“Live not Memorex” - The Genesis Live 1973 - 2007 box set reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Well, the furore that the details of this set caused on the various forums before it had even been released was astonishing. It is obvious that fans of different “eras” in the band’s story had great and totally unrealistic expectations for the album (or albums) which constitute their favourite live performances by the band and I admit that I am no exception to that!
The studio albums had been a revelation (pun definitely intended!) and my reviews of the previous box sets have said as much, but live albums are a much more tricky proposition and so the process this time might finally explode a few myths about the band as a live unit - not least the story that Steve was “mixed out” of Seconds Out after his decision to leave the band had become definite! Anyway, what follows is my initial impression of the albums based on first hearing and NOT with the benefit of a 5.1 system, folks.
Before we start on the albums proper, let’s have a look at the “bonus” disc as usual. The first thing that you will notice is that the audio CD and DVD have different track listings. The DVD benefits from two extra tracks - WHY? Surely the time differential would not make any difference to the CD?! Yes, it is great to have this recording but not when several others from the same period have already been made available to fans via bootleg copies which to be honest, to my ears listening to this version in old fashioned stereo do not sound any different at all! And of course, this very recording of the Rainbow show was one of the highlights of the band’s first Archive box set so, the argument that this is something that the fans REALLY want does not even begin to hold water - because we already have the BULK of it anyway! Another quibble, given that this is a representation of the Gabriel era of the band, why so few images of that era in the text? I would also take issue with the statement that the Rainbow show and Genesis Live are from the same period - WRONG! Genesis Live is a representation of the Foxtrot show of 1972/73 whereas The Rainbow gig, as every self respecting fan knows, documents the next album: Selling England By The Pound and is a completely different proposition for both the band and the fans! In fact, the argument for the inclusion of the BBC live session as part of Genesis Live is made even stronger here in my opinion. Yes, I know, such quibbles are to be expected from a sad old anorak like me but I am sure that I won’t be the only one voicing them among the faithful who have been looking forward to this release. After all, it is probably only the anoraks amongst us who will buy this box set in the first place! There is also the problem of the actual dating of this recording… 9th February 1973? I think not! Yes, the band were playing the Rainbow on that date, but they were still performing the standard Foxtrot show at that time - as evidenced by the facts that Genesis Live was recorded at gigs AFTER that Rainbow show and that Selling… had not even been recorded! The tour to promote the new album which features so prominently on this recording didn’t commence until 5th October 1973 and surely this recording must date from that period, giving an actual recording date of either 19th or 20th October 1973 which was the last time Genesis played at the Rainbow until they re-opened it at the commencement of their 1977 Wind & Wuthering tour. Collective amnesia by the band perhaps, or poor research by the organisers? Either of which could have been avoided by reference to the info contained in “Genesis Revisited” by a certain editor!
Moving on to the albums themselves. Genesis Live has always been a disappointment to me mainly because of the way it was edited down to fit the restrictions of vinyl at the time but at least that is understandable. As are the production values which is one of the things that this release certainly puts right. What it lacks in terms of length it more than makes up for in atmosphere and it has to be said, that here Nick’s work on the original tapes has brought up many details previously buried in the mix. Although, of course, the downside to this is that the mistakes are even more evident but that’s the risk you take with such things. Once again though, the question has to be re-iterated; why were not the entire master tapes of the album used? The argument that you would effectively have three performances of the same track; Supper’s Ready spread over the box doesn’t hold water - let me tell you; this is what the fans actually WANT! Besides which, the three different versions would serve as a graphic illustration of exactly HOW FAR the band progressed musically during the ’72 - ’77 period. As I have mentioned above, there is also a genuine missed opportunity here to give the band’s only live session for the BBC an airing on this album. It would at least be contemporaneous with the rest of the material which cannot be said for the Lamb… material which has been surreptitiously tagged on to the end of this album almost as an afterthought and sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. The Lamb… had its day in the sun on the first box set after all where it took up two discs that could (and should in my opinion) have been dedicated to releasing more of the studio material from this era. I also took particular note of the copyright registration for this album. No mention of either Anthony Phillips or Steve Hackett? I don’t suppose in the great scheme of things it will affect their royalty payments but even so - credit where it is due, eh?!
