Review Summary: Gabriel leaves, but Genesis' progressive spirit does not.
With the departure of Peter Gabriel, Genesis took a massive hit. That much may be clear, but Phil Collins didn’t just start taking things over when the chance presented itself. Despite receiving two minor lead spots in the past, he had been very much comfortable in his backing role, perfectly accentuating Gabriel and creating an effective vocal dynamic; this drummer had no intention of stepping up to the microphone full-time. Still, the band were faced with the task of replacing an irreplaceable singer. They briefly discussed the option of carrying on as an instrumental four-piece, but eventually commenced the search for a new front figure. Many came in to audition, but not a single candidate felt right for the job.
In the meantime, an album’s worth of music had already been written. Collins entered the studio to have a go at Squonk
, and the rest is history. Or so it would be, because things changed gradually before the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford created Invisible Touch
. The group’s initial impulse was to stay true to their progressive roots, and A Trick of the Tail
, marking the start of a transition period, does exactly that. Even while disregarding the absence of Gabriel’s voice however, four-man Genesis grew into a different musical creature than they used to be. With Steve Hackett still on board, they remained worthy of their name regardless.
The band’s seventh LP recalls the British tales of Selling England by the Pound
more strongly than it does The Lamb
’s scope and ambition. A logical development, since the story of Rael had exacted its toll. The fact that it emerged during a time when Genesis were in an unsure position singer-wise shows. The album is mainly a product of instruments, guided rather than narrated by vocals. The basic structure of the songs is simpler, but the music no less challenging.
Collins is due a lot of credit for both his performances here. He makes an incredible effort to uphold the group’s characteristic sound within the limitations of his own voice, drumming with the same power all the while. While his vocals are still somewhat unsteady, their clearer, warmer tone proves a great fit for the more melodic tracks that came forward here. Only Robbery, Assault and Battery
, where the band attempt to make their own Battle of Epping Forest
, doesn’t reach the heights it aims for. Although the tale is charming, it cannot help but remind of what Gabriel might have done with it.
Tony Banks endured as the most dominant songwriter, having a hand in every composition on the album. This is clear enough during the piano-centred Mad Man Moon
, but his skills do show more subtlety overall, reflecting the band’s increased attitude towards interplay. Hackett profited from this on his final two recordings with Genesis, leading the fusion-tinged duo Dance on a Volcano
and Los Endos
with remarkably infectious riffs, as well as providing his admirable softer touch to Entangled
. The nods at jazz fusion aren’t surprising, as Collins had recently been recording with Brand X. Rutherford seems to feel right at home in the area, as the opening and closing track pack some of his most creative bass work.
Genesis pulled out of a tough situation after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
, finding new direction as a four-piece instead of simply revisiting their past work. The lack of Gabriel’s presence cannot be avoided, but even without him, the band managed to excel. The material that’s on offer here appears more conventional at first, but may actually take more time to sink in and be fully appreciated. When that happens, A Trick of the Tail
reveals itself to be truly a quality Genesis album.
Genesis Mark IV:
Phil Collins – Vocals, Drums
Steve Hackett – Guitar
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitar
Dance on a Volcano