Nursery Cryme – Track by Track by Alan Hewitt.
Without a doubt, Nursery Cryme is one of the most important albums in the Genesis catalogue. Here the band finally worked with the line-up which was to create so many classics. Exorcising the ghosts of previous band members was no doubt a difficult exercise but one which the band managed with aplomb, creating the first bona fide “classic” Genesis album.
Opening the album with Musical Box was a bold move and a statement of the band’s intent to create something beyond your ordinary pop song. Here we have one track which perhaps more than any other encapsulates everything the band were striving toward; storytelling in the style of the Grand Guignol, a macabre tale accompanied by an equally macabre soundtrack. Every nuance of the music and the vocals captures the tale of Henry and Cynthia to perfection and no wonder that it has been referred to as a mini-opera – it is!
For Absent Friends is a delightful wistful piece of nostalgia equally, a homage to the band members who have gone before as it is to anyone who has lost a loved one. Here for the first time as well we get a glimpse of Phil’s marvellous voice as his harmonies blend in with Peter’s to perfection.
The Return Of The Giant Hogweed returns us to the theatre of the bizarre. The story of the revenge taken by an ornamental garden plant for being uprooted from its home soil is delivered in typically tongue-in-cheek style. Steve has a fine time here as his frantic riffing portrays the frantic activity of the demon weed, and Peter’s rasping vocals give even more menace to the subject whilst the almost Baroque playing of both Mike and Tony give an air of absurdity to the proceedings. Indeed it is exactly that ability to combine serious and comic elements within the same song which marks them out above the rest as purveyors of music with something to challenge the brain as well as the ears.
Even after all these years, I am not entirely sure what the next song, Seven Stones is all about. Fortune telling perhaps? It is a deliciously melodic piece where Tony’s playing is a joy to behold and the choral style of harmonies Peter and Phil are wonderful. Mike’s bass adds an edge of hardness to an otherwise delicate track.
Harold The Barrel definitely owes its evolution to the grand old British tradition of Music Hall. An incredibly involved piece, there are even elements of Gilbert & Sullivan here, especially in the chorus. An amusing look at the conceits of repressed British society, the song is delivered in a mock operatic style which works to perfection.
Harlequin is the closest thing that Genesis really got to a “Pastoral” piece. A tale of nymphs and shepherds in the Bucolic tradition it is a delightfully understated piece where everyone has a chance to recharge their batteries before the final onslaught which is…
The Fountain Of Salmacis. Another classic slice of storytelling a-la Genesis style. The tale of the doomed relationship between Hermaphroditis and Salmacis is told in a marvellous interplay between words and music. Tony’s keyboards shimmer like the waters of Salmacis’ lake while Mike, Steve and Phil deliver a stunning aural portrayal of the action in an almost orchestral manner over which Peter tells the tale in his own inimitable fashion – a marvellous way to close the album.
A difficult album for the band in so many ways, and yet one which was the blueprint
for everything that followed it. What is hard to credit is the amount of material
which was left behind. On stage favourites such as Going Out To Get You and
Twilight Alehouse were left on the shelf where, in some cases, they still remain
some 36 years later. Even at this early stage, Genesis were not prepared to
compromise on quality in search of popularity.