Review Summary: 'Nobody must know my name/for nobody would understand'
Progressive rock was steadily becoming a thing of the past in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and many bands that had celebrated creative highs just a few years earlier were forced to adapt in order to survive the incoming trends. Genesis used to be a leading act in the genre, and were already battered pretty badly when two of their members had left within three years of each other. And yet, they came out with greater success than any other progressive group. Things really didn’t seem too promising when Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford were initially left as a trio, but the more radio-friendly tendencies that had managed work their way in over the course of the band’s last few albums would be the key to their renewed popularity.
is Genesis’ first proper venture into pop music, marking the start of an era that heavily divided fans. Its share of accessible, upbeat songs did not fare too well with all of their longer-serving supporters, but the hearts of the larger public were easily won. The album doesn’t deserve every bit of harsh judgement, as the band’s creative skills were anything but a spent force; within Duke
’s conformity to pop are plenty of sections that match a certain reputation. It was a marriage doomed to fail, but for the time being, pop and prog lived in acceptance of each other. Genesis couldn’t have faced the 1980’s in a more fitting way.
At this point, their more adventurous writing was still coming out stronger; the album’s prog-oriented moments hold together its relatively straightforward portions. After the unsure direction of ...And Then There Were Three...
, the band once more played to their strengths. Rutherford really wasn’t too capable of filling the gap that Steve Hackett left, and shifted some weight back to his tested role as bassist. In turn, this allowed him and Collins to put their fine rhythm work as usual. With Banks’ keyboards going unchallenged as instrumental lead, the trio’s slightly reformed sound remained very distinct.
The blazing two-minute intro to Behind the Lines
kicks things off in that recognizable fashion, though some may be annoyed when Collins comes in singing of love slipping away. The man was going through an eventual divorce around the time of recording, and Duke
’s themes tend to reflect it. Regardless, his performance is passionate and does suit the music exceedingly well. The opener segues into the atmospheric intro of Duchess
, which follows as the second part of the album’s title suite, originally meant as a half-hour epic in the vein of Supper’s Ready
, but eventually ending up divided over six tracks.
It’s actually an effective split, making the album feel like a whole instead of two halves (Rush’s 2112
come to mind here). Guide Vocal
is the last of the first row, merely setting up a theme for the finale. The material is all carefully divided indeed: a six-track suite with collective credit, and two solo pennings for each member, adding up to another six. Banks continues to uphold his position as superior composer, his contributions being the strongest overall. Heathaze
follows the previously resembling ideas of Afterglow
; an emotional ballad with subtler instrumentation, bringing out the best in Collins’ voice. Cul-de-Sac
is a gutsier counterpart, mid-paced yet empowering, featuring some of the greatest interplay on the album.
The other two ultimately can’t live it up on their own. Collins took two compositions intended for his solo debut Face Value
, released a year later. Please Don’t Ask
is a forgettable love song and a lower point, but the straight-up pop of Misunderstanding
offers some entertainment in its cheesiness. Although Rutherford came up with another ballad too many in Alone Tonight
, his other piece Man of Our Times
competes well, packing a steady rhythm and enjoyable melodies to boot.
Then there’s Turn It On Again
, not as clearly a part of the Duke
epic since it isn’t connected to the more obvious start and finish. Known for a regularly alternating rhythm, it also became the album’s biggest hit. The damned catchiness explains itself, but the suite’s final section tops it all off. Duke’s Travels
is a classy show of musicianship and arguably the proggiest thing here, growing more and more intense until it climaxes with the earlier-introduced theme; Duke’s End
finally concludes by revisiting the record’s intro.
Opinions have always differed when it comes to final worthwhile Genesis release. Many progressive purists already find anything without the presence of Gabriel and/or Hackett unworthy of any claim, and the surviving formation didn’t build much of a better case for them. Duke
however deserves plenty of credit, going far beyond blatant pop appeal. Despite the inclusion of a few average songs, Banks, Collins and Rutherford were still firmly rooted in established trademarks, delivering their first and finest work of the 1980’s; it has every right to be called the last truly great Genesis album.
Genesis Mark V:
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar
Phil Collins – Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Behind the Lines
Man of Our Times
Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End