to strain to hear the softer parts - and that goes for Foxtrot and Selling England as well. The important thing is that you can hear all the details and still tell the difference between the music lying low versus plowing ahead full steam. A great new mix that I prefer to the original.
DVD visuals: Like Trespass, this just has the 2007 band interview and nothing else. Among the topics covered are the arrivals of Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, how the tunes came to be, and the cover art. The reissue interviews on these discs are all at least twice as long as those in the other boxsets, but much of that time is spent with Gabriel slowly trying to put his thoughts into words, they don’t dispense much information that the Genesis diehard doesn’t already know, and I think the interviews could have been a little better organized and edited. One has to know the music well before having any inkling of what they’re talking about half the time. The band members (particuarly Peter and Tony) also very guarded in what they say - the “sort of” tics stack up real quick. By the way, a good companion for these boxsets is the 2007 interview book Genesis - Chapter and Verse, where everyone’s thoughts are easier to understand.
Stereo remix: I’ve had two previous CDs plus the vinyl LP, and this version blows them away. Heresy? Well, my view over the years has been that Foxtrot had a lot of great things happening but the mix was a little crammed and not as clear as it should have been. Now, it’s extraordinarily vivid with an equality of instruments, not least Collins’ drums. On my first cursory listen, it was impossible to fast forward through “Time Table” or “Get ‘Em Out by Friday”, as I’d never heard all of their elements in such a well-defined manner. “Supper’s Ready” is impressive as well, including a few minor changes that the obsessives will spot, and one correction of a pitch mismatch, but the magic is still there. When the 9/8 Apocalypse section kicks in, wow. “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” (a very underrated track) loses some of its former atmosphere, specifically in the “Far from the north” verse and the instrumental segments, but the new mix is great in its own right. I used to like Foxtrot a lot before, but now I love it.
DVD visuals: The Rock of the ‘70s TV segment features the band performing four numbers (“Fountain of Salmacis”, “Twilight Alehouse”, “Musical Box”, and “Return of the Giant Hogweed”) on a bright, bare set. Though not outstanding musically (and they don’t have a real audience to connect with), it’s a close-up on Genesis in action, sans costumes or makeup on the frontman. The 4-minute Piper Club clip mixes backstage banter with live footage set to “Stagnation”. Excerpts of both of these features were previously seen in the “Genesis - A History” video of 1990, as was the Shepperton performance on the bonus disc of Selling England. The reissues interview is pretty good, though it doesn’t delve as deep into the songwriting and arranging process as I had hoped.
Stereo remix: I came to this one with some trepidation, as “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, “Firth of Fifth”, and “Cinema Show” are all sacred ground. The original mixes weren’t perfect (like some of the muddied vocals in “Moonlit Knight”), but they worked. The remixed “Moonlit Knight” is brighter than the original, bringing the vocal and instrumental elements into the light along with previously obscured parts like the flutes at the beginning of the quiet final section. The whole track sounded almost foreign on first listen, but after some comparisons, I like the remix, though it changes the mood to a degree. “Firth of Fifth” and “I Know What I Like” stick close to the old mixes, while “After the Ordeal” repositions the classical guitar part more prominently. The instrumental section of “Cinema Show” is more aggressive and the rising Mellotron chords near the end aren’t quite as lush as before, but it’s still a pinnacle Genesis sequence, and it leads into an exquisite “Aisle of Plenty”. The real surprise of this disc was “Battle of Epping Forest”, which by strengthening the drums becomes a more involving experience, rather than a forbidding jumble of words and instrumental backgrounds. Of course, no remixing can change the fact that “Epping Forest” is a mess of a song, but it’s more fun to listen to, and it’s great to fully hear what Collins played in this and the other tracks. Omitting several finer comparisons, my impression is that Selling England has been improved while retaining much of the feel that made it a classic in the first place. As with all of these, I’m hanging on to the original mix, though.
