"Yet another trip back..." - The Genesis Archive boxed set. Review by Matthew Isaacs.
After nearly four year's wait, the first four-CD set has finally arrived. Full marks to everyone involved for not making this the normal chronological greatest hits plus collection with a few "rare" tracks thrown in. Three out of the four CDs are made up of previously unavailable live material and the final CD is all unreleased demos and BBC recordings, many of which are real gems.
The first two discs are totally given over to a live rendition of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" recorded in Los Angeles in early 1975. While it is not one of my favourite Genesis albums (see - I'm NOT the only one! - AH), it is intriguing to hear Genesis perform this unique and complex piece in its entirety. My main criticism here is the clinical and uninspired production. Here the material gets the chance to breathe, particularly "The Waiting Room" and "Riding The Scree", the latter features a chilling solo from Tony. The main joy for me was the revamped it which features a new Peter Gabriel vocal which doesn't sound out of place, yet you can hear the "Don't Give Up" edginess in his voice. Considering that the band had to play "The Lamb..." in a fairly rigid manner, the performance is healthy, inspired and immaculately precise. Tony Banks especially excels on the whole rendition.
The third CD takes a step back a couple of years and deals with what many people consider to be the "Classic" Gabriel Genesis, drawn mainly from a recording of the band's gig at London's Rainbow Theatre. "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" gets a fantastic full live version and we also get the chance to hear a Gabriel era "Firth of Fifth", whilst "More Fool Me" sees a humble 22 year old drummer take centre stage. The live version of "Stagnation" doesn't quite match the rest for potency, however. The inclusion of the single B sides from this era - "Twilight Alehouse" and "Happy The Man" - and the German single version of "Watcher Of The Skies", makes this a must for collectors.
The final disc represents the "From Genesis To Revelation" and "Trespass" eras, beginning with the stringless version of "In The Wilderness", one of the greatest tracks Genesis have ever put their name to! Others include a 1968 demo "Hey!", reminding me of Help/Rubber Soul era Beatles with a really simple, snappy chorus. "The Magic Of Time" has a wonderful 1950's Gershwin-esque waltz rhythm which would have been popular if included on the first album.
The booklet is very well done; full of notes from the former road managers, and ex-employees, plus Peter's legendary resignation letter. There are also some lovely pictures of Genesis and family on holiday boating on a lake. The fans who remember early Genesis who still have the old vinyl records and who will probably have seen the band live at this time; will absolutely adore this collection; especially for the first three discs. What is perhaps more significant is that it serves as a reminder of how important this music is to the era and to Genesis, and just how original and innovative they were when Peter Gabriel was their frontman.