Tuesday, June 15, 2021

OOP Vinyl Curiosities: Trefethen - Am I Stupid or Am I Great?/It's All Mom's Fault (1980)

OOP Vinyl Curiosities
 (New Feature!?)

Artist - Trefethen (Tom Trefethen)
Album - Am I Stupid or Am I Great?/It's All Mom's Fault
Released 1980 (Pacific Arts Records)
Mp3 @ 320 kbps

So here is something a bit different, and potentially an idea for a recurring feature, highlighting some fairly obscure out of print albums (that were only available on vinyl) that are of interest and may be worth a listen. As I was thinking about obscure albums in my record collection, this gem of an oddity sprang to mind, as it is quite interesting, but I have never known anyone who has ever heard of it or knows anything about it. Ok, so featured today is an album (the only album) from the band Trefethen. Trefethen is basically Tom Trefethen, an audio engineer that is most well-known for engineering the albums of Ambrosia in the 1970's (nominated for multiple Grammys for best engineered albums). He also has worked with Andrae Crouch and other Christian artists, as well as Michael Nesmith and Alan Parsons (on Tales of Mystery and Imagination). But Tom also was a budding songwriter and musician. After finishing work on the third Ambrosia album (Life Beyond L.A.-1978), Tom concentrated on trying to get his own album released, which he had finished recording in 1977. The album was recorded with the help of his musician friends, including guest appearances by all members of Ambrosia, as well as Andrae Crouch and Alan Parsons. Tom then was able to hook up with Michael Nesmith and his developing Pacific Arts record label, engineering Nesmith's 1979 album Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma, and then getting his own album a 1980 release on Pacific Arts. It is actually a quite good album (maybe not great but quite good), and very interesting from start to finish.

I would describe the music as piano-based progressive pop-rock. It is equal parts quirky, fun, melodic, silly, and strange, as it has a definite pop-rock underpinning, but with various jazzy, humorous, and progressive elements. I hear shades of Steely Dan and Supertramp, and not surprisingly, Ambrosia, as well as 10cc and maybe even some Ben Folds, as far as the styles, sounds, and songs to compare it to. As an audio engineer, the sound and production are quite good, and it is also clear that Tom likes to play with different sounds and sound effects, as the album is full of those interspersed throughout the songs. As far as I can tell, Tom wrote, arranged, engineered, and produced all the songs, as well as sang lead vocals and played multiple instruments (piano, guitar, bass) on the album (and although the Ambrosia guys are credited as playing on the album, it is not clear what songs or how much they play on the tracks). The album is arranged as two separate themed suites of songs (each encompassing a side of the album). These are continuous tracks each consisting of multiple linked songs (often connected by various sound effects and experimentation). Thus the album consists of these two main Suites - Am I Stupid or Am I Great? and It's All Mom's Fault. It's not quite clear if this constitutes an actual concept album or whether they are just song collages, but they all do fit together somewhat to make a whole listening experience. The album starts strong with some of the best songs, the 'Opening' intro, 'Do the Tattoo', and 'Moving Blunders'. Although it loses a bit of luster as it progresses, there are plenty of fine moments throughout and several catchy, quirky songs.

Unfortunately, Trefethen's quirky pop-rock did not catch on (or was ever heard), and the album disappeared quickly, never to be heard from again (until now). But if you are at all a fan of any of the bands I mentioned above, it is certainly worth checking out, and you might find it to be a hidden gem. Although it is not something I go back to often, it is quite enjoyable. I picked this up back in the early eighties while rifling through the bargain bins at some record store (something which I did quite often). I had no idea who or what it was, but was intrigued by it, and it was cool enough that picked it up (and encouraged by a blurb from Alan Parsons on the cover sticker). As I mentioned, I never heard anything about it again in all my music travels, but I always thought it was a worthy addition and a unique aspect of those times. Only recently did I try to look it up on the Internet to find the info I have presented here. To complete the story, after the failure of the album, Tom left the music business for a long period, but returned in the 2000's to open his own recording studio and production company. His only known return to performing was in 2005, when he released an internet-only single titled 'Johnny's Gone Away', a song he wrote in 1980 after the death of John Lennon. He also performed the song at the 25th annual Lennon candlelight vigil in Hollywood that year.

The album is presented here as two long mp3 files, each consisting of the complete song suites that comprise the album. The individual songs are listed in the track listing, but the recording is of the entire suite (I thought it best to present this way, as this is how the album is tracked). This is a needle-drop recording (using Audacity) of the vinyl album I purchased some 30 years ago, so there are the usual vinyl clicks and pops (I did not try to reduce or remove any imperfections). I am presenting this solely for the purpose of making more people aware of it and providing this music to those that may appreciate it.

