Review Summary: The beginning of the end for Genesis, ...And Then There Were Three shows a large change in style that ends up with mixed results. A mix of commercial pop songs and pseudo-prog songs makes for an interesting album.
1978 marked a distinct decline in the world of progressive rock music. Yes just released their album Going For The One in 1977, although a decent album by Yes standards, it showed no signs of progression, and actually set their music back a few steps, something that had not been seen yet in the progressive rock of the 1970s. King Crimson had recently broke up, and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer would release the atrocious Love Beach in 1978. This would mark the beginning of the end for progressive rock, with Genesis’ 1978 release And Then There Were Three
also marking a distinct change in sound for the band. Steve Hackett was finally fed up with his lack of input into the band’s material, as shown by the Tony Banks dominated Wind & Wuthering
, released just one year earlier. Mike Rutherford would then take over both guitar and bass duties, which would become instantly noticeable upon the opening guitar notes of the album. The biggest change on this album is the focus away from the lush progressive rock sounds and ten minute long epics and moreso onto the shorter, radio friendly songs. Although many of these songs still contained heavy dosages of progressive rock elements, fans were clearly upset at some clear cut commercial radio songs. But with the more commercial change came more fans, as the album reached #3 in the UK and even made it to #14 in the US, thanks to the help of the bands first hit single in Follow You, Follow Me
Tracks like that were what the progressive rock elitists had the biggest issue with. Follow You, Follow Me
is a love themed song that shows virtually no progressive elements and is instead a very adult contemporary dominated song, which shows the Phil Collins influence of the track. At this turning point in the bands career, they were unable to put out good pop songs due to a feeling of “owing” something to the progressive rock community and trying to not make everything completely commercial, but yet trying to make a change at the same time. Songs like The Lady Lies
and Deep In The Motherlode
both show this as they each have their progressive rock moments with Tony Banks at the helm, dominating the sound with lead keyboard lines, leaving Mike Rutherford to a mostly rhythm role. But the melodies of Phil Collins had greatly changed in the tracks to a very pop oriented style, and in some instances the music would follow along with it. On this album in particular it is very easy to note the lack of feeling that is shown by the band on some of the songs, which lead to a weak sound all around such as Say It’s Alright Joe
and especially the horrid Scenes From A Night’s Dream
. It would take a life altering experience (Phil Collins’ first divorce) to give the band the charisma and adult contemporary songwriting skills to allow themselves to write some decent pop songs.
In between the lackluster commercial efforts and immensely muddy production are some gems. Down And Out
is one of the most intense songs the band has ever written, with the unrelenting drums of Phil Collins laying down a very unique beat underneath a furious Mike Rutherford guitar riff. Tony Banks also steps it up for a very atmospheric ending to the song to round off what is possibly the best song on the album. But one thing to note about the song is that it (as the first track on the album) actually explains that there is going to be a distinct change in the sound of Genesis from here on “I don't want to beat about the bush/But none of us are getting any younger/There's people out there who could take your place/A more commercial view! A fresher face!
”. The instrumental side of Genesis only gets to shine in one track on the album, and that is Burning Rope
. Another highlight, it features lush keyboard work from Tony Banks, who churns out lead lines like it his job. Mike Rutherford takes a back seat for most of the song until he spits out a solid guitar solo that mixes in with the song perfectly and shows off his own style rather than trying to sound like Steve Hackett. Snowbound
are progressive sounding ballads that are far more introspective than the ballads that would show up later in their career, and Ballad Of Big
is a rocker unlike anything else on the album that tells the interesting tale of a western man who would never back down. It is with those three songs that the departure of Steve Hackett really shows, as his touch with the softer ballads would often turn a average song into a good one. Mike Rutherford's guitar skills still had yet to develop, and it showed on those three. Some of these songs may have had a better showing on the album, but it is the production that seems to bring down the quality. Phil Collins’ voice sounds very muddy on the album, and sometimes the entire rhythm section can have a murky sound as well. But even through the production issues, several aforementioned tracks manage to shine.
And Then There Were Three…
manages to be forgotten along with Duke
in the line of Genesis albums because they were the two transitional albums from progressive rock suites to pop ballads. But that does not mean that are poor albums, the band even as a trio manages to shine at times and still create solid progressive rock songs. Unfortunately the more commercial songs are a large hole in the wall as the band had yet to fully develop their songwriting skills for the different sound. Once Phil Collins would develop his leadership as the frontman, the band would achieve superstardom, even if it did involve changing their sound completely. Overall And Then There Were Three…
is a decent album that should be picked up Genesis fans who are curious about this transitional stage’s sound. But otherwise, I would suggest passing by this and skipping over to their 1980 album Duke