Tag Archives: wind & wuthering

Genesis: Seconds Out, First In

Genesis_SOutGenesis released the double live album Seconds Out, their last consecutive album to feature guitarist Steve Hackett, in 1977. Steve left the band near the end of mixing sessions for this album, and ended what for many is the most important period of their history. Amazingly, in those two short years, with Phil Collins doing dual duty on both drums and vocals and Steve bringing in his best work to date, Genesis recorded some of the greatest progressive / classical rock albums of the 1970’s – namely Trick of the Tail and the pastoral, gorgeous masterpiece Wind & Wuthering. These studio albums and the tours to promote them, in 1976 and 1977, along with the live recordings on Seconds Out stand today as some of the band’s finest hours. The Wind & Wuthering tour was also my first opportunity to see Genesis perform live.

 

Genesis_band_Wind_BradOwen

 

 

 

 

 

genesis_philvocal_bradowenOn that night, nearly 40 years ago, on March 24, 1977, we drove to the Los Angeles Forum to bear witness to these artists. By then I’d seen about a dozen concerts, starting with Cat Stevens, and continuing with Jethro Tull, Yes, Queen and other luminaries of Genesis, but this was the one I’d really been waiting for. I can still recall an overwhelming elation as the lights dimmed and Chester counted the band into the opening number, “Squonk” during which Phil warmed his still childlike voice for a long night. I recall the impressive tambourine dance he performed on I Know What I Like”, the dual drum solo on “Cinema Show”, and the moment he got behind his kit during the complex sweeping midsection of “Robbery, Assault and Battery,” proving to all who listened what a powerful yet nuanced performer he was.

genesis_steve_bradowenNo longer sitting for the shows, Steve stood and commanded attention, stomping and swaying to accentuate his parts, including the haunting majestic solo on “Firth of Fifth,” his opening lead heralding the “Eleventh Earl of Mar,” and the aggressive jam on the brilliant “Unquiet Slumbers” instrumental. While Steve rightly complained of having his compositions squeezed off of these releases, his playing on every track that did make the records is off the charts, his ability to make the guitar drive melody unparalleled. Forget even calling out the technical and artistic brilliance of Tony Banks on keys and Michael Rutherford on guitar and bass – these were a given and their talents were on full display. At the time, these four players, along with Chester Thompson on drums were my number one musical heroes and they delivered the goods. It’s all on the record.

Genesis_TrickGenesis_WindGenesis_SpotAs a document of their ability to deliver impressive performances without Gabriel, the Seconds Out album is as timely and effective live chronicle as any in the progressive rock genre. Mostly complete renditions of their songs, from Foxtrot (1972) through to Wind & The Wuthering (1976), made up the set list culled from the the 1977 tour, with Cinema Show featuring Bill Bruford on drums, from the 1976 tour. Small snippets of one song each from their earliest albums Trespass and Nursery Crime were also mixed within the set. This approach was new to their shows then, and it worked, although longer medleys would become deeply annoying in their later more commercial years as a way to grant only passing reference to their early recordings. Also a few gems from the tours were left out, including a lot of Wind & Wuthering and it’s companion EP Spot the Pigeon, but given the length of their shows these would have yielded a four-album set! All of the recordings from these two tours are sonically amazing, though some may complain about the mix, which subverts a bit of Steve’s work, and leaves the lowest bass notes from Michael Rutherford inaudible. Vocals, drums and keys up front, as was so often the case. Still it yields an enjoyable set and an important offering.