As I mentioned, if this type of thing is of interest, I may make it a recurring feature (I have lots of old obscure but good albums that might work here - Bargain Bin Bonanzas, etc.). So, if this sounds interesting and you are willing to take a chance on it, let me know what you think, and whether you would be intrested in more of these types of things. So, here's Trefethen with Am I Stupid or Am I Great/Its All Mom's Fault.

Tracklist:
Am I Stupid or Am I Great?
1. Colas' Opening
2. Do the Tattoo
3. Champagne Breakfast
4. Moving Blunders (March of the Marble People)
5. Hole in My Pocket
6. Blunder Starter Kit
7. Am I Stupid or Am I Great?
8. Where Was You, Where Were I?

It's All Mom's Fault
1. It's All Mom's Fault
2. Prerequisite
   A. I Forgot to Remember
   B. Dancing of the Inbetween
   C. None of the Above
      1. why do we fight?
3. It Just Followed Me Home
4. The I Don't Want To Go To Work Waltz
5. The last Bosenians
6. Dreaded Fold

Trefethen_Am I Stupid-1980_OOPVinyl.rar

 

back cover

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Nick Lowe - 1989-04-24 - Sweetwater, Mill Valley, CA (opening acoustic set)

Nick Lowe

(opening acoustic set for "Elvis Costello and Friends" show)
April 24, 1989
Sweetwater
Mill Valley, California, USA
Soundboard recording, excellent quality
Available in both lossless (FLAC) and mp3 (320 kbps) versions
 
Here's one I've been meaning to get to for some time but just haven't gotten around to it. This is Nick Lowe's short opening acoustic set before Elvis Costello's wild EC & Friends show at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley CA. I have previously posted the Elvis Costello & Friends (including Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Commander Cody, Sammy Hagar, Charles Brown, and Kim Wilson, among others) portion of the show, but didn't originally have Nick's set. So here's that opening set from Nick, in excellent quality. This comes at the time between his 1988 Pinker and Prouder Than Ever album and his forthcoming Party of One album (1990) and is around the time that he was transitioning from more of a pop-rocker to more of a troubadour singer-songwriter. Since this was arounfd the time he was recording Party of One, the setlist contains multiple new songs from that as yet unreleased album, as well as a couple more well-known tracks. An interesting set and another piece of the puzzle that was this unusual day for NL and EC. Regarding the EC & Friends setlist, I have also taken this opportunity to upgrade that complete show to Lossless and improved mp3 (320 kbps) versions (was previously posted (years ago) only in a 192 kbps version). So, if you haven't picked up that show (or need the upgrade), now is your chance). Link to the updated page for that full show is also available below. Enjoy. 

Tracklist:
Nick Lowe solo - 24:55
101 [00:51] intro
102 [02:23] Without Love
103 [01:06] talk
104 [02:45] Refrigerator White
105 [02:46] Geisha Girl
106 [04:42] Rocky Road
107 [03:55] (I Wanna Build A) Jumbo Ark
108 [02:37] Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle
109 [03:26] I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock and Roll)
110 [00:24] thanks and applause

Nick Lowe - solo acoustic guitar and vocals

FLAC - Nick Lowe_1989-04-24_Mill valley_CA_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Nick Lowe_1989-04-24_Mill valley_CA_mp3.rar

For the complete rest of the the show, see earlier post for Elvis Costello and Friends (Now available in Lossless (FLAC) and upgraded mp3 (320 kbps) here).

 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Steve Goodman - 1983-10-26 - Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA

Steve Goodman

1983-10-26
Wolfgang's, San Francisco, CA
Audience recording, average sound quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Here's more from the irrepressible Steve Goodman, the legendary Chicago singer-songwriter. In keeping with my tradition of posting any available shows from Steve here, to increase awareness and adulation of this gifted songwriter-performer. This is a show from late in his career. For most of his career he had kept his battle with leukemia a secret from all but his closest family, but by 1983, after acute recurrences and extended chemotherapy sessions, his tribulations had become public. By the time of this show in late 1983, most in the audience knew that this would likely be his last tour. Nonetheless, Steve was bubbly and charming as usual, putting on a great upbeat and funny show. But less than a year later, Steve was taken by his illness and died at the age of 36 in September 1984. Although the recording for this show is not very good, it still is worth posting and listening to to hear Steve in his last year, as wonderful as ever. Since this was later in his career he adds a few newer tunes to his catalog of fine originals and standards. 

