"Box set blues" - The second Genesis 5.1 box set of albums reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Here we go again. the seemingly never-ending cycle fo expenditure on Genesis 'product' continues. i doubt if there has ever been a similar twelve month period in the band's entire history with regard to items available for a fan's collection. During the last twelve months we have had:
And not too far into next year we can expect an official live DVD from the show in Rome!
In between all of that, we have this, the second tranche of 5.1 re-mastered albums to contend with.
The first set showed us what a great job that both the band and especially their producer, Nick Davis, had done with the music which, I suppose at the end of the day is what this project is all about.
But, and it is a BIG but, here am I, a fan of some thirty years' standing being aksed to shell out an inordinate amount of cash (£99 this time round, folks) for product that I have bought no less than five times over the years! So, what are the pro's and con's of this set of releases?
Well, as I said earlier, it is the music that matters, and once again it has to be said that Nick Davis has done an exemplary job on bringing an unexpected degree of freshness to the proceedings. This is after all music which we all think we are so familiar with...? There are less surprises here than on the preceding set but nonetheless, I found myself sitting up and listening more closely than usual at times; it was surprising for instance to hear how much of the 'work in progress' vesion of Mama from the second Genesis Archive set had actually made it through to the finished product. Likewise on Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea, I am hearing sounds and instrumentation previously 'buried' in the mix, and I am not even listening on a 5.1 system!
The same can be said for Invisible Touch. As an album, my thoughts about it have become legend (apparently). definately Genesis' one real flirtation with 'total pop'. i hated it back in 1986! Times have changed however. The album still isn't my favourite, but nonetheless Nick's work here too brings out many previously unsuspected nuances to the music. Invisible Touch itself is clearer, Mike's guitar playing is tasty and tight and Tony's love of the odd jazz chord is still evident.
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight too has surprises. The extra percussive effects now audible for the first time. Tony's lush inderscoring of the whole over which Mike's stabbing guitar chords manage to add even more drama to an already highly charged track.
We Can't Dance was really Phil's apotheosis with the band and is still one of my favourite albums. Proving that they were not simply chart fodder, the opening track, No Son Of Mine, became an instant personal favourite amd chart topper despite the serious nature of its subject matter. Here too there are surprises; the re-appearance of the harmony vocals, Mike's aggressive guitar playing and once again, Tony's impeccable use of sound textures which even here sound both cleaner and even more empassioned than before.
Fading Lights? Well...ever since I first heard this track at one of the press previews for the album, it has been enshrined in glory alongside Afterglow as the epitome of everything I love about this band. Nothing has changed here. If anything the song has grown in stature proving that occasionally, you CAN improve on perfection!
Calling All Stations seems to be the Genesis album most fans (and members of the band) would prefer to forget. Not me, folks. I loved the album back in '97 and ten years on, I still do. The title track is one of the finest ROCK songs I have ever heard and it gains enormously from Nick's treatment here. So too do some of the more underrated cuts; Not About Us and There Must Be Some Other Way also get the widescreen treatment here and I am still at a loss to explain why the former wasn't a hit, because it is BRILLIANT!
The album of odds and sods is perhaps where the first hint of disappointment appears, but more of that later. Another major bugbear with the predecessor to this set was the lack of and quality of the additional visual items that were made available on it. Certainly no such criticisms can be aimed at this set. It is obvious that far more thought and effort has gone into things this time round. Yes, there are disappointments, but the fact that such things as the 1983 tour rehearsal footage and the 2000MMF Awards ceremony footage and Archive 76-92 EPK are here must surely compensate for any such criticisms. I was also fascinated by the behind the scenes look at the hilarious Land Of Confusion video too!
Even the booklet accompanying the bonus disc written by long time cohort and video maker, Jim Yukich, is an excellent read. His observations and insights are both balanced and pithy; obviously the owrk of someone who is a fan of the band himself.
So there you have the evidence in favour of this set. However, there are criticisms, so here they are...
Once again, the presence of the promotional videos for tracks which are already available on The Video Show compilation is cause for concern. Surely other interesting footage was available to the compilers of this collection? Many collectors will also be less than pleased at having to shell out for such 'gems' as the Visible Touch video and No Admittance documentory - both of which are in most long time fans' collections already.
The major bugbears for me however are twofold. First, the price of this set; £99 is extortionate for a mere FOUR albums, however many extras it is laden with. Second, and perhaps even more unintelligable is the omission of tracks from the bonus disc. Why were some of the B sides from Calling All Stations left off this compilation? And why wasn't the one remaining track from those sessions, Nowhere Else To Turn, finally given the place on the record that it so rightly deserves?
Even the visual extras from this album were uninspired. There IS plenty of TV footage available from this period and most of it has been in collectors' hands for ages and it is a crying shame that once again this was overlooked.
Yes, I know that it is the music that matters, and no one put a gun to my head and forced me to buy this set. However, the price of this package does little to avoid the accusations of 'cashing in' that have already begun to be levelled at the band in certain quarters. It is almost certainly EMI who are doing the actual cashing in here this time. Even so, the band themselves could have done their reputation for looking after their fans some good if they had argued for a lower price, as demonstrated by the Night Cap collection by Jethro Tull some years ago.
The pro's do still outweigh the con's in my own opinion, but the price is one which will certainly not endear the band to their longstanding fans. With the Gabriel/Phillips era set still in the pipeline, and with the acknowledged dearth of potential 'bonus' material from that period in mind, I hope that the powers that be give some SERIOUS consideration to how that package is presented and above all PRICED to avoid disappointing A LOT of people. Perhaps the Milton Keynes '82 film can finally be dragged out of the vaults for us all to enjoy? Hint, hint!