genesis_tony_bradowengenesis_mike_bradowenVisually, the Wind & Wuthering tour itself was simple. While films and projections had been abandoned after the Trick of the Tail show, the subsequent outing honed their live skills, with the focus being on musicianship, and the lights that made it all visible. One of the simple most effective accents was the use of rows of vertical white spotlights with billowing smoke traveling through them, shown on the cover of Seconds Out. And, for the finale of “Super’s Ready” Phil’s ascent to a riser dressed in white to deliver the “Apocalypse in 9/8” segment was unforgettable. There is a decent film covering about half the Trick of the Tail tour, included in the latest re-master of that album, which actually hit theaters at the time. Though short, it is a great document, even if cut in parts with annoying silent films that interrupt the performance footage. It’s also on YouTube here Genesis – In Concert 1976.  For the 1977 Wind & Wuthering tour there is scant film, all of poor quality. Instead, there are some very nice complete audio recordings from this year that augment Seconds Out, which will lend a bit of insight as to this, arguably the better of the two outings.

genesis_phil_bradowenTogether, the albums of this period, Trick of the Tail, Wind & Wuthering, Seconds Out and the Spot the Pigeon EP deserve more respect and attention from critics and those chronicling the history of Genesis than they receive. Much of the press surrounding this band has been grossly unfair, with this period basically ignored given the performance art that preceded it, and commercial appeal that followed it. This was again the case with the recent documentary “Genesis: Together and Apart/Sum of the Parts.” Instead, one could easily argue that the band produced their crowning achievements during this time. This was music and art blended seamlessly together – there is a kind of magic woven through the tracks that fuels the imagination. I know what I like, and I was there, so here’s a recommendation: skip the Genesis R-Kive set and the documentary, and pick up these four albums – along with Steve Hackett’s first solo album Voyage of the Acolyte (1975) – now that’s the best way to establish an archive for these master craftsmen.

(photos by Brad Owen at The Atomic Co)

Genesis – Sum of the Parts (Minus Two)

hackett_2The teaser for the new documentary “Genesis – Together and Apart” (in the states called “Sum of the Parts”) begins with a quote from Phil Collins: “We’re out entertaining people and if they’re entertained we’ve done our job properly” – later adding “We just got more and more popular – I won’t take the credit and I won’t take the blame.” This perfectly sums up the dichotomy that is Genesis – the older work in the 1970’s from Trespass (1970) to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) with Peter Gabriel up front, along with the three subsequent albums created after Phil Collins took over vocals, found the band playing an eclectic blend of classical, rock, and English folk – a complex, determined form of “progressive rock.” The latter half of the band’s career in the 1980’s and after brought them massive success as a skillful pop rock band.  The two incarnations have been at odds in the media for decades.

During the early years the group was subject to criticism from mainstream press as being too obtuse, too arty to be real “rock-n-roll.” But then the latter, more popular incarnation that embraced pop over prog was accused of having sold out – of cashing in. When you listen to the band members interviewed in the documentary, you still pick up on the impact of this contest between complex artistic music and the more simple pop form. In reality given a bit of distance and historical perspective, both phases of the bands career have incredible merit, and the debate is needless.

hackett_1Unfortunately, in editing the new documentary some the early Genesis story was cut a bit short, both in terms of coverage of their ‘70’s work and also more seriously with the exclusion of the long solo careers of founding guitarist Anthony Phillips and his replacement Steve Hackett. In addition, editorial as to the time when Steve joined and then later left Genesis, and two of the Genesis albums containing much of his best work with the band receive short shift. Steve complained of this in print, stating: “It’s certainly a biased account of Genesis history, and totally ignores my solo work.” The truth of this is immediately evident to any knowledgeable viewer.

Here’s my attempt to fill the missing segments related to Steve Hackett, and do so in the style of the film. Will save Anthony Phillips, who is also left out of the R-Kive box set, for a later date.  Here, I will cast my thoughts in roles of voiceover, pop music critic, Radio DJ, comedian, gardener and music journalist to provide the missing material, in documentary style (no relationship to actual or real persons is intended or implied):

Steve Hackett Joins the Band:

Editorial: The segment covering the difficult transition after Anthony Phillips left the group includes the impact of that change, along with Phil’s recruitment and history, but leaves Steve’s a bit light. To make this more inclusive we should insert the following in the timeline, circa 1971:

Voiceover: After Anthony Phillips departed Genesis, the search was on for a new guitar player. Steve Hackett had placed an ad in Melody Maker seeking a band “determined to strive beyond existing stagnant forms.” Indeed, Steve brought a definitive edge to the Genesis sound – he could in one turn play quiet 12 string guitars in harmony with Mike Rutherford, then cut to his electric guitar for searing riffs and power-chords. Never monopolizing the limelight, he seemed comfortable taking shorter leads and coloring the bands overall sound with intricate, detailed playing.

hackett_3Music Journalist: Steve’s tapping technique, an influence on so many guitar players including Eddie Van Halen deserves due credit as a key part of the early Genesis sound, as heard on tracks like “Return of the Giant Hogweed” or the tapping and sweep picking heard on “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.” Steve hit fewer notes but invested them with feeling, precision and import.

Gardener: The plaintive sustained tones making up the melody in the center of “Firth of Fifth” is one of the most beautiful and compelling musical passages in their early work. The middle solo, even when played by touring guitarist Daryl Struermer, remained a highlight of their shows for years.

Editorial: After Steve’s intro, and some quality coverage of Nursery Crime (1971) and Foxtrot (1972) the masterpiece Selling England By the Pound (1973) is then given limited time in the documentary. The aforementioned tracks that feature Steve are stunning, while Tony’s playing on “Cinema Show” – Phil driving the long instrumental with his trademark skipping beat – is magical, becoming a major crowd pleaser in live shows with dual drummers after Gabriel’s departure. We would insert the following into the timeline, circa 1973:

Radio DJ: To be honest, Selling England By The Pound marks the point at which the band really sound fantastic in the studio and represents the best summary of that era’s very English, pastoral, classically tinged progressive rock.

Pop Music Critic: I don’t know what “progressive rock means” – unifauns? Twenty three minute, six second songs… really?

Editorial: While The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) receives just airtime, itself marking the time Peter Gabriel left the group, this would also have been the right moment to introduce the solo career of Steve Hackett:

hackettsolo_1

Voyage of the Acolyte
Released: October 1975
Chart Position: #26 in the UK (silver); #191 in the US

Voiceover: Steve recorded his first solo album just weeks after the last date on the Lamb Lies Down tour and at the same time the remaining members of Genesis were working on their first post-Gabriel recording. The album sounds quite a bit like Genesis, even sporting some material that the band had auditioned but rejected.

Music Journalist: The standout tracks are the rocking opener “Ace of Wands” and the closer – the beautiful, haunting “Shadow of the Hierophant” which ends in a doom-laden coda that would have perfectly fit Genesis. Though Mike and Phil both play on the record, Mike states in his autobiography that he felt a bit badly about the timing, since the real focus of the four remaining band members was to get the next Genesis album right.

Gardener: As it turned out, the next album A Trick of the Tail (1976) ended up doing quite well, and Steve seems as confident and vested in that work as anything.  Steve’s album also did a decent business… but it was also the first step towards leaving the band.

Editorial: The documentary skips this important moment on the band’s history (together or apart), and instead moves on to a decent segment on Trick of the Tail. However, the next, equally important release Wind & Wuthering (1976) is nearly left out:

Music Journalist: The Wind & Wuthering album and it’s companion EP Spot The Pigeon are outstanding, showcasing every member of the four piece band, and containing some of Steve’s best work – the opening siren call of “Eleventh Earl of Mar” with it’s quiet centerpiece – the gorgeous classical guitar featured on “Blood on the Rooftops” and the three part album closer that follows – still featured in Hackett’s concerts today.

Pop Music Critic: Steve left the band at the end of mixing for Seconds Out – the double-live album culled from their 1976-77 concerts, as it was clear his role was waning and they were moving in a more pop friendly direction.

Comedian: I’m into Genesis and I’m not going to apologize! Not too sure about “Squonk” though!

