Continuing with our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pre-coverage, we have the first of five catalogue overviews from our artist inductees.
Genesis is one of many bands without a definitive entry point into their catalogue. As a five piece outfit composed of Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins through the early 1970s, the band put out some delightful prog-rock that was surprisingly accessible. (Considering that their live sets consisted of twenty-minute jams and costume changes, that’s saying something.)
At the height of their popularity (prog-ularity?) within that audience, Gabriel embarked on a solo career, and drummer Collins took vocal duties for the band. Those of you with even a passing knowledge of Phil Collins’ sound know that he’s not much of a prog guy. And gradually, Genesis became a pop band – a surprisingly potent, well-liked one – although the transition cost them guitarist Hackett’s tenure and the derision from a lot of their older fans who weren’t used to gated drums and the Phoenix Horns.
Gradually, even the popularity of Genesis Mk. II began to wane, and despite an attempted revival in 1997 (with Banks, Rutherford and Ray Wilson on lead vocals), Genesis more or less called it quits by the end of the millennium. Fortunately, they used their retirement years to focus on maintaining a back catalogue presence that was rather thorough, if not universally beloved by hardcore fans. Follow the jump for a look at some of the most notable Genesis reissues and box sets over the years.
From Genesis to Revelation (Decca/London, 1969)
The first Genesis album is not exactly recognized within the band’s continuity, and to a point it’s easy to see why. Hackett and Collins aren’t part of the fold just yet – Anthony Phillips is on guitar and Chris Stewart and John Silver took the drum kit – and the band sounds as young as they are. Still, if you listen closely, you can hear a bit of the potential future Genesis creeping through. Decca has licensed this disc out to many a smaller label to do their “magic” with reissuing it. It’s kind of a mixed bag no matter what you pick, but some versions do have a few bonus tracks worth looking into (notably the original single sides “Silent Sun” and “A Winter’s Tale”).
The 1994 remasters (Virgin/Atlantic, 1970-1982)
In 1994, Virgin issued straight-up remasters of the original Genesis albums from Trespass to Three Sides Live – roughly from the beginning of the classic Gabriel period to just before the Collins/out-and-out pop period. (U.S. audiences, which got the reissues from Atlantic, did not get a remaster of Trespass, which had only come out on CD on MCA the year before.) The sound quality is pretty good on them, and for the first time American audiences could get the U.K. version of Three Sides Live (which was now four sides of concert material, replacing the fourth side that had the 3 x 3 EP and two Duke-era B-sides). They were also pretty much the last chance anyone had of getting original mixes of the LPs – but more on that in a bit.
Genesis Archive 1967-1975 (Virgin/Atlantic, 1998)
The first-ever Genesis box set was a treasure for fans who’d felt the group lost their way after Peter Gabriel left. The four discs included in the set had rare and unreleased demos, outtakes, B-sides and live material – including a complete run-through of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (the band’s creative high point) from the Shrine Auditorium in 1975. (Purists note: Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett re-recorded a bit of their material for the release of the show.)
Turn It On Again: The Hits (Virgin/Atlantic, 1999)
It took nearly 30 years to get an official Genesis compilation – and the results were a bit of a shock, because Turn It On Again goes solely after radio-friendly tracks. That means only one Gabriel-led track (“I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”) makes the cut – although collectors will want to check out the last track, a re-recording of Lamb track “The Carpet Crawlers” intended for Archive 1967-1975 and featuring the first studio performance by the classic Genesis lineup in about two decades.
Genesis Archive #2 1976-1992 (Virgin/Atlantic, 2000)
There may not be as many Genesis Mk. II devotees out there, but they were somewhat rewarded by their own three-disc box set. But “somewhat” is the operative word. Yes, there are some unreleased live cuts, a load of B-sides and even some 12″ remixes. But the set is far from complete; a few tracks feature early fades (at least one apparently due to master tape damage) and a few tracks from the rarer Genesis EPs are left off because the band didn’t care for them. So much for giving the people what they want.
The Platinum Collection (Virgin/Rhino, 2004)
Five years after Turn It On Again: The Hits, a more proper Genesis comp was put out – three discs covering the band’s discography from 1970 to 1997 – but purists were about to get another twitch in their eye. Almost all of the tracks were newly remixed by Nick Davis, the band’s producer since the anemic We Can’t Dance (1991). Davis’ mix-happiness would bleed into a new era of Genesis catalogue activity before long.
The 2007-2009 remasters (Virgin/Rhino, 1970-2007)
The Genesis discography rolled out again in a big way in 2007, to time with an admittedly stunning reunion tour (albeit involving only Collins, Banks and Rutherford). An avalanche of material came out, but again, some of it was a mixed blessing. All of the initial box sets – Genesis 1976-1982, Genesis 1983-1998 and Genesis 1970-1975 – presented CD/DVD versions of the original albums. The DVD content was voluminous – music videos, live material, new interviews and more – but a central point of contention were Davis’ new surround sound mixes, presented on DVD in a slightly compressed DTS/Dolby Digital format in America but included in Europe as a superior-sounding Super Audio CD layer on the compact disc. You don’t have to be an audiophile (and I’m not, believe me) to realize that this is kind of a raw deal.
Still, there is a lot of bonus material. The box sets come with an exclusive extra CD/DVD featuring B-sides from the respective periods (some of which is available on the earlier box sets, meaning completists are going to have to own those if they don’t already). Some of the earlier material – a few outtakes on Genesis 1970-1975 and a whole live show in the Genesis Live 1973-2007 box – is completely unreleased, and a lot more of it (including most of The Movie Box concert film set) is hard-to-find. Could it have been done better? Sure. But until the next wave of reissues comes along, these sets are full of treasures for Genesis fans of all stripes.