Tracklist:
01. Intro (Listed-but not present)
02. City of New Orleans
03. How Much Tequila Did I Drink Last Night
04. Vegematic
05. A Dying Cub Fans Last Request
06. Banana Republic
07. If Jethro Were Here
08. Big Rock Candy Mountain
09. Talk Backwards
10. Unwed Fathers
11. Watching Joey Glow
12. Warm and Free
13. What This River Has Done
14. The Auctioneer Song
15. You Never Even Call Me by My Name
{the ultimate "country-western"song}**
Encores:
16. The Dutchman*
17. Somebody Elses Troubles*
18. Elvis Impersonators Song*
19. God Bless Her Mobile Home*
20. What Have You Done for Me Lately*

*Mike Marshall on mandolin

**Note:#15 he breaks a string and improvises
the rest of the song while he changes it. Never misses a beat!

FLAC - Steve Goodman_1983-10-26_SanFrancisco_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Steve Goodman_1983-10-26_SanFrancisco_Mp3.rar

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Souther-Hillman-Furay Band - 1974-06-28 - Tufts University, Boston, MA

Souther-Hillman-Furay Band

1974-06-28
Tufts University, Boston, MA
Audience recording, average sound quality
Mp3 @ 320 kbps

Here's another show from the short-lived and vastly under-appreciated country-rock 'supergroup', the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, featuring J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman, and Richie Furay. I am adding this to the shows already posted on this blog, mainly just for completeness, as there are not many recordings available from the only tour SHF band made, and I have posted all that I know of here. This is just an 'ok' audience recording, but again shows the band in fine form, playing nearly their complete first album, some solo songs from each member, and a preview of 'Trouble in Paradise' from their 2nd (and last album). Although not a great recording, still a fine document of this short-lived band. Audio and artwork obtained from Rocking-Byrd, from original audience master recording from David, so thanks to them for making this available. For better sound quality, check out some of the other shows from SHF Band already posted (many of which also came directly from David, who seems to have some of the only original live recordings of this band). 

   
Tracklist:
01. Safe at Home (Hillman)
02. Border Town (Souther)
03. Let’s Dance (Furay)
04. The Heartbreaker (Souther)
05. Pretty Goodbyes (Souther)
06. Faithless Love (Souther)
07. Christine's Tune (Devil in Disguise) (Hillman)
08. Kind Woman (Furay)
09. Believe Me (Furay)
10. Rise And Fall (Hillman)
11. Flight of the Dove (Furay)
12. Fallin’ In Love (Furay)
13. Trouble In Paradise (Souther)
14. How Long (Souther)

Lineup:
J.D. Souther
Chris Hillman
Richie Furay
Al Perkins
Paul Harris
Jim Gordon

SHF Band_1974-06-28_TuftsUniv-Boston.rar

Spring Cleaning Time


 Tidying Up

Over the next few weeks I will be clearing out some blog-related stuff I have accumulated and getting them posted. These will mainly be additional shows from some of my featured lesser known artists that have been previously posted, as well as updating and upgrading some of the older posts to FLAC or improved versions where available. Any new shows will have their own posts, but for any changes or upgrades to previous posts, I'll make a note of it here, so they will be easy to find for any interested in the upgraded versions. So, stay tuned for any updates. 

Updates/Upgrades:

05/23/21
Steve Goodman_1979-04-26_My Father's Place_RoslynNY - Updated to include 3 additional songs (encores) that were part of the show but previously missing from the posted files. Now includes the full show (mp3-only), including encores (Thanks to Stephen P for sending missing songs) 
 
06/01/21
Elvis Costello & Friends_1989-04-24_Mill Valley_CA - Full show upgraded to Lossless (FLAC) and improved mp3 quality (320 kbps) versions. Previous post (made years ago) was originally only as mp3 in lower quality (192 kbps) version. Now fully updated and upgraded.
 
06/14/21
Mason Proffit - Live 1971 - Upgraded to include a Lossless version of this show from the pioneering country-rock band Mason Proffit (previously only available as mp3).

