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).Best songs: ‘Man on the Corner’, ‘Another Record’. Worst songs: ‘Who Dunnit?’, ‘Abacab’, ‘Keep It Dark’, ‘Dodo/Lurker’, ‘No Reply at All’. So, definitely a mixed bag here, but some worthwhile elements. 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.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’. 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.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). 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’. Best songs: ‘Mad Mad Moon’,’ Dance on a Volcano/Los Endos’, ‘Entangled’, ‘Trick of the Tail’, ‘Ripples’. Weak songs: none So, how could this not be their best album? Well that’s only because at #1 is…
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.