DVD visuals: The half-hour Bataclan footage includes excerpts of “Musical Box” (fox’s head and red dress in the final section), “Giant Hogweed”, “Supper’s Ready”, and “The Knife”. The video quality is good, while the performances have some rough edges. Between the songs are short band interviews overlaid with French translations. The real deal is the 1973 Shepperton Studios footage, sort of a “staged concert,” which isn’t of top A/V quality but looks and sounds better than it has elsewhere. The setlist: “Watcher of the Skies” (the film starts off shaky but it settles down), “Moonlit Knight” (very close to the studio version; in fact, parts of it ARE the studio version), “I Know What I Like”, “Musical Box”, and “Supper’s Ready”, complete with Gabriel’s ever-changing headgear and a couple of introductory stories. Good stuff. In the 2007 interviews, most of the band remains ambivalent toward Selling England. They left my interview on the cutting room floor, where I tapped imaginary ash from my unlit cigar and said that this is a bloody essential album.
Stereo remix: Another good job. Previously kind of ratty, The Lamb is now more lucid and powerful. The drums sound clean, you can hear more of Hackett’s guitar, and some of the synthesizer leads don’t jut out as much. It’s well evidenced that Genesis were racing the clock to get The Lamb mixed back in the day (as Collins reiterates in the interview), and as much as I liked (and still like) the original version, it left some things out of balance. I’m thrilled that they were able to significantly polish and rearrange these tracks without losing the many magic moments I could count on before - ambient interludes, overall tension of light and shade, and yes, loud/soft contrasts and crescendos.
The basic difference between the new and old Lamb is that everything is clearer and fuller, and it’s a joy to hear the likes of “Grand Parade”, “Carpet Crawlers”, “The Lamia”, et al with their cloaks removed. The most noticeable changes are to the vocals, such as the Enossified effects on Gabriel’s vox in “Grand Parade” and “Back in NYC”; they’re still there, just not as apparent. There’s a newly prominent “No time!” backing vocal in “Back in NYC”, and Phil Collins’ singing is more to the fore in “Counting Out Time”, almost knocking Gabriel out of the picture. Elsewhere are plenty of other minor changes, like the absent dock-the-dick sound effect in “Colony of Slippermen”, but to list them all would take a lot of space. In short, I think these tracks have been well reorganized while preserving the spirit of the music.
DVD visuals: The 1974 Melody TV appearance is one of the trippiest things I have ever seen. Full renditions of “I Know What I Like” and “Supper’s Ready”, led by Gabriel’s evil-clown visage, are treated with visual effects so bizarre that I barely remember how the band sounds. Don’t miss the tacky opening credits that look like Genesis is going on a game show. I found the reissues interview kind of a disappointment. Rather than going into detail about The Lamb’s story or the unique songs within, the band tends to gripe about other issues like Gabriel’s extracurricular interests or Tony Banks’ resentment of Gabriel writing most of the lyrics. Tony has a point in that it’s hard to perform individual songs out of the album context, but I don’t think that such Banks poetry as “Mad Man Moon” or “One for the Vine” competes with what Gabriel penned for The Lamb. Anyway, they hem and haw and don’t reveal many unheard secrets about the quintet’s final days. Another bonus of the DVD is that if you’re listening to the surround tracks, you’ll see the slides that accompanied live Lamb concerts back in the day, along with a few performance shots. Neat.
Remixes: First up are two non-album tracks from the early 1970s, “Happy the Man” and “Twilight Alehouse”. Both sound okay, though I prefer the version of “Alehouse” found on the Archive #1 boxset. Next come four Anthony Phillips-era tracks that also appeared in Archive #1, remastered with no huge differences. (My booklet lists them out of sequence, as compared to their order on the CD.) Then comes the prime unreleased jewel, Genesis Plays Jackson, an early soundtrack in four parts (“Provocation”, “Frustration”, “Manipulation”, “Resignation”) that would later be cannibalized for portions of “Musical Box”, “Fountain of Salmacis”, and “Anyway”. Solid enough in themselves, the real fascination of these tracks is in hearing the origins of certain musical ideas that would be redeveloped down the road.
