Like, love or loathe their output, it’s hard to disagree with Genesis’s success... and even harder to deny that what they pulled off is more or less the unlikeliest smash and grab in rock history.
There’s no point belaboring the point, either, but just in case anyone has spent the past forty years living atop a telegraph pole, listening only to the sound of the spheres, there are very few modern bands who not only pulled off two consecutive careers as undisputed giants of 70s prog and 80s radio, but also peeled off not one, not two, but four commercially successful solo careers (two of which ran concurrent with the band’s own fame), plus another couple of cult successes.
Calling the band “Genesis” and going onstage disguised as a flower may not have felt like a license to kill when such notions were first broached. But R-Kive (Rhino) has three discs worth of music to prove that, individually and collectively, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett essentially bucked every rule in the book... from the one that reckons that losing your singer is the fast train to nowheresville (and that’s long before you replace him with your hairy, shorty drummer), to the one that insists that solo albums by current band members are Not A Good Idea.
Collins, and Rutherford’s Mike and the Mechanics would both disagree with that; indeed, as Rutherford admits in R-Kive’s accompanying booklet, and Collins has acknowledged on several occasions, there are fans out there who didn’t even know they were in some other band too.
Where Genesis truly succeeded, of course, was in ensuring that every avenue took on a different sheen. There was never a sense, with any of their solo records, that this was just business-as-usual-with-the-best-bits-missing, a flaw that so many other superstar soloists are all too often heir to. Never a sense with the band itself that they were trying to paper over the latest departure in the hope that no-one would notice.
With the exception of the earliest transitional periods, nobody would mistake a Collins-led Genesis number for a Gabriel era piece; nor one of his solo efforts for a full band piece. Genesis with Hackett was one sound, Genesis without him was another. Mike’s Mechanics were miles from “Mama,” Hackett and Gabriel pursued new pastures entirely, and you could bank on the lone Tone to follow his own muse absolutely.
Fifteen of the thirty-seven tracks here are drawn from the solo careers; “Ace of Wands,” “Solsbury Hill,” “In The Air Tonight,” “For A While,” “Every Day,” “Silent Running, “ “Easy Lover,” “Biko,” “The Living Years,” “Red Day on Blue Street,” “Over My Shoulder,” “Signal To Noise,” “Nomads,” Siren,” “Wake Up Call” (bet you didn’t see that one coming!).
The remainder, of course, trace the main band from their second album, Trespass (“The Knife” - what else?) through to the last, Calling all Stations (the title track). In between times, you can (and people will) squabble over the actual tracks selected to demonstrate the sheer magnitude of the Genesis mattress... whether we really needed three songs apiece from Lamb Lies Down, Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance, when a more egalitarian approach would have ensured every album got two songs apiece. Did we really need the hits again, when pretty much the first words out of Collins’s mouth in the booklet are “the lesser-known tracks deserve better than to be forgotten.”
Lesser-known tracks like “Turn It On Again,” “Abacab,” “Mama,” “That’s All,” “Invisible Touch,” “Land of Confusion,” “Tonight Tonight Tonight,” “I Can’t Dance”.... Okay, if you say so.
The solo selections are better but not perfect. Most ears will welcome the opportunity to own “In The Air Tonight” without having to have the rest of a solo Collins record too - although how much better it would have been if Gabriel’s third album had been represented here by “The Intruder” and not “Biko”... another of Phil’s “lesser-known tracks,” one presumes.
But is “Ace of Wands” really the best representative cut on Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte (no, but it is the most annoying), and shouldn’t the first Brand X album have made an appearance? Mike Rutherford’s first two solo albums deserve more than the sniff that he gives them in the liners, and... and... and... we could go on like this forever.
We won’t, though, because R-Kive is what it is, a selection of songs that appear to have been chosen by the band members themselves, on the occasion of their BBC TV reunion (and whatever is likely to follow from that), and - fanfare please! - on the eve of a New Year deluxe take on the Mechanics' Living Years album... and on the eve, too, of the release of the first career-encompassing box set released by any former member of the band.
Anthony Phillips’ five CD Harvest of the Heart (Esoteric) might not reflect the most commercially successful of all the post-Genesis progeny, but it certainly pursues the most eclectic - silent between his departure from the band, followingTrespass in 1970, and The Geese and the Ghost in 1977, Phillips has followed a course that might best be compared to an Anglo John Fahey, and for that reason alone we should cherish his output.
But there’s a helluva lot of it to catch up on, if you’ve not been paying sharp attention all these years, so this really is the way to go.
So... let’s go!