Genesis - A Trick of the Tail

A Trick of the Tail


First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6

Written by John Metzger

Mon June 18, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT


Lead singers play such prominent and crucial roles within bands that their departures generally force their respective outfits to close up shop. Those who opt to continue generally are faced with fighting a tragicomic, uphill battle that is nearly impossible to win. Just ask Blind Melon, INXS, or The Doors. There always is, however, an exception to every rule, and Genesis has become the poster child for groups that not only managed to survive but also succeeded in surpassing previous commercial expectations after what should have been a death blow.

Of course, it helped immensely that Genesis’ Peter Gabriel-led era had grown increasingly strange and grandiose. Moving from Nursery Cryme to Foxtrot to Selling England by the Pound, the group had outlined the eccentricities of English life by wrapping its moralism inside the vivid imagery of fairy tales and fables. Even for progressive rock, Genesis’ work was an odd concoction. It all culminated, for better or for worse, with the epic, double-LP production of the postmodern The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the staging of which tested the faith of some fans and put a lot of strain upon the band itself.

It’s evident from the interviews featured as bonus material on the latest incarnation of A Trick of the Tail that Gabriel’s decision to leave Genesis in order to pursue a solo career placed the band in a bit of a quandary. In fact, its predicament was viewed, at first, as both a blessing and a curse. The group’s remaining members — Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford — knew that they wanted to stay together, but they weren’t sure how best to proceed. After dismissing the notion that the quartet would focus mostly upon instrumentals, it was assumed that Collins would play a larger role within the outfit since he already was familiar with the material. After all, he not only had sung harmonies with Gabriel, but he also had taken the lead on occasion. Still, before both the recording sessions for A Trick of the Tail and the subsequent tour that was mounted to support the effort, Genesis attempted to bring another vocalist on board to handle the ensemble’s edgier, rock-oriented fare. Each time, however, Collins proved that he was up to the task, and during the triumphant, 45-minute short-film Genesis in Concert 1976, which also is included with the new set, he admirably tackles the songs that typically had served as the backdrop for Gabriel’s high-drama hijinks — such as The Carpet Crawlers, Supper’s Ready, and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) — while also forgoing the requisite costume changes that Gabriel had endured.

As for the album itself, A Trick of the Tail was everything it needed to be, both for Genesis and for its fans. Spurred, in particular, by Banks’ multifaceted keyboard textures — which blended synthesizer, piano, organ, and Mellotron — the group returned to the intricate, prog-rock maneuvers of its early work. Although hints of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway lurked with the central piano interlude to Mad Man Moon, the bulk of the endeavor found the ensemble shifting back toward the standalone story-songs of Selling England by the Pound. While Yes’ approach always was a mere stone’s throw away, A Trick of the Tail brought the two outfits much closer together, which made it wholly appropriate that Bill Bruford was asked to join Genesis on tour.

Without the presence of Gabriel’s dominant vision, Banks, Collins, Hackett, and Rutherford learned, once again, how to be a band. Any hesitancy on their part to extend Genesis’ legacy quickly fell by the wayside, and A Trick of the Tail is marked by its amiable, playful air. Within the nervous rhythms of Dance of the Volcano, the multiple movements of Squonk, and the winding passageways of Robbery, Assault and Battery, it becomes apparent that the group had been liberated by the change. The stunning, new surround sound presentation of the album makes it even clearer how much fun the group was having.

Yet, A Trick of the Tail wasn’t merely meant to be a waltz through the past. It also pointed toward Genesis’ future. All of the tracks on the album — lengthy as they may be — boast indelible melodies, and they are, in effect, down-to-earth, pop songs at heart. Two cuts, in particular, highlight a different side of the band than previously had been put on display: With its majestic harmonies and ethereal synth-driven orchestrations, Entangled connects everything from Brian Wilson’s Smile to Phish’s Billy Breathes. In a similar fashion, the title track stuffs one of the group’s fantastical tales inside a prog-rock, reworking of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations.

"There’s an angel standing in the sun," Collins faintly sang during the final moments to A Trick of the Tail’s instrumental epilogue Los Endos. He had plucked the lyric from Supper’s Ready, and as if to drive home the victoriousness of Genesis’ miraculous rebirth, he delivered the line once more before the song slipped into silence. This time, he augmented it with another phrase from the tune: "free to get back home." There’s no doubt that it was his way of fondly paying tribute to his former band-mate, though it simultaneously served as a message to those fans who had tired of Gabriel’s increasingly elaborate antics, one that let them know that Genesis was back in business. starstarstar ½

A Trick of the Tail is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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