06/14/21
Ok, so, I've really had it with the degradation of zippyshare (all of the annoying ads and pop-ups and obstacles to downloading). And although I still have not found a suitable substitute, I am in the process of moving as many of the existing links as possible to solidfiles or mega (currently prioritizing those links that are about to expire). This process will take awhile, and I will not have space to move everything, so I may have to remove some lesser accessed files, but I don't want to have to deal with zippy anymore. So, stay with me as I make this transition. Several gigabytes have already been transferred, but lots more coming.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Favorite Genesis Songs - Addendum to Genesis Album ranking List

Addendum to BB's Genesis Album Rankings - Favorite Songs

As part of my previous Genesis Album rankings post, I included some of what I considered the best (meaning my favorite) songs from each album. Here, as a follow-up to that post, I'm listing a tentative ranking of my overall Top 20 favorite Genesis songs. Overall, this is more difficult than ranking the albums, as there are so many good to great songs to consider and come up with an absolute favorites list. In addition, favorite songs tend to change more readily with time and circumstances, thus this list represents what I am thinking today, and would probably change if reconsidered next week, month, or year (although the top 5 or so are pretty much set in stone and will probably never change). Anyway, here is a list of my current top 20 favorite Genesis songs, as well as my bottom 5 least favorite songs.

Top 20 Favorite Genesis songs:
20. Battle of Epping Forest
19. In the Cage
18. Cuckoo Cocoon
17. Stagnation
16. Blood on the Rooftops
15. Entangled
14. Chamber of 32 Doors
13. Mad Mad Moon
12. Behind the Lines/Duke's Travels/Duke's End
11. Watcher of the Skies
10. Dance on a Volcano/Los Endos
9. In This Quiet Earth/Afterglow
8. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
7. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
6. One For The Vine
5. The Musical Box
4. Firth of Fifth
3. Can-Utility and the Coastliners
2. The Cinema Show
1. Supper's Ready

Not surprisingly, the bulk of my Top 20 songs come from the albums in my Top 5, with very few from outside that, and none from post-1980. I have taken some liberties in combining some songs that thematically go together, such as the opening and closing tracks from Trick of the Tail and Duke, which reprise similar themes and passages, and serve as album bookends. As with any great long-running band, there are many songs I really like that don't make it into such a  Top 20 list, but that doesn't mean I don't like them. There are actually very few Genesis songs that I actively dislike, that I just don't want to listen to at all. And so here are what are the bottom 5 for me. Songs that I really don't ever want to hear again:

The bottom 5 (for me at least):
5. Keep It Dark
4. Dodo/Lurker
3. I Can't Dance
2. Illegal Alien
1. Who Dunnit?
Again, not surprisingly, the bulk of these come from my least favorite album, Abacab. The only other one I would add to this list of Genesis songs I never want to hear is 'Invisible Touch', but it could not quite make the bottom 5.

OK, that's my list (at least currently). What's your favorite (or least favorite) Genesis songs?
 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

BB's Album Rankings - GENESIS

BB's Album Rankings - GENESIS


 

Time again for another artist album ranking, listing my selections from least to most favorite studio albums. Up this time is another of my favorite bands – Genesis. Now, there’s a lot that can be said about Genesis, and certainly they have had their ups and downs, and changes through the years, from their stellar progressive rock albums to their more commercial rock and pop-oriented later albums. But, overall, I think they have one of the more impressive catalogs in rock, with several masterpiece albums, and high quality albums throughout their history, whether focused on prog or pop/rock.

So, Genesis was first formed in 1967 by core members Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute), Tony Banks (keyboards), Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar), and Anthony Phillips (guitar) at Charterhouse School, Surrey, where they were students. They released their first album in 1969, while all still in school and in their teens.  Their venture into more progressive rock began with their second album, Trespass (1970), but guitarist Anthony Phillips, who was a major part of their overall style and sound, left after that album, due to health and stage fright issues (Phillips, however, went on to a successful and productive solo album career). But the ‘classic’ lineup of the band began in 1971, when guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins were brought in. An impressive series of progressive rock masterpiece albums followed, until Peter Gabriel left in 1975 to go solo. Gabriel was not replaced, with Phil Collins now covering lead vocal duties. And the band continued without hesitation, releasing two more stellar progressive rock albums before Steve Hackett left the band in 1977 (also to a successful solo career). But Hackett was not replaced either, and now Mike Rutherford handled guitar and bass on record (additional musicians were added in concert). Although many predicted the end of Genesis (first after Gabriel left, then after Hackett), the band kept going, seemingly getting stronger, albeit slowly changing styles to a more commercial, radio-friendly, pop-rock-oriented sound, while still maintaining prog rock elements and influences. By the 1980’s, the band had emerged as a hit-making powerhouse, with the move toward shorter pop-oriented songs and ballads yielding a string of hit singles and #1 albums that carried into the nineties. But after taking a break in the early nineties, Collins announced he was leaving the band in 1996. The remaining 2 members (Banks and Collins) decided to continue on (now without Gabriel, Hackett, or Collins), but the resulting album was not well-received, and marked the end of Genesis, aside from various reunion tours and events over the years. Both the earlier Prog years and the later more pop leanings certainly have their devoted fans, although it seems relatively few seem to love the band through all those years. There are those that only listen to the Peter Gabriel years (1969-1974) and derisively dismiss anything released after that time, and then there are many who only discovered the band through their later mainstream hits and pop ballads. And before we get into the catalog, I first want to dispel the biggest myth surrounding the band and their changes over the years: That as soon as Gabriel left, the band stopped being a progressive rock band and became a pop band driven almost completely by Phil Collins. That’s not true at all, or even that there are 2 distinct phases of the band as a progressive rock icon and a pop music hitmaker. As usual, the reality is a lot more complicated. I submit that the band continued to be a great progressive rock act well after Peter Gabriel split, producing some of their best progressive albums in his aftermath (at least as long as Steve Hackett was still involved, and possibly beyond). It’s true that by the ‘80’s the shift towards pop hits and ballads was prominent, but they always maintained at least some progressive edges and influences.