Editorial: In the film, Steve is shown (finally) in group interview explaining that he felt unable to get enough of his material included on the band’s records – ‘nuff said. I’ve always picked up that the rest of the band felt his method of departure was more awkward and acrimonious than has been shared – the “saw him on the street” story Phil tells just seems a bit light.

hackettsolo_2

Please Don’t Touch
Released: May 1978
Chart Position: #38 in the UK; #103 in the US

Voiceover: Steve’s first record after leaving Genesis is a bit of an experiment, with Hackett trying out several different styles including rock, prog, and jazz. Guest vocalist Steve Walsh (Kansas) lends his powerful pipes to two tracks, while Richie Havens and Randy Crawford lend softer, lovely tones to three others.

Gardener: The title track is a standout, apparently offered by Steve for inclusion on the Wind & Wuthering album, but rejected – it’s a tour de force highlighting his assertive playing, and ability to switch rapidly between keys and meters.

Music Journalist: The delicate instrumental played with just Steve on acoustic guitar and his brother John Hackett on flute, named for his then wife Kim Poor, is exquisite, and points the way to a later acoustic work Bay of Kings.

Radio DJ: Ultimately this second album is an amalgam of styles, unique in Hackett’s repertoire – the artist in search of a new sound.

Editorial: The first Genesis release without Steve, came the same year, appropriately titled And Then There Were Three (1978.) This was also an album where the remaining band members search for a new sound, trying to land somewhere between opener “Down and Out” and closing hit “Follow You, Follow Me.”

hackettsolo_3

Spectral Mornings
Released: May 1979
Chart Position: #22 in the UK; #138 in the US

Voiceover: Steve’s next album came as he built up a band to tour his solo work. His new group, including Peter Hicks (vocals), Nick Magnus (keys), Dik Cadbury (bass), John Shearer (drums) and brother John (flute/keys) joined to record this album, and undertook a tour to perform it and material from his first two solo efforts.

Music Journalist: This album and its follow up Defector is where Steve finds his footing as a solo artist. Vocal tracks including “Every Day” and “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” lend respectable lyrics to both progressive and popular structures. Instrumentals like “Clocks” and “Spectral Mornings” are fine displays of both his pastoral and ominous tendencies as composer.

Gardener: This is the album where Hackett truly finds his own voice – the band sound tight as a unit, Hicks delivers smooth vocals backed by Hackett and Cadbury, and the album is a cohesive collection of songs that have an identity apart from Genesis.

Editorial: A clear, high quality DVD of one of these early shows was released last year.

hackettsolo_4

Defector
Released: June 1980
Chart Position: #9 in the UK; #144 in the US

Voiceover: Defector found Steve continuing in the style of Spectral Mornings – the two can be taken as a pair representing his quintessential work.

Music Journalist: Standout track “Jacuzzi” is bright and airy, showcasing Steve’s versatility and John’s fantastic, intricate flute. The mid section veers into more minor tones and highlights Steve’s tapping technique. The whole band plays splendidly on this handsome instrumental.

Pop Music Critic: I really loved the song “The Show” when my parents used to play it for me.

Voiceover: Steve’s work continued with his last two releases for Charisma – Cured (1981) and Highly Strung (1983). He continues his solo career today, alternating between classical, jazz and progressive rock releases. Fans of early Genesis warmed to Steve’s solo work, which continued in more of a progressive rock tradition, albeit a bit updated, fresher sounding in the keys section, and even including a bit of pop structure for good measure.

Hackett Today

hackett_4_bandHackett is also the one ex-Genesis solo artist who consistently continues to perform work he originally recorded with Genesis. He’s released two albums titled “Genesis Revisited” and is currently on a two-year tour for the second, exclusively playing songs from their 1971-1976 output. Given the sold out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in October 2013, it’s clear there is still strong interest in the classic era Genesis work.

While we can hope for a expanded documentary that truly shows all band members “together and apart”, here’s hoping this helps to round out the story. Another great way to hear the band members tell the tale of Genesis is to invest in the box sets, which include the remastered albums, and almost all available footage and videos of the group over the years. Each disc contains a documentary of the album, using direct quotes from each member of this seminal band, whether pop or prog.