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Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

AUGUST 10, 1998: 

Genesis, Archive 1967-75 (Atlantic)

For those who only know the band Genesis from their 1980’s output with Phil Collins out front, this four-CD boxed-set (Archive 1967-75) will sound like it was beamed in from another planet. However, the informed listener who recognizes Genesis as one of the most innovative bands performing during this excessive period in rock will embrace Archive as a truly remarkable musical document, released 23 years too late to do its creators any real good (except to restore their reputation as masters of their domain).

The modern rock genre known as “progressive” (or “prog” for short) has always been viewed with some derision for being too far out and busy for its own good. Yet the finest practitioners in this area (Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.) were all extremely talented musicians, adventurously melding classical themes with current advances in electronic instrument and recording technology. What disturbs people the most about prog rock is the realization that it is definitely “post-Beatles music,” a kind of scorched earth in the late ’60s and early ’70s where all innocence had been lost despite protestations to the contrary.

Archive 1967-75 adapts a format that future boxed sets should consider, namely working backwards – the latest recordings are up front on the first two discs, the earliest on the remaining two discs, with the final cut an instrumental work tape from 1967. This approach is particularly fitting for a band like Genesis, whose intent was clear from the beginning. Think of the fourth disc as an audio equivalent of Genesis’ baby photos, and this reverse chronology makes even more sense.

True Genesis fans will think they’ve died and gone to heaven, as almost three-quarters of the set is composed of previously unreleased live versions (with the complete in-concert performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for starters!), and the rest a considered mix of B-sides and rare and obscure demos. The undeniable power of these recordings (i.e., Genesis on stage sound better than most bands sound in the studio) crystallizes the oft-obscured fact that Genesis was a collaborative effort, despite the attention garnered to the vocalist out front (in this case the unmistakable and lovably eccentric Peter Gabriel).

The unsung heroes of Genesis have always been Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford for being there and shaping the band’s vision from the beginning, with more than able support from guitar virtuoso Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins (before he became a middle-of-the-road radio and video superstar). In these fascinating recordings, Peter Gabriel was the catalyst that pushed Genesis over the top, and his contributions cannot be underestimated.

Although an Atlantic Records press release indicates this set as “Volume 1” (a fact not noted anywhere on the packaging itself), it’s unlikely any future editions will surpass this four-CD extravaganza. So seek out the remastered CD versions of Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for the studio side of the Gabriel-Genesis legacy and take the time to appreciate the band for what they were. Always adventuresome and never precious, this Genesis is the one for the ages. – David D. Duncan

King Crimson, Absent Lovers (Discipline Global Mobile)

Over the years Robert Fripp has somehow managed to maintain a rather hologram-esque presence in the experimental and progressive-rock music communities. His painstakingly lengthy (some would say verbose) attempts at explaining his music and himself to the rest of humankind have not resulted in a more accessible Fripp. He remains, always, just beyond one’s full grasp. Yet, at the same time, he and his work are deeply engaging, strangely fascinating.

Amongst his sundry undertakings, Fripp’s role as the central figure in the various incarnations of King Crimson is surely his most recognizable. Though he tends to pooh-pooh the notion of himself as “boss,” most Crimson watchers feel certain that Fripp is the band’s leader and crucial factor. (Let’s face it – a Frippless King Crimson makes about as much sense as the New Testament does without Jesus Christ.)

Debates regarding pecking order become boring and moot in the face of Crimson’s artistic output, as evidenced by Absent Lovers, a stunningly powerful two-CD audio document of the group’s 1984 lineup caught live in Montreal on the last night of that particular configuration’s final tour. Fripp (guitars), Adrian Belew (guitars, lead vocals), Tony Levin (bass, Chapman stick), and the incomparable Bill Bruford (drums, percussion) don’t simply plug in and play – they detonate.

Fripp appears to be well-acquainted with the strategy of surrounding oneself with highly talented and driven compatriots, a leadership technique to which many of history’s most successful chieftains have subscribed. Absent Lovers features a quality of performance and artistry unattainable by all but participants of the highest caliber. From metallic fury to shimmering beauty to knotty minimalistic interaction to aural abstraction, these guys lay down the law with confidence and legit authority.

This version of King Crimson officially broke up in 1984. However, 10 years later the same lineup added some new members, and from that time forward they’ve been rocking with astonishing imagination and an intelligence rarely displayed by their contemporaries. – Stephen Grimstead

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