Review Summary: The pinnacle of the group's career.
Everything before Selling England By The Pound
was simply build-up, stepping stones if you will. While Genesis had indeed released some great albums that were unlike anything else being released at the time, it seemed as if they were inching closer and closer to perfection yet never actually reaching their goal. Their debut was a complete dud, with Trespass
being pretty good, and Nursery Cryme
were great. The band's fanbase was steadily growing larger and larger with each album, and their live shows were gaining increased attendance due to the elaborate and bombastic stageshow. It seemed that Genesis was on the verge of becoming one of the best acts in music, and with Selling England By The Pound
, they reached their peak.
Selling England By The Pound
more-or-less represents everything that was great about the art-rock/progressive rock movement of the early 70's, combining all of the genres strongpoints into one album. It is filled with flash, bombast, and pomp, yet it never onces becomes pretentious - the lyrics are witty, filled with wordplay and commentary on the band's homeland of England, and the music itself is incredibly tasteful. Whereas in the past the group would often go overboard with its playing style, dipping into the territories of "wankery," on this album they play tastefully and even beautifully at times, yet still manage to reach new levels of complexity and a classical touch as well.
Steve Hackett proves himself as one of the best guitarist of all-time on this record. From his unique finger-tapping style, to his dulcet acoustics, to his solo on "Firth of Fifth," he plays masterfully and always surpises. There are no repeated riffs or over-used techniques, as Hackett is always exciting. Mike Rutherford makes his presence very much known on this album, playing complex and great-sounding basslines all across the album. While on previous albums Rutherford's bass was often something in the background, on tracks like "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" and "The Battle of Epping Forest," the bass is as audible and apparent as Banks' previously dominating keyboards.
Banks' keyboards are still one of the main components of Genesis' music, often leading the songs, yet never dominating them like they had in the past. While other prog keyboardists like Keith Emerson were often too over-the-top and eclipsed the other members of the band, Tony Banks plays tastefully and tactfully, always giving other members a chance to shine, and considering the other musicians in the band are virtuosos of their instrument, this is a good thing. In fact, this tastefulness and style is what separates Banks from many other prog keyboardists - he's obviously great at playing, but he doesn't rub it in the listener's face. Instead, his playing compliments the songs, as opposed to the often assaulting style of the aforementioned Emerson. Yet when time comes for solos, such as in "Firth of Fifth," he knows how to play with the bombast of the genre's other keyboardists.
Peter Gabriel's voice is in top form on Selling England...
. His range and distinct style separate him from other prog vocalists of the time, many of which did nothing but sound British. His voice was one of the most unique voices in rock at the time. He demonstrates how subtle and beautiful he can make his voice on tracks like "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" and "The Cinema Show," yet he can burst into bouts of energy and bombast and make his voice as theatrical as he wants to. His stage persona is very much apparent in the recordings themselves, with his voice often being over-the-top, yet he changes tones and styles very quickly, and his vocals always fit the music.
Gabriel isn't the only vocalist though - Phil Collins shows his talent on "More Fool Me," and on each track he displays his drum prowess. By this point, he'd become one of the best drummers in rock, and his fills and rolls are complex and crazy, especially on the lengthier tracks.
Selling England By The Pound
isn't just one of the best albums of the progressive rock subgenre, but it transcends its label and ranks as one of the best as all-time. And when you listen to it, it's not hard to see why. It's unique, it has a great sound, it has catchy songs, ("I Know What I Like..." may be the band's first well-written pop song) and it's everything a band should strive for when it makes an album - it takes all of the strongpoints of each preceding album and expands upon them and perfects them. And that's what makes Selling England By The Pound