“A night in the Genesis Museum” - Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II album reviewed in an extremely biased manner by Alan Hewitt.
If you have read the interview with Steve about this project which can be found elsewhere in this edition, then the title of this review will hopefully make complete sense. Steve has always carried a torch for the music that he and his fellow compatriots in the “Beat Combo” that was Genesis, created over the years. Of course, Steve has already done this kind of thing before with 1996’s Genesis Revisited so why, you may ask, is he doing it all again? Well, the answer is quite simple; he wanted to “revisit” these songs/instrumentals in order to be able to perform them live with all the advantages of 21st century technology.
With Genesis itself now being pretty much on permanent hiatus, the only way fans of this music are able to hear it in the live context is to attend a gig by one of the multitude of “tribute” bands who perform much of this material to varying degrees of success (or failure). And of course, many may say that Steve himself is in danger here of becoming his very own Genesis tribute band.
Let me lay that vicious rumour to rest here and now, folks. What we have here is so much more than that if you open your ears and give it the proper consideration that the music deserves. Akin to artistic restoration, Steve has managed to retain all of the ingenuity, intelligence and above all, fun of the originals (yes folks, contrary to popular rumour, Genesis did in fact have FUN while recording most of this music), whilst imbuing many of the tracks with unexpected additional nuances which if nothing else make you reconsider the originals from a slightly different perspective. Familiarity can often breed contempt, can’t it and if these versions reinvigorate the originals as I most definitely believe they do, then the artist has done his job.
So, six months’ work and a plethora of special guests is on show here, all spread over two discs and almost three hours’ worth of music to get through, making this a hard one to review all in one gulp but I’m game if you are dear reader, so here goes….
Disc One opens with The Chamber of 32 Doors and this is a simply amazing reinterpretation of one of the bona fide classics from The Lamb… Nad Sylvan lays down a frighteningly good vocal whilst musically this is an infinitely superior version to the original - it even puts the recent 5.1 remastered version in the shade!
Horizons has been polished off and given a new lick of paint with Steve placing the emphasis on the steel strung guitar this time round, the end result is an altogether more sharper performance than previously. It is strange to hear Mr Collins’ son; Simon on vocals on the epic Supper’s Ready. Personally I think it was incredibly brave of Steve to even think about attempting a version of this, perhaps the best loved song in the entire Genesis catalogue but guess what? It works on so many levels. Simon makes no attempt to sound like either his illustrious father or Peter Gabriel, and for that, I am truly thankful, he brings a new perspective to the job and aided and abetted by Francis Dunnery, Conrad Keeley, Mikael Akerfeldt and Steve himself on vocals, the end result is quite simply, an incredible visit to what any Genesis fan has probably taken for granted for so many years. Musically, there are so many details brought to the fore that were perhaps buried in previous mixes or simply overlooked in the general madness and mayhem of the track, that you can’t help but pay serious attention to the epic as it unfolds before your ears. That is the key to this entire project - DETAIL, no aspect of the music has been overlooked in Steve’s determination for perfection at each and every turn.
Without doubt a bona fide surprise and highlight comes next with The Lamia. I admit to having reservations when I heard that Nik Kershaw was to be singing this one, but the end result is beautiful beyond belief. I could easily listen to Nik singing the entire Lamb album if this is a sample of what it would sound like! Mind you, the backing musicians give it some serious welly too, including Steve Rothery no less - absolutely perfect!
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight opens with a brief quote from “Greensleeves” on acoustic guitar before Francis Dunnery intones the famous opening line. Delivered once again on steel acoustic guitar, this is an altogether sharper and immediate version than one might have expected it to be. Roger King’s keyboards alongside Steve’s guitar work lift this one into the realms of high art and Steve’s riffing towards the climax will definitely rip the hairs off the back of your neck!
Fly On A Windshield and Broadway Melody Of 1974 will be more than familiar to any fan who has attended Steve’s recent shows and it is these “band” versions which you hear on this album, always a highlight of the show, they are equally impressive here and Gary O’Toole puts in yet another sterling performance on both drums AND vocals.
The Musical Box opens at last with the sound of a musical box which gradually morphs into a discordant noise before the familiar chords of Steve’s guitar get things under way. Nad Sylvan’s vocal delivery is frighteningly similar to Gabriel’s in places whilst Lee Pomeroy’s bass is simply awesome. And by the time we get to the meat of the song, Steve, Roger, Gary and Lee lay down a fearsome battery of sound and fury. An impeccable performance of a genuine classic.
Can - Utility & The Coastliners. Genesis’ wry look at the foolishness of flatterers and hangers- on is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was written back in 1972 comes next, with the lead vocal taken this time in marvellous fashion by Steven Wilson no less! Musically this has so much more to offer than the original version and is an altogether more potent performance all round in my opinion. Roger’s majestic keyboards and Lee’s bass playing threaten to tear the roof down whilst Steve cuts loose with some fine riffage of his own making this another unexpected highlight of the album for me.
Disc One closes with one of those Genesis “branches” or “deleted scenes” as Steve refers them; Please Don’t Touch, an immediate favourite with fans from its first appearance back in 1978. It is difficult to believe that Genesis passed this one over but hey, that was definitely their loss as this stunning new arrangement amply demonstrates. Not for people of nervous dispositions, this one races out of the traps at a frantic pace and I simply LOVE it - nuff said!