Moving swiftly on to Seconds Out, the “holy of holies” for this particular Genesis fan. Mr Al Murray’s percipient sleeve notes say it all as far as my feelings on this album are concerned. As a live document, I don’t think I have ever heard a better official live album by any of the bands I follow (and that’s a fair few folks, I can tell you!). Well, the situation improves considerably here I must say. From the opening bars of Squonk two things leap out at you: Steve’s presence is finally up there properly in the mix where it so rightly belongs but so is Mike and his bass is simply awesome here! The same has to be said of the truly wonderful performances of Carpet Crawlers and Robbery, Assault & Battery where Steve and Tony really shine and there’s no problem in identifying who’s who here! As for Afterglow…. Well… the masterpiece still sends shivers up and down my spine and Nick’s work on this one is worth the price of the box alone - PERFECT! OK, I would have perhaps liked some of the tracks that were played on the two tours such as 11th Earl of Mar, Entangled and White Mountain as some kind of “bonus” but some things are too perfect to be tampered with and Seconds Out is one of them in my book so I have no complaints about this one.
As Al Murray says in his sleeve notes, this was a “Greatest Hits” album before the band had any real hits in the accepted sense of the word. What you have here is the resume of a band who have created an increasingly marvellous series of albums giving you the best bits and more. Many older fans may say that Peter’s performance of the likes of Firth Of Fifth, Cinema Show and, above all, Supper’s Ready, carry more emotion than Phil’s but I am sorry, anyone who hears the versions on this album might have to think again, and even if they won’t change their minds, then surely they must at least give Phil grudging respect for his efforts - Phil never sounded better to my ears than he does on this album and the balance has definitely been redressed here and each and every musician has their place in the sun or should that be spotlight?! Oh, and so do the audience too which is as live albums should be, of course!
Next we come to Three Sides Live and yet another bone of contention. This album is NOT remixed in 5.1 ostensibly because the forthcoming DVD of the show will be. Now, to me at least this makes no sense. Nor do the comments about the DVD release which have indicated that it will follow exactly the same format as the original release; irritating interviews in the middle of songs included! Why this is the case when the band have the pro shot footage from the gigs which were filmed for it in their possession is beyond me - unless this footage has been “lost” since I saw it in the band’s film archive whilst working on the Genesis Songbook back in 2000, that is! The whole rationale behind this entire project was to bring the band’s catalogue to the audience in the best possible sound quality so why on earth give us another version of the stereo album we already have? With nothing “extra” on this album there isn’t really anything I can say about it that I didn’t say when I reviewed its original release on CD and subsequent re-issue as a “Definitive Master” which as far as I can hear is exactly what we have been given again here - at an inflated price I may add!
Finally we come to The Way We Walk which had already courted controversy with fans when it was initially released as two separate albums (The “Longs” and The “Shorts”) back in 1992/93. Okay, that release gave fans of each “side” of Genesis the chance to purchase a live document of the music they preferred. Personally I would have preferred a “warts and all” live album which I suppose is one of the reasons why I have spent so many years collecting bootlegs (shock, horror!). I assume that the band are still in possession of the master tapes of this album and most likely other shows from the same tour as well. I was informed at the time of the Calling All Stations tour that all the shows on the previous tour had been DAT recorded so why not release a bona fide live document including all the between-song banter as well? It is interesting to see that as with the previous recording, the album is not available in 5.1 because the existing DVD from Earls Court was mixed in 5.1. Well, that being the case, why re-issue either of these albums here at all?
The space allocated for the Live Over Europe disc has apparently upset some fans too. I have no problems with the fact that a slot has been allocated here for that disc. However, if like me, you bought the limited edition slip-cased version of that album, you will have some problems actually FITTING it into the box without wrecking the slipcase!
For the benefit of the various band members, their management and anyone else with even a vague interest in such things, here is a small “wish list” of some of the audio and video material that I can assure you, the fans really DO want in their collections….