I am someone, however, that enjoys Genesis all throughout their career (although not everything they did), as they remained a top-notch (although quite different) band throughout their many changes. After all, there’s nothing wrong with pop/rock, if it is good pop/rock, and Genesis made some pretty darn good pop/rock, in addition to some of the greatest progressive rock of all time.   

Here’s to the albums and career of a great band – Genesis. And here is my ranking of the Genesis Studio Albums, from Least to Best – in my opinion.  Genesis released 15 studio albums between 1969 and 1997, as well as a few EPs and several live albums (which won’t be discussed here), although I believe only 13 of the albums should really be considered actual Genesis albums (as will be discussed below).

Last: The First album released by Genesis, From Genesis to Revelations (1969) as well as their last album, Calling All Stations (1997), can’t really be considered true Genesis albums. The first album, although includes the core members of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, the band was nothing like they would become. They hadn’t found their voice or sound yet and were trying to imitate other pop bands and styles of the time (such as Moody Blues, Bee Gees, etc.) at this point. Not really much of note here, a bunch of forgettable pop ditties (although the fact that they were made when these guys were teenagers is still pretty impressive). And with Calling All Stations, not only was Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett long gone, but so was Phil Collins. The remaining duo of Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford brought in Ray Wilson as vocalist and Nick D’Virgilio on drums, but the results can hardly be called Genesis. Overall, the album is not bad and has some good tracks, but it isn’t Genesis anymore (And Then There Were Two?). I think they would have been better off calling this a new band, as that is what it was, and maybe could have found some success in doing that, without the expectations of being Genesis. Anyway, not really worth evaluating as Genesis albums (they would still be at or near the bottom anyway).

13. Abacab (1981)

I have to say that, personally, this was one of the most disappointing albums I have ever heard in my life. Coming into this album, I had been pleasantly surprised at how strong the previous two albums (after the departure of Steve Hackett) had been. But this album is a disaster. I understand that times were changing and they felt they needed to try something new, but this is terrible. I consider this Genesis’ attempt at New Wave, but it just doesn’t work and is easily the worst Genesis album. The sound and style on this album pretty much negates everything they had done up to this point. Gone are the lush soundscapes, intricate instrumentals, and beautiful melodies, only to be replaced by songs that are simplistic, repetitive, tuneless, and frankly annoying. They use a lot of programmed (machine) drum tracks (which is crazy because they have one of the greatest rock drummers in the band), and many of the songs sound like they were making them up as they went along (which apparently they were). Some might say they should be given credit for trying something new, as they apparently were specifically trying to record songs that did not sound like anything they had done before, but this is just a complete wrong direction for the band. One of the few bright spots here is ‘Man on the Corner’, which is a cool Collins ballad, but little else here is worth much. The only Genesis album I never listen to (by choice).  Best songs: ‘Man on the Corner’, ‘Another Record’. Worst songs: ‘Who Dunnit?’, ‘Abacab’, ‘Keep It Dark’, ‘Dodo/Lurker’, ‘No Reply at All’.  