DVD visuals: In what looks like a video tape copy of a 1973 Midnight Special appearance, the band plays “Watcher of the Skies” and “Musical Box”. The latter includes a good close-up on Banks’ distorted electric piano solo, in case you thought that was a guitar. The promo documentary of the Archive #1 box, circa 1998, gives a bit of info on that set’s contents, including an admission that some of the vocals and guitar were re-recorded. All of the participants, including Ant Phillips and early drummer John Silver, are on hand to summarize the Gabriel era in an amiable way.
As a final word on each of the three boxsets above, I hope that the original mixes do not vanish for good. It’s not like Genesis went back and added things to the recordings, but there are enough significant alterations to make me think the real historical record should remain available for whoever wants to hear it, however much it costs. In the end, the music’s still there.
Genesis Live 1973-2007
8 CD / 3 DVD set
Let’s cut through some of the misinformation out there and get a few things straight:
- Rather than bringing unheard stuff out of the vaults, this boxset’s intention from the get-go was to collect remixed/remastered versions of Genesis’ official live albums - Genesis Live, Seconds Out, Three Sides Live, and The Way We Walk. There is a space left for Live Over Europe 2007, which the producers must have assumed was already in every Genesis fan’s possession, and which is recent enough not to need any sonic retooling.
- There are bonus tracks from both the live Lamb (1975) and Rainbow Theater (1973) recordings, most of which were previously released in the Archive #1 box of 1998.
- These bonus tracks have both original and overdubbed Gabriel vocals as heard on “Back in NYC” and “Supper’s Ready” from Archive #1, though not in exactly the same proportions.
- Genesis Live, Seconds Out, and the bonus tracks are presented in both stereo and 5.1 surround. Three Sides Live and The Way We Walk are stereo only, as their surround mixes are available in separate video editions. Makes sense to me.
- There is no video material. The Genesis website at one point had an errant description of this boxset that promised hours of video footage. I think they accidentally copied the description from the Gabriel studio years set. No video here, no interviews, just the still pictures that accompany the DVD tracks.
- There is/was a glitch in the Seconds Out CDs (US Rhino versions only), where the second track on both discs briefly starts at the end of the first track, only to cut out and restart properly at the beginning of the second track. It doesn’t bother me much, as the glitch only takes a fraction of a second, and nothing is actually missing. [edit: Rhino provides replacement discs upon request.]
OK? Let’s go:
Fantastic. This recording was previously enshrouded in room ambience, and the stereo remix brings everything closer, like moving from the rear of the auditorium toward the front. I definitely prefer the improved focus and fullness of sound. You can hear the weight and trebly nuances of Mike’s Rickenbacker bass, the ring and snap of Phil’s drums, get draped in gritty sheets of Mellotron, and on top of it all, Peter Gabriel’s vocals have a new clarity. Steve’s lead guitar retains considerable presence. Overall, a huge upgrade in my opinion. Some of the band grumbled about the imperfections of this album over the years, but its energy gives it certain advantages over the studio renditions.
The CD and DVD bonus tracks come from the 1975 Shrine Auditorium performance of The Lamb, first officially made available in the Archive #1 boxset. These excerpts form a curious little suite - “Back in NYC”, “Fly on a Windshield”, “Broadway Melody”, “Anyway”, and “Chamber of 32 Doors” - presented in both stereo and surround. I don’t hear much difference between the stereo versions here and on Archive #1, so I suppose the reason these tracks were included was to give the listener a glimpse of the Lamb in surround.
Two discs plus the DVD in a hardbound booklet. Nothing radical has been done to the stereo mix, which remains exceptionally dynamic (the crescendo of “Carpet Crawlers”, the decrescendo of “I Know What I Like”, etc.), powerful (the peak moments of “Firth of Fifth”, “Supper’s Ready”, etc.) and somewhat sharper than before. To answer the most pressing question, Hackett’s guitar is slightly higher in the mix, although in the jam section of “I Know What I Like”, it actually seems lower. Rutherford’s bass stands out more in places, while the vocals still ride low at times. Keyboards and drums sound great. I think the appeal of the original Seconds Out was partly due to its spacious atmosphere, which is well preserved here, and the soft-loud range of this set might surprise some of the audiophiles who were put off by the studio remixes. Despite me not being a full-fledged surround guy, I was quite impressed by a first taste of the 5.1. A fine upgrade to a great live document.
