Known as the one of the best Prog Rockers of all time by tons of Prog listener, Genesis thrived in the 70s with Steve Hackett's incredible guitar playing, Tony Banks' eerie organ, and Peter Gabriel's vocals and ambitious lyrics. Selling England by the Pound was released in Genesis' heyday. Their debut From Genesis to Revelation (1969) isn't even considered a Genesis album, it was poppy, layered with strings, and not the Genesis we all know and love. They ditched the awful producer of From Genesis to Revelation and released a proper album; Trespass (1970). By their third release Nursery Cryme (1971) Genesis had established their sound and gotten comfortable as a Prog band, and with Foxtrot (1972) they released their first Progressive Rock masterpiece. Unfortunately Peter Gabriel left Genesis after releasing The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974), and Steve Hackett left after Wind and Wuthering (1977). Even more unfortunate is that from there Phil Collins (drummer) took over the band and (like so many other Prog bands in the 80s) made Genesis a pop band. Phil Collins eventually left (1996 to be exact), leaving veteran members Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford (bass guitarist) to bring in someone to fill in for Phil and to continue releasing mediocre albums.
Note: all members that I mentioned were in Selling England... and play the instruments stated.
1. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight: SEBTP is about the downfall of England, the story instantly started with Gabriel singing "can you tell me where my country lies"" Listen carefully to the lyrics, as you won't understand what's happening if you don't hear Gabriel's great play on words. What starts out as a quiet song burst into a fast beat jam, lead by Hackett's and Banks' incredibly playing. The song slows down back into a majestic orchestral cry of medieval sounds. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight continues this pattern, until fading out into an ambient coda. A great opener and a perfect introduction to the concept 5/5
2. I Know What I Like (In your Wardrobe): This was released as a single, and gave Genesis their first taste of single success. But Genesis is an album band (well, pre-80s Genesis is, at least) and this single certainly does no harm to the album. The roughly half-sung half-spoken tune is drenched in pseudo-psychedelia with an electric sitar accompanying the song throughout the song. The chorus is definitely the most synth driven part of the whole album, and the spoken word part has a flute and what seems to be bongo drums. The song starts and ends with an omniscient low synth drone. IKWIL probably has the most diverse instruments of all the songs, but is also one of the poppiest 4/5
3. Firth of Fifth: This song's my personal favourite on the album. It features an excellent guitar solo by Steve Hackett, his guitar work here has improved greatly from previous Genesis works in terms of melody and feeling. Firth of Fifth is dominated by a combination of Banks' symphonic synth/organ and his peppy piano intro and outro, and Steve Hackett's amazing guitar playing. It's mainly instrumental, having only a short but sweet vocal time near the beginning and end. If I were to pick one song off SEBTP to recommend to someone, it'd definitely be this one 5/5
4. More Fool Me: The weakest song on the album, More Fool Me is surprisingly simple and straightforward compared to the rest of Selling England by the Pound. It's sung by Phil Collins... I see where they went wrong here, and the only instrument is an acoustic guitar. The song could've been much much better, but perhaps they left it as it is since this record was well over the standard LP time. But it would've been better that they left it off all together 2/5
5. The Battle of Epping Forest: This 12 minute epic is the strangest song on the album. It changes a lot in music, and is a weird prog theatric. It's about two street gangs fighting over their territories, while joking and mocking the English life and society. Gabriel's vocals definitely shine in this song, taking on different personalities throughout the quirky theme changes. The first section of the song is synth driven, but at around 5 minutes the song abruptly changes to folky, joke song, which doesn't even describe the battle, but an adventure a reverend had (it's hard to follow). The song goes back into the battle, with spectators gathering around to watch for fun. No one wins, both gangs die, and for what" For the spectators to decide who's land is who with the flip of a coin. A cool moral and message, but the song gets old after a while. Battle of Epping Forest is a bit too pretentious and could've been cut down, but overall is a pretty good song musically and quite impressive lyrically 3.5/5
6. After the Ordeal: This song is basically a transition into the cinema show. It links the two epics together as a smooth interlude. It's roughly divided in half, between a medieval keyboard driven track and a rich guitar soother. Although it doesn't add much to the whole album, it's an excellent song 5/5
7. The Cinema Show: This song is nice and soothing like the last one but also symphonic like Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. While The Cinema Show is very ambient, it features some of Collins' and Rutherford's best work as the rhythm section, and adds a lot of liveliness to the song. The synth and guitar add a space-rock sound, and Gabriel's singing fits the bill perfectly, though the song is mostly instrumental. Even though it's as long as the Battle of Epping Forest, The Cinema Show glides flawlessly through your ears 5/5
8. Aisle of Plenty: The finale of the album is quite short, simply reprising a riff first heard in Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. The song also features the same sort of social remarks; almost as if Aisle of Plenty was a shorter version of the first track. A great, but minimal, album closer 5/5
Selling England by the Pound is an essential album for a Progressive Rock fan, and is my favourite Genesis album. It's much softer, but just as -or more- symphonic and grandiose as previous Genesis works. But I cannot give this album 5 stars because of More Fool Me and the Battle of Epping Forest, but otherwise would be a perfect album.
Selling England by the Pound -----------> 4.5 stars
Other great Prog rock Albums:
Genesis-Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Yes-Close to the Edge