12. Invisible Touch (1986)

The band at their most ‘poppy’, yet there are still some quite good songs here. You have to get past such lightweight disposable (and somewhat annoying) pop fluff like ‘Invisible Touch’ and ‘Anything She Does’, but ‘Throwing It All Away’ is a genuinely beautiful pop ballad and ‘Land of Confusion’ is a solid quirky rocker. They even throw a bone to whatever remains of their prog-rock fans with ‘Domino’ and parts of ‘Tonight Tonight Tonight’, that keep the prog elements burning faintly. And the oddball instrumental ‘The Brazilian’ could have been something if it went anywhere (after intriguing opening sections, the song just repeats itself after the first 2 min.).  So, definitely a mixed bag here, but some worthwhile elements.

11. We Can’t Dance (1991)

A stronger album than many give it credit for. Although only a couple standout tracks, there are some quite good songs here, and the album comes in at a whopping 71 minutes, basically a double album in length, and I never fault a band for giving their audience more music for the same price. Yes there are some lackluster tracks here that just go by relatively unnoticed, but more than enough good songs to make a decent album, and overall, just a very pleasant listening experience.  Not too exciting, but nice. Best songs: ‘Dreaming While You Sleep’, ‘Fading Lights’, ‘Living Forever’, ‘Tell Me Why’. Worst song: ‘I Can’t Dance’.

So, those are really the only not-so-great albums. All the rest I consider at least quite good/very good.

10. Genesis (1983)

I really like this album and consider it a great comeback after the dismal Abacab. Great sound throughout and a return to a more suitable and familiar Genesis style, mixing pop and rock with progressive flourishes throughout. The standout tracks include the ‘Home by the Sea’-‘Second Home’ combo, ‘Silver Rainbow’, and ‘It’s Gonna Get Better’ (all proudly showing their prog elements). And the singles are mostly good, with ‘That’s All’ a wonderfully fun pop ditty and ‘Taking it All Too Hard’ a beautiful love ballad. Only the regrettable ‘Illegal Alien’ and the irritatingly creepy ‘Mama’ keep this from being a really great album. Still a darn good one.

9. And Then There Were Three (1978)

Surprisingly strong album considering this followed the loss of guitarist extraordinaire and composer Steve Hackett (and was not replaced with another guitarist). Yes, there is a noticeable shift in style, but several excellent tracks here. With Hackett gone, the sound is even more keyboard-oriented, with Tony Banks dominating the sound, but he creates many very effective soundscapes. Several songs have quite beautiful melodies and themes. They purposely went for shorter songs here in order to fit more songs on, but the style and structure are still very much in the progressive rock vein. The only weakness here is that overall, there is somewhat of a sameness to the songs here (most likely due to the loss of a key songwriter and the more diverse sounds and styles that he brought). Some have tried to make the case that because this album contains the band’s first actual hit single (‘Follow You, Follow Me’), it signals their sellout, but the song is in the same vein and quite similar to other songs that they made much earlier in their career (such as ‘I Know What I Like’), and is quite a good song.  Overall a very good album, showing they could carry on as a threesome.  Best songs: ‘Burning Rope’, ‘Undertow’, ‘Deep in the Motherlode’, ‘Snowbound’, ‘The Lady Lies’. Weakest songs: ‘Scene’s From a Night’s Dream’, ‘Say It’s Alright Joe’.

8. Trespass (1970)

Early Genesis finding their unique style, the first ‘real’ Genesis album, setting the stage for greater things to come, yet not quite hitting their stride yet. This was prior to Phil Collins and Steve Hackett joining the band, but guitarist Anthony Phillips sets the mood with his acoustic 12-string magic, and Banks’ keyboard wizardry and Gabriel’s vocals establish the basics of what is to come. The songs on Side One all have some really great moments, yet do not quite hold together completely (just not quite fully realized – beautiful sections marred by other dull or lackluster sections). But they put it all together on Side Two, with three great songs, ‘Stagnation’ being the best, and ‘The Knife’ considered an early classic, with a darker and harder tone and style than the rest of the album. Overall, a very good, but not quite great album. Best songs ‘Stagnation’, ‘Dusk’, ‘The Knife’. Weakest songs: ‘Visions of Angels’, ‘White Mountain’.

7. Duke (1980)

Certainly the best album of the post-Hackett, 3-man band years. And although the album contains some soft ballads, it still is a quite masterful progressive rock album. Highlights are the songs included in the Duke Suite (‘Behind the Lines’, ‘Duchess’, ‘Guide Vocal’, ‘Turn It On Again’, ‘Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End’), which were originally planned to be one multi-section 30-min epic song, but instead were divided up throughout the album. But it all works here, and the ‘Duke’s Travels/End’ make a powerful album closer, reminiscent of their best progressive work. Even the hit single ‘Misunderstanding’ is a great ‘pop’ song, and ‘Turn It On Again’ is a rousing rocker. I would have been fine with the band continuing to include a couple of pop/rock hits like these per album, as long as the overall album also continued to provide the kind of depth and musicianship present here, but that was not to be on future albums. A great album.