Disc Two opens with Blood On The Rooftops, and over the years I have hurled more than my fair share of superlatives at this masterpiece - see, there I go again! I even had to put my review on hold while I cried my eyes out, this song ha so much emotional resonance for me personally. Once again this is very much Steve’s own “band” arrangement as performed on his last couple of tours but I don’t really care - this is the best song that Genesis never played in concert and here it is brought magically to life and it will never fail to move me to tears of joy each time I hear it. Even the acoustic intro is a delight although to be honest, I think Steve should work it up into a song in its own right - hint, hint, Steve!
From the sublime to the outrageous next as The Return Of The Giant Hogweed threatens to conquer the planet once again. Here we get the awesome vocals of Neal Morse and anyone who saw Steve and Transatlantic’s performance of this at the 2010 High Voltage Festival will know exactly what to expect. Menacing, moody and magnificent but without doubt it is Roger King’s superlative keyboard playing which lifts this to devastating heights while Steve’s guitar gives a very good musical impression of an angry hogweed throughout, augmented by the equally impressive fretwork of Roine Stolt.
Entangled takes us back to why I got into Genesis in the first place - melody. The combination here of Steve and Roger’s guitar and keyboards is simply magnificent but fans will be delighted by the truly magnificent vocal performance of Jakko Jakszyk which is simply faultless. Where he and Amanda Lehmann harmonise, well… it’s like dying and getting your first glimpse of heaven and definitely proves Steve’s argument that Genesis should have used additional musicians at times. This is infinitely superior to the original and I do not say that lightly as the original is a classic.
Eleventh Earl Of Mar is another underrated item in the Genesis catalogue. At least I was lucky enough to see the band perform this one live but it has seldom sounded as good as it does here. Once again Nad Sylvan does the vocal duties and it is frightening how much he manages to imbue a new sense of wonder to such an evergreen classic. Musically too the addition of Nick Beggs’ bass work augments it immensely. With the backbone of Steve’s current band fleshing out the music, this is guaranteed to be a show stopper in concert!
Ripples features the talents of Amanda Lehmann on vocals. Amanda has made herself an integral part of Steve’s touring band over the last few years and here she gives a new slant to another vintage slice of Genesis. Fans may not automatically take to her vocal delivery on this one which sounds like a cross between vintage Stevie Nicks and Marianne Faithful but stick with it, the effect will grow on you. Musically I doubt if Genesis themselves could play this any better - in fact they didn’t manage it last time out so this will be another live favourite in the forthcoming shows.
Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers/In That Quiet Earth/Afterglow. What a magnificent triptych of music! This time round you have the assembled might of the Hackett live band plus Nick Beggs delivering the musical goods and they do so in truly amazing style. Roger and Steve get things off with an ethereal duet which I have no reservations in saying, sounds to my ears even better than the original. Gary’s drums and a banshee wail from Steve’s guitar usher us into the latter half of this homage to the Yorkshire Moors and the Bronte’s before the rest of the band are unleashed to devastating effect culminating in Afterglow, another song I have written one or two words about in my time. Surprisingly this is the one track which to my ears doesn’t work in its entirety. Musically it is as superb as ever but for once the mighty pipes of John Wetton fail to carry off the task asked of them and the end result is strangely flat and unemotional which is not the Afterglow I know and love.
Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all and Steve instantly redeems himself next with a rampant A Tower Struck Down which opens with an almost Psycho styled keyboard phrase from Roger. Here the Underworld Orchestra of Christine Townsend, Dick Driver and Rachel Ford really get their chance to shine here along with Rob Townsend’s suitably manic saxophone, and this is a wonderfully menacing version ideal for anyone’s Halloween soundtrack!
Camino Royale’s appearance here might be a surprise for some fans but read Steve’s interview comments elsewhere in this edition and its presence will make perfect sense. Here Steve and his regular band members are augmented by members of Hungarian Jazz outfit, Djabe and confusingly enough we get the same sound effects intro that accompanied Riding The Colossus but it isn’t long before this superbly jazzy rendition gets under way. Jaunty percussion and keyboards see Steve sauntering along the streets of New Orleans from which this one takes its inspiration and the end result is a delight.
The album is brought to a close by the truly magnificent Shadow Of The Hierophant. Am I the only one who didn’t know that Genesis had rehearsed this one back in 1972?! Always a live favourite in Steve’s stage show and making a recent re-appearance in his live set after many years’ absence now we get to hear it again 21st century style. Nick Beggs and Steve Wilson give this one additional clout but it is Amanda Lehmann’s vocals which take this one to incredible heights. Anyone who saw this performed by Steve’s band at his recent shows will already know, this one demonstrates the magic that Genesis lost when Steve left and is a fitting track with which to close this immensely enjoyable album.
So there you have it. Two discs, almost three hours of Genesis’ finest musical moments lovingly restored and augmented by Steve and a truly remarkable cast of guests. The purists may turn their noses up at this but all I can say to them is that they are missing the point. Steve has in places restored bits of music which were lost such as the extra guitar phrase which was lost in the original mix of Musical Box. In addition there is a wealth of new detail which on some tracks makes them even better to my ears at least than the originals. At least Steve is still performing this music, which is more than can be said for the other members of the band who have consistently disparaged much of this music in recent times. God alone knows why, and if this makes anyone dig out their copy of Foxtrot or A Trick Of The Tail again then even better. Well done to all involved - now about these shows…..!