This is the “four sides live” configuration with “One for the Vine”, “Fountain of Salmacis”, and “It/Watcher of the Skies” instead of the studio side, which is now covered by the ’76-82 studio box. I would have preferred a punchier remix for such songs as “Dodo”, “Abacab”, and “In the Cage”, as the group had a very immediate sound in 1981 that gets softened by this airy, somewhat distant soundstage. I think the music deserves more of an up-front impact, instead of hanging back amidst the reverb. Nonetheless, this refined remix is nothing to sneer at, and it boasts more low end than previous editions of 3SL. Certain instrumental bits have a new prominence, such as the bass fills in “Abacab”, or the swirling girth of the keyboards in “Dodo”, and the vocals are clearer at times (yet still buried at other times). Relatively speaking, and with the volume cranked an extra notch, I call this the best version of 3SL to date.
They followed my suggestion and entwined the Longs and Shorts into a proper setlist on two discs, although once past the “Old Medley” it might seem a long slog through the pop staples. The sound betters the initial CD issues but not by much; the instruments are rather thin and the whole ensemble often sounds like it’s in the background. (For comparison, listen to the aggressive mix of “Driving the Last Spike” on Archive #2, which is how I wish these tracks had been treated.) Keyboard and guitar lines come to the fore during the big instrumental moments (“Fading Lights”, “Second Home by the Sea”), but most of the regular songs weakly imitate the studio versions. Turn it up loud and it doesn’t matter much. I’m neither impressed nor disappointed by this set; it’s just there.
A two-disc set drawn from various stops on Genesis’ 2007 reunion tour, this is a decent memoir of the group’s last hurrah to date, with Banks, Collins, and Rutherford joined by Stuermer and Thompson. The surprisingly balanced program features a couple of connoisseur dips into Duke and Trick of the Tail alongside time-tested fare, and “Domino” remains a centerpiece, surely at Banks’ urging. Performance-wise, the group is tight, if not up to the same beats-per-minute as they used to be, and the key changes they adopted to accommodate Phil’s older voice can make some of the songs sound even slower. Phil manages well on both vocals and drums, minus the energy he used to have. I say more about the 2007 reunion on the Movie Box page, but for the purposes of this quick blurb, I think Live Over Europe is a good set, enriched perhaps by nostalgia on the part of the listener. Sonically, it’s more than acceptable. I’m not keen on the abrasiveness of Tony’s lead-synth sound (“Cage”, “Cinema Show”, etc.), though it probably worked well in the live setting.
The DVD contains a full 1973 Rainbow Theater performance, portions of which were first released on the Archive #1 box. The setlist is as follows: “Watcher of the Skies”, “Moonlit Knight”, “I Know What I Like”, “Firth of Fifth”, “Musical Box”, “More Fool Me”, “Battle of Epping Forest”, and “Supper’s Ready”. The CD, running to almost 74 minutes, omits “Watcher” and “Musical Box”. The stereo mix is very similar to the one on the Archive set, and as mentioned, the mid-90s Peter Gabriel makes an appearance during “Supper’s Ready”. There are a couple of suspiciously modern sounding guitar solos from Mr. Hackett, too. Given that “Cinema Show” became a popular stage piece through the years, I enjoy hearing the classic quintet nail it as well as any subsequent lineup did, particularly the 7/8 section. Also, this is the only live version of “Epping Forest” I’ve ever heard, and despite all I’d read about it being a difficult piece to perform, they pull it off.
Genesis completists need no recommendations from me, and neither do the folks who buy these boxes primarily for the surround mixes, but the casual listener might have to weigh the cost of this set versus their enjoyment of the previous stereo editions of the live albums. Again, Genesis Live is almost a whole new listen, and Seconds Out is very nice, so those are two strong arguments on the stereo side of things. Add the polished Three Sides Live, and I’m pretty happy with it. Finally, this collection wraps up the reissue campaign of all of Genesis’ proper albums. ‘Tis my sad duty to inform you of a four-box restriction on humanoid height...the nurse will present you the bill...I’ll go make that tea...and this page is done.
Genesis album reviews