1. Any footage/live recording from the Anthony Phillips/John Mayhew period (not likely, I know but this is one thing most die hard fans WOULD actually want in their collections). The Roundhouse footage from 1970 does still exist, but the cost of acquiring it from its “owner” would certainly be prohibitive and its quality is that of any Super 8mm footage from that period and therefore silent. Something that you would probably only watch once but nevertheless…
2. Pro shot Lamb… footage. Yes, I know I am not the biggest fan of that album but even I would LOVE to see how the show was actually presented! The existence of the footage from the Shrine indicates that MORE material was filmed on the night, and I for one find it highly unlikely that a film crew would have set up all their bulky gear merely to record two or three minutes’ worth of footage from a couple of songs - especially from the beginning, middle and end of the gig!
3. Pro shot footage from both the A Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering tours - never mind Tony Maylam’s aberration that has already been released - unless of course, the complete “rushes” for those shows are still extant? Surely a band at such a peak of popularity generated more concert footage than the pittance we have so far? What about the footage from the shows in Paris and Brazil?!
4. Speaking personally, some form of live visual document from the 1978 tour would also be greatly appreciated at some point. What became of the unused footage from Frankfurt, Leiden and Knebworth that was filmed for the BBC documentary for instance?
5. The OFFICIAL release of the COMPLETE Lyceum show films (either night, I am not that fussy - honest!) from 1980, which the band actually own the rights to or their management subsidiary “Sunderworth Ltd” do, at any rate, or at least so I am reliably informed, by a contact in the BBC.
6. The release of the long-denied Six Of The Best concert film. Sorry guys, we all know it WAS filmed - I could clearly see cameramen from where I was standing on the night and I know I am not alone here and I have been informed by a member of the road crew that the gig was filmed as well! OK, so it wasn’t a great gig performance wise, so what? Or failing the film; then at least issue the sound board recording of the gig, which is currently resident at The Farm or was until very recently. After all, this is supposed to be about giving the fans what WE want, isn’t it??! If the band don’t want to listen to/watch their bad hair moments, that’s fine but this isn’t about that kind of quality control. We know that mistakes are made, the guys are human after all - it’s about giving some of us who attended these gigs a chance to relive our memories and others the chance to hear/see what they missed!
Trivia Moment: Brian Coles, now Steve Hackett’s tour manager, was one of the “pall bearers” for Peter’s coffin at this gig. He was tour managing Peter at the time.
7. I know I am in the minority here but some form of live audio/visual record from the Calling All Stations tour would be nice too and there is plenty of pro-shot live footage out there too, as demonstrated by features in previous editions of TWR. This would certainly make me happy - I loved that album and tour!
The completists are never going to be satisfied - that’s a given. But the frightening fact is that collectors have already made available much themselves that the band should have been able to release - and that as a result both they AND the record company would have made money on! I do find it wonderfully ironic that on the studio albums, in some cases bootleg copies of footage has been used by the band (Mike Douglas Show 1977 and Three Dates With Genesis 1978 anyone?) so the fans have effectively paid for their own bootlegs! There is certainly more in private collector’s hands than there is in the band’s film archive (and in some cases the TV company archives too) this much I know for sure! The frightening thing is, that the longer the band and EMI leave this issue alone without addressing the legitimate desires of the fans, then sadly, when eventually they DO get round to releasing things like soundboard/mixing desk recordings, the fans will hardly be inclined to shell out their hard-earned cash for material which has, in some cases, been circulating FREELY for years!
Expecting the fans to shell out over £80 (£84.99 in HMV Liverpool, folks!) for a set as disappointing as this is a step too far really. This works out at a hefty £16.99 for each album if you treat them as such. What we have here does not justify that expense and if it were not for the fact that I am a true FAN, I would not touch this collection with a bargepole! Instead I would most likely have invested in a copy of Genesis Live and Seconds Out when the albums are released as individual units - if they ever are, because EMI are playing the waiting game here as they are doing with the Gabriel era studio albums which have not been given individual releases yet, I notice! Floating voters are hardly likely to be interested in buying this set and frankly, if the comments already seen on various other forums (including the band’s official one) are anything to go by, then many longstanding fans may well give it a miss, too. The prospect of the live DVD set still to come does not engender any form of excitement in me whatsoever and unless, perhaps some of the items mentioned above see the light of day, I strongly suspect that next time round, EMI will have a rather large white elephant on their hands!