"BBC Sessions/Broadcasts - Golden Opportunity or Missed Opportunity?" - Review by Alan Hewitt.
"BBC Sessions ", those words used to be uttered in hushed and reverential tones by Genesis fans as one of the Holy Grails amongst the band's recorded output.
Initially the studio session recordings and the only live "session" the band ever did for the BEEB were pressed up as promos on CD in 2000 and white label copies of these now change hands for silly amounts of money!
All of the Gabriel era sessions, which are effectively the only "sessions" the band ever did for the BBC are now widely available including extra material not originally broadcast and along with the legendary "Jackson Tape" released on the 2008 remastered box set. As such they make truly fascinating listening as the band's evolution from faltering steps to confident performance is documented.
So, that said, what does this newly released set bring to the table that isn't already available? Well, the answer simply put is: nothing. The set does not contain the complete recordings (such as they are as at least one studio performance: Dusk from the Night Ride session of 1970 remains missing). This, from a collector's point of view is deeply frustrating as I am sure any Genesis fan would love an official release of these recordings in their entirety.
Sound wise, there is little difference between these recordings and the versions already in circulation as all but the last session - 9th September 1972, were recorded in mono so apart from creating a fake stereo soundtrack, there is little to be done to them.
What caused a ripple (pun intended) of excitement when this set was announced, was the presence on it of the various live broadcasts the BBC made of the band. Now, as any true Genesis fan will know, all of these are already available, many of them in amazing quality - in some cases better than the official recordings which were compressed to death for broadcast purposes.
Nonetheless, had these recordings been released in full, I doubt if there is a single Genesis fan who would not be a possessor of the set. As someone who attended four of the shows which the BBC recorded - and there's one missing entirely : the Knebworth 90 performance - I would have been delighted to have them in the collection officially.
Instead what we have been given is a highly dissatisfying and quite frankly, cack-handed, selection of tracks. The gem of the set is undoubtedly the Lyceum 1980 broadcast although even this has been edited with all of the between songs stories and banter missing. Then again, the BBC edited this out when they broadcast the show in the first place so this wasn't really a surprise.
But really? Giving us truncated versions of Wembley 87 and Knebworth 92 along with a grudging two track sop to the 1998 Calling All Stations tour - you know, the album/tour the band wish to forget - what on earth? This will not satisfy any fan let alone the diehards who are the people this set is supposedly aimed at. .
The accompanying booklet too, leaves much to be desired. The reference to the difficulty for bootleggers to find a recording of the Fountain Of Salmacis from the March '72 broadcast begs the question: why isn't it on this set? Referring to Watcher Of The Skies as, and I quote: "A perennial encore" shows total lack of knowledge of both the track and the band's performances which is unbecoming in a project of this importance. After all, we must assume that this is the final official release we shall see from the band?
So, here we have it. Now after all the gripes, let me inject a leavening of realism into things. To have released this set as the fans would have liked would have meant two things…
An incredibly weighty set - especially on vinyl!
An incredibly expensive set as to lease the recordings from the BBC would not have been cheap and possibly economically unviable for the band's record company. After all, this is BUSINESS and the financial realities have to be acknowledged and those costs would have had to be recouped in a similarly weighty charge to you and I Mr (and Mrs) Genesis fan.
As the band's swansong, this leaves much to be desired, but at least they have acknowledged their past in a way which they haven't really done that often before and for that at least, we should be grateful.