6. Nursery Cryme (1971) 

The arrival of newcomers Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins (and setting the ‘classic’ lineup) pays immediate dividends as Genesis solidifies their sound and establishes themselves as one of the greats of the burgeoning progressive rock scene. The new kids are even given a song all their own to showcase themselves (‘For Absent Friends’). Collins’ dynamic drumming is immediately apparent (and the biggest step up from the previous album), and Hackett’s inspired guitar work takes off from where Ant Phillips left off.  Tracks such as ‘The Musical Box’ and ‘Fountain of Salmacis’ are great, enduring classics. However, it is not quite as consistently great as the band’s very best albums. Personally, I have never liked the somewhat annoying and unpleasant epic ‘Return of the Giant Hogweed’ (although many consider it classic). That as well as a couple other lesser tracks keep this from cracking the top five or reaching the masterpiece category of their very best.

Now, the top five, all truly great albums, and among the very best progressive rock albums ever made.

5. Wind and Wuthering (1977)

Steve Hackett’s last album with the band, yet dominated more by Tony Banks and Phil Collins, and just a great album.  They continue their tradition of great album openers and closers, with ‘Eleventh Earl of Mars’ and the stunning closing combo of the dynamic instrumental ‘Into This Quiet Earth’ and the transcendent ‘Afterglow’, perhaps their greatest soaring ballad (and bringing the power reminiscent of the finale sections of ‘Supper’s Ready’).  ‘One for the Vine’ ranks among their greatest epic tracks and Hackett’s ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ is beautifully sublime. If they would have included Hackett’s wonderful ‘Inside and Out’ in place of the relatively weak ‘All in a Mouse’s Night’ this could have ranked even higher (‘Inside and Out’ was relegated to the little-heard EP Spot The Pigeon).  

4. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

Peter Gabriel’s oddball epic adventure swan song with the band, a fantastic double album. In the first half (disc 1), every song is brilliant, just masterful, covering a variety of styles, but all fitting together perfectly. Sure, it’s hard to follow or make much sense of the sprawling narrative of Rael’s bizarre journey in this concept album, but the music is sensational. Based just on the first half, this album would have ranked even higher on this list, near the top.  However, the listening experience falters somewhat in the second half (disc 2). There’s still some great stuff there as well (such as ‘The Lamia’, ‘Lilywhite Lilith’ etc.), but both the story and the music bogs down considerably here with some tedious and lackluster sections that diminish the whole to some degree. Some sections are nothing more than noises, sound effects, and moody atmosphere that bring the whole album to a screeching halt. I have to admit that for a long time I hardly ever played the second disc (although listened to the first disc often) due to these issues (which is a shame because then miss out on the good stuff that is there). In recent years, I have made my own edited version, removing the offending sections and making the whole thing fit on a single CD, and it is much more enjoyable, and now I can enjoy the whole thing (or nearly whole thing). Still a great album (with ~80 of the 94 minute runtime being superb), but the problematic parts in the second half keep it from making the top three, which are virtually flawless albums. Best songs: ‘Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging’, ‘In the Cage’, ‘Back in NYC’, ‘Cuckoo Cocoon’, ‘Chamber of 32 Doors’, ‘Hairless Heart’, ‘Carpet Crawlers’. Worst songs: ‘The Waiting Room’, ‘Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats’, ‘Ravine’, ‘Colony of Slippermen-The Arrival’.

3. A Trick of the Tail (1976)

With this album, their first without Peter Gabriel, the band not only proved they could survive the loss of Gabriel, but that they would thrive, as they went and produced one of their very best albums as well. First, the production and sound quality is brighter and cleaner than previous albums (previous engineer David Hentschel stepped into a producer role here), and the songs are generally a bit lighter and brighter as well (relative to the somewhat dark and ominous Lamb), yet just as strong of a progressive rock album. It also plays as more of a stylistic and engrossing whole, rather than as a collection of individual songs. Starting with the dynamic opener/closer combo of ‘Dance on a Volcano’ and ‘Los Endos’, the album shines from beginning to end. In between is an array of entertaining story songs, ranging from the gentle beauty of ‘Entangled’ and ‘Ripples’ to the engaging whimsy of ‘Trick of the Tail’ to the excitement and mystery of ‘Robbery…’ and ‘Squonk’ to the engrossingly beautiful epic ‘Mad Mad Moon’. Every song is a gem.  Best songs: ‘Mad Mad Moon’,’ Dance on a Volcano/Los Endos’, ‘Entangled’, ‘Trick of the Tail’, ‘Ripples’. Weak songs: none

