"GENESIS CHAMBER SUITE" – Classic Rock Production’s DVD (Ragnarock imprint catalogue no. DVDL029D) Reviewed by Phil Morris.

This is one of what seems to be becoming an ongoing series of Genesis-related releases from Classic Rock Productions. Having previously issued the two sets of Inside Genesis DVDs and CDs covering a history of the band from 1970 to 1980, this continues CRP’s trend of multi-artist sets of releases. This time, we find compilations of the music of various bands performed by a string quartet, plus piano.

An interesting choice of Genesis material has been selected, rather than sticking with the obvious as might have been expected. Opening with Looking For Someone it runs chronologically through to Duke (Please Don’t Ask) with the exception of closing with Los Endos. 13 tracks, totalling just under an hour, finds abridged versions of Supper’s Ready (Lover’s Leap) and Musical Box alongside the likes of Follow You, Follow Me. I don’t know whether the exclusion of post-1980 material is deliberate or coincidental to this being the period covered by the Inside… releases.

The sleeve is simple, but effective – and presumably a deliberate nod to Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Variations set from 1978 (the release which probably should answer the charge of starting the trend for the classical interpretation of popular music) - in embellishing a painting of baroque musicians with images relevant to the act being covered. In this instance, a flower mask is placed around one head and the Foxtrot sleeve character appears in the background.

Perhaps inevitably, some pieces work better than others and vary from interesting takes on the original arrangements (Entangled), to "muzak" versions which simply use the violin to replicate the original melody/vocal lines in a way that so many pieces of music have been butchered in similar exercises.

It is this risk and the history of the conversion of popular music to the classical idiom which will lead many fans to approach this project with caution, if not outright cynicism. And perhaps Classic Rock Productions should be commended for their bravery in attempting this venture. This could also be extended to its release on both DVD and CD, as is the case with much Classic Rock output. Previously, this has lost something in the transfer to CD where without the visuals, it is not as easy to listen to the mix of narration and music. In this instance, the opposite is probably true.

Although some may view the prospect of watching the four young female members of the string quartet as an attractive proposition ("interestingly", the male pianist gets far less camera time), the music does not benefit nor need the visuals and is more likely to be simply used as the backdrop to other activities. Additional visuals which intersperse throughout are superfluous and unimaginative. As well as a variety of (mainly common) photos of the band, there are "mood" shots: Ripples is accompanied by film of moving water; Mad Man Moon by images of the night time sky and White Mountain by shots of… well, actually cloudscapes, but you get the picture.

The musicians are clearly highly proficient, but they do seem to appear fairly disinterested as they run through what must be the nth performance of a piece of music for which they show no obvious passion. Maybe it’s just their concentration, but they look simply bored as if they can’t wait to get to the end of the four hours of product they have signed up to perform (the other acts covered in the series being David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd).

Undoubtedly not as good as Guddal and Matte’s Genesis for Two Grand Pianos, this release does have some plus points and is definitely better than other previous offerings in this style, but it’s inconsistent. If you have to have this material, I would recommend the CD version over the DVD; but you can undoubtedly live without either.