"From Genesis To Re-evaluation" - A personal perspective on the new Genesis album, "Calling All Stations" by Simon Pound.
Yes, I miss Phil. Yes, I miss his counterpoint percussion to Tony's work, and the album is arguably a lesser work musically because of his absence, but...
The album is strong, exceptionally strong. Indeed, on first listen I fear that many older fans who are bringing completely unreasonable expectations to bear on this album will be horrified at the fact that their preconceptions as to where Mike and Tony would take Genesis are hopelessly inaccurate. As I have said many times before, forget harking back to days of yore, forget nostalgic images of music created two decade ago, for on "Calling All Stations", Genesis are doing what they have always done: they have moved forward, for they are perhaps the only band of their stature who have the right to be called "Progressive" in the truest sense of the word. "Calling All Stations" is a wonderful, brave and in parts, audacious work from the finest rock band on this pale blue dot! Personal thoughts and images track by track...
Calling All Stations: Mike's dirty, powerful and inspired riff kicks this track to life, heralding the new Genesis mean business, setting out the band's stall and telling the world, "we're here, we're back, and we know what we like!" The keyboards kick in perfectly and any doubts about Ray's vocal abilities are instantly dismissed. It is a fabulous, dramatic, hard-edged opener which presents a swaggeringly confident Genesis to the world, and all topped off by Mike's brief but delicious solo as the track's finale.
Congo: utterly addictive and wonderfully catchy and I guarantee that this song will seep inside your souls and play in looped form on that turntable inside your collective heads for weeks afterwards! I suspect that the working title for this track which was in fact "The Conga" which, as all Brits know is a horrendous party piece. The riff to "Congo" is nicked from "The Conga" from the African elephant chant opening to Tony's simple but effective keyboard solo, the track feels good and sounds perfect for that all important first single release.
Shipwrecked: the three ballads on the album are exceptionally strong, and after some mono to stereo radio FX, Mike's lyrical acoustic guitar launches an exquisite metaphorical love song which Ray sings with touchingly genuine conviction.
Alien Afternoon: The strange ominous swirling sounds that kick off this track mislead one into a false sense of foreboding as, abruptly, a surprisingly jaunty bluesy vocal disrupts the building tension (quite deliberately so).The day-in-the-life descends into a curious personal voyage of everyday ritualistic hell and, as with each and every track on the album, reveals layer upon layer of subtlety with each successive listening. As far as I am concerned , "Alien Afternoon" is already marked as a Genesis classic that I simply cannot wait to experience live.
Not About Us: after the drama of "Alien Afternoon" comes a heartbreakingly beautiful Banksian type ballad which I am not ashamed to say, made me cry on my first listen, such is its delicate bewitching beauty. The instrumental break is quite exquisite, and shows a romantic Genesis at their best. Particular kudos to Mike for his quite lovely acoustic guitar work introducing and throughout the track.
Small Talk: a straightforward, no nonsense rock track with no frills but executed in Genesis' own inimitable way, and to be honest, the only track that I am struggling to come to terms with as it seems strangely out of place on the album on account of its.. err... ordinariness!
One Man's Fool: a track of deceptive lyrical and musical complexity, and not a little subtlety that richly rewards repeated listenings. There are some wonderful chord changes on this track and one can feel the sheer force of inspiration flowing effortlessly through the pieces as it moves from one emotional texture to the next.
If That's What You Need: the third of the marvellous ballads on "Calling All Stations" is a gentle delicate piece, and features another quite lovely, brief but beautiful keyboard interlude.
There Must Be Some Other Way: the masterpiece. Be in no doubt, that this is a song to rank among Genesis' very best work. A track of effortless brilliance that shows Tony' and Mike's writing skills have lost none of their focus and inspiration within Genesis. Ray shines in particular as the vocal seems to fit his emotive style perfectly and when he belts out the final "Please show me, show me some other way!" Tony produces a fabulous powerful extended instrumental that is right up there with his most magnificent. When I first heard this monumental piece of music, I cried tears of realisation that Genesis can still pull my highest emotional switches sans Phil. Genesis In Excelsis!
Uncertain Weather: a haunting lilting melody conjuring up images of memories past, evoking people and places long since departed.
The Dividing Line: it gives me great pleasure to announce that, in the best Genesis tradition, it is "Armageddon here we come!" time again! An utterly audacious, utterly unexpected, and utterly fantastic piece of Genesis melodrama. Both drummers shine on this track and the extended instrumental section is superlative in its execution. Tony's cascading keyboard runs, reminiscent of days of yore, but executed in a manner that is thoroughly modern. As with every great Genesis album, one is left exhilarated, shattered, emotionally drained, but gasping for more. A magnificent ending to a magnificent album, majestic Genesis album.
Last year, Carol Willis told us that she felt that the new music Mike and Tony had written was amongst the best material Genesis had ever created, that they were extremely brave in continuing without Phil and that she was immensely proud of both of them. I could not agree more. Genesis are back... let's celebrate the return of the keepers of the key!
[Some of you may have noticed that Simon's review runs in a different track order to that of the final version of Calling All Stations - Simon was the lucky recipient of an advance copy of the album, and this is the original running order for it - AH.]