Discog Fever - Rating and Reviewing Every Genesis Album (Part 2)

by Jeff Fiedler

Discog Fever is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com, rating and reviewing a band's entire catalogue of studio albums.

… And Then There Were Three (1978, Atlantic)                                               

B + 

The band has now been reduced to a trio of Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, forcing Rutherford to handle all the guitar and bass work, and the band noticeably dials back a fair bit on the prog-rock stylings of old and focuses on writing more concise and traditional songs. The change in direction works, this easily being the band’s most accessible album yet, one that even yielded their first Top 40 hit in America, the dreamy “Follow You, Follow Me.” Nothing else here is quite as immediately catchy as that song, though there are still a respectable number of overlooked gems here, particularly the ballad “Many Too Many,” “Scenes from a Night’s Dream,” and the mini-epic “Deep in the Motherlode.” 

Duke (1980, Atlantic)                                                                                              

A – 

This is where the band really truly starts to sound like the Genesis you know from the radio. The remaining three members are noticeably developing some real chemistry here and playing off each other to marvelous effect, and Collins is also singing with greater confidence than ever. They’re also writing better and tighter songs, and there are two first-rate singles here in the synth-propelled “Turn It on Again” and the Top 40 rocker “Misunderstanding.” Other highlights here include “Behind the Lines” and “Duchess.”   

Abacab (1981, Atlantic)                                                                                          

A +

Arguably the best of the band’s post-Gabriel albums, Abacab finds the band moving even further in a pop direction while still retaining enough of its old prog-rock style to be much more fascinating and adventurous than your average mainstream pop band. “No Reply at All,” prominently featuring Earth, Wind & Fire’s horn section and the most danceable song the band has attempted up to this point, was deservedly a Top 40 hit, as was the epic title track and the ballad “Man on the Corner.” Perhaps most impressive of all is the clever and innovative “Keep It Dark,” which is played in 6/4 time but still manages to sound just as commercial as any of the singles. 

Three Sides Live (1982, Atlantic)                                                                         

B –

The original U.S. release of this double album, true to its title, featured three live sides and one studio side, though the studio side was inexplicably jettisoned and replaced with the live cuts featured on the fourth side of the international copies of the record when it was reissued on CD in 1994, though earlier American editions of the CD done during the ‘80s thankfully retain the studio side. The live tracks are perfectly fine, though not superior to the original studio renditions, but the American edition’s original fourth side is packed with rarities: “Open Door” and “Evidence of Autumn” are both B-sides from Duke (the latter song previously unavailable in America), while “You Might Recall” (a fine outtake from the Abacab sessions), “Me and Virgil,” and the excellent Top 40 hit “Paperlate” were previously available only on a British EP. 

Genesis (1983, Atlantic)                                                                                         

A –

The most disjointed of the band’s Eighties albums, there doesn’t really seem to be any real design to this album, and it doesn’t work quite as well as an album piece as your ordinary Genesis album. Taken on a song-by-song basis, though, there’s some truly excellent pop craft here, especially the relentlessly catchy Top 40 hit “That’s All,” the atmospheric ballad “Taking It All Too Hard,” the rocker “Just a Job to Do,” and the mini-epic “Home By the Sea,” and co-producer/engineer Hugh Padgham does a fine job of making the band sound even more vibrant and powerful than usual.   

Invisible Touch (1986, Atlantic)

A +

Striking a better balance this time around between its prog roots and its latter-day talent for crafting strong concise pop songs, Invisible Touch noticeably works much better as an album piece than its predecessor (and fans of the band’s more prog-oriented side should be happy with the presence of the ten-minute epic “Domino” and the album-closing instrumental “The Brazilian.”) While the album may be heavy on the pop, they’re truly first-rate pop songs, and the album yielded a stunning five Top 40 hits: the light R&B-pop of the title cut (the band’s first-ever Number One hit), the dramatic and atmospheric “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” the lovely ballads “In Too Deep” and “Throwing It All Away,” and the MTV favorite “Land of Confusion.” The album might have even yielded a sixth major hit had they released the equally catchy “Anything She Does” as a single; it’s easily one of the catchiest non-singles in the band’s output.  

We Can’t Dance (1991, Atlantic)  

A –

The band tries to please both its more pop-minded fans and its older, prog-rock following on this very long album, the album being equally comprised of more concise pop songs and lengthier excursions. (“Driving the Last Spike” and “Fading Lights” each even clock in at over ten minutes, though they’re both good enough to hold the listener’s interest.) The social commentary of “Tell Me Why” and the weak “Dreaming While You Sleep” arguably should have been left off the final cut, but all of the remaining songs range from good to fantastic, and the album yielded several Top 40 hits with the emotionally powerful rocker “No Son of Mine,” the deliriously fun bluesy-pop of “I Can’t Dance,” the driving “Jesus He Knows Me,” the adult-contemporary pop of “Never a Time,” and the chilling ballad “Hold on My Heart.”   

Calling All Stations (1997, Atlantic)                                                                   

B +

Phil Collins left the band prior to this disc, being replaced by the little-known Ray Wilson (from the band Stiltskin), who doesn’t particularly sound like Collins but could easily pass for Peter Gabriel, interestingly and ironically enough. Critics absolutely ripped this album to shreds, but it doesn’t make a bit of sense why that was the case, because critics never particularly liked Collins in the first place (certainly never to the same degree they liked Gabriel) and this is easily a much more prog-rock-oriented affair than anything the band has made since the ‘70s. The material does admittedly get a little spotty in the album’s back half, but the album is still wildly underrated, and its first half is shockingly impressive. Wilson injects some real emotional power into cuts like “Shipwrecked” and the devastatingly pretty “Not About Us,” one of the band’s most underrated ballads, but the real highlight of the disc is the eerie world music/prog-pop fusion of “Congo,” which is as creative a single as the band has ever made and boasts some great pop hooks as well. The single tanked in the U.S. (though it fared moderately well in Europe), but it’s a must-hear.

Compilations:
Turn It On Again: The Hits
is the only single-disc Genesis hits package that’s ever been released on these shores, but it’s a pretty good one. Four of their seventeen Top 40 hits are missing (“No Reply at All,” “Man on the Corner,” “Paperlate,” “Never a Time”), but they mostly make up for that by unexpectedly including cuts from the Peter Gabriel era (“I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)” and a new recording - with Gabriel back in the lineup! – of “Carpet Crawlers”) and the wildly underrated “Congo” from the first and only post-Phil Collins album from the band. The 3-CD The Platinum Collection is more expensive and still inexplicably leaves out “No Reply at All,” “Man on the Corner,” and “Never a Time,” but it’s got a full disc of Peter Gabriel-era cuts to satiate fans of the band’s most prog-oriented period.

Live Albums:
1973’s Genesis Live is the lone full-length concert album from the Gabriel-era lineup of the band and is fairly good (though the band’s live act was so heavy on visuals at the time, i.e. Gabriel’s costumes, that having just the audio makes it seem a little incomplete). Of the five Collins-era live albums, the best is a toss-up between 1977’s Seconds Out and 1982’s Three Sides Live.