2. Selling England By the Pound (1973)

A true masterpiece. From beginning to end just a brilliant album in every aspect. Every song a classic of style, sound, and substance. And probably their most accessible of their early work, with superior songwriting, masterful musicianship, great melodies, and spellbinding instrumental passages. Every band member shines throughout, from Phil Collins’ dynamic drumming, Tony Banks’ inspired keyboard work, Steve Hackett’s otherworldly guitar, and Peter Gabriel’s expressive and inimitable vocals. One of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time. Simply astounding. A great, dynamic album opener of ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ leads to their ‘almost a hit’ sing-along song ‘I Know What I Like’, and then the incredible ‘Firth of Fifth, with its fantastic piano opening sequence, powerful melodies, and Steve Hackett’s stunning guitar solo making this a powerhouse epic track. And then the charming ‘More Fool Me’, where Phil Collins is featured on vocals, and we get a preview of what’s to come later in one of Phil’s most engaging songs and performances. And it just gets better from there, with what is perhaps the best of the band’s series of darkly comic epic story songs, with the inventive ‘The Battle of Epping Forest’, and then eventually leading to one of the band’s greatest songs of all ‘The Cinema Show’ , a beautiful, fantastic epic with some of their best instrumental sections. This was the first Genesis album I ever heard, and was immediately blown away by it. Just utterly fantastic. Best songs: ‘The Cinema Show’, ‘Firth of Fifth’, ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’, ‘I Know What I Like’. Weak songs: none.    So, how could this not be their best album? Well that’s only because at #1 is…

1. Foxtrot (1972)

For me, this is the greatest progressive rock album of all time, which makes it one of the greatest albums of all time, and so just has to be Genesis’ best album as well. A tour de force of dynamic, intriguing, and powerful progressive rock from beginning to end. Stunning musicianship and instrumental prowess throughout, and their greatest songs. The standout track is, of course, 'Supper’s Ready', the greatest progressive rock song of all time, a 23-min epic that fills Side 2 of the album, and has everything you could ever want in a song. Introduced by Hackett’s beautiful brief solo classical guitar piece ‘Horizons’, 'Supper's Ready' starts with the wonderful anthemic  ‘Lover’s Leap’ section, establishing the theme with a beautiful soaring melody, then moving through the subsequent sections featuring delightful, beautiful, emphatic, quirky, majestic, silly, powerful, and bizarre aspects as it moves along, culminating in the utterly incredible and powerful long buildup of 'Apocalypse in 9/8', resolving in the most triumphant, majestic, and transcendent finale reprising themes from earlier in the piece. An unparalleled achievement in rock music. And unlike most long-form songs, there are no lulls or letdowns or long repetitive passages or tedious solos. The multiple sections keep the song moving and changing throughout, introducing new elements and themes every few minutes, and astonishing instrumental and vocal sections. And this is the only 20-plus minute song I know that actually seems too short, as when it comes to the end, you just want it to keep going on longer, it is just such a joy to listen to. Although certainly the highlight, the album has much more to offer as well. Side 1 also contains some of the band’s greatest works, including album opener ‘Watcher of the Skies’ and the quirky darkly comic story song ‘Get Em Out by Friday’. But the highlight of Side 1 is the vastly underrated masterpiece that is ‘Can-Utility and The Coastliners’, a masterfully efficient mini-epic that packs all the beauty, excitement, glory, and drama of their long-form epics into an incredible and remarkably creative song coming in at a concise runtime of under 6 minutes. The album is just amazing from beginning to end, set the bar for what progressive rock could accomplish, and influenced countless imitators and admirers, and fans. The epitome of progressive rock.

OK, so that’s how I see it. But all of those top 5-7 albums are just great, and thus I don’t have any complaints about others picking any of them as their favorite. But for me, it will always be Foxtrot at the top, the unparalleled, unbeaten, and undiminished champ of progressive rock. Disagree? Please enter your comments and your own ranking list in the comments below. But remember, these are just opinions, there are no definitive right or wrong rankings, as we all hear and enjoy different aspects of music. Let's hear from some of you.