Review Summary: The father of all progressive conceptual double albums.
“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” is the sixth studio album by Genesis and was released in 1974. The line up on the album is Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins.
When Genesis finished the “Selling England By The Pound” live tour, they had already come a long way. In the preceding three years, Genesis was almost continuously touring, playing in more than 400 shows, about one gig every three days. After recording their previous studio album “Selling England By The Pound” and their debut live album “Genesis Live”, released in the same year, the quintet took a break from touring, to write their next new studio album. The working on their previous studio albums has always consisted of picking from all the material they had, trying out those pieces they liked more, selecting them in a more or less democratic process, and recording them.
For their next studio album, Genesis took their conclusions and decided to make of their new album a double work. The decision gave them enough space to extend the songs, but it also meant that they had to write almost twice as usual to have material good enough to be published. And this amount of music had to have a corresponding amount of lyrics, to go with it. So, Genesis decided that the time had come to make a concept album, where its lyrics would tell a continuous story. Suddenly, it wasn’t a simple album where Genesis was working on anymore, but the hallmark of every progressive group, a concept album. Now they needed a story for it. Every member threw their ideas and in the end Gabriel’s idea was chosen in favour of Rutherford’s suggestion, the Saint-Exupéry’s fairy tale “The Little Prince”.
“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” had a very strange writing process. While Steve, Banks, Rutherford and Collins were busy writing the music and sat in one corner of the house (Headley Grange in Headley, East Hampshire), Gabriel was writing the lyrics set on another corner. The writing process of the band was completely changed, this time.
Lyrically, the album tells us a story where the main protagonist is a young Puerto Rican, named Rael, in the New York City. In short, one morning he was swallowed by a huge black wall and was subject to a series of surreal experiences, and in the end he was rescued from a roaring river. The story of Rael is very surrealistic and very difficult to interpret, which is very usual with the Gabriel’s lyrics. It has many levels from which can be read and understood. It’s full of allusions and puns and it’s open to lots of interpretations, and it seems to deny an only one definitive interpretation.
Musically, the album contains some of the best music ever made by Genesis. The first disc contains some of the most visceral and thrilling music that the group ever recorded. The dense “In The Cage” condenses the side long pomp of previous epics of the band with eight exhilarating minutes. “Back In N.Y.C.” is a raw aggressive rock. “The Chamber Of 32 Doors” contains one of Gabriel’s most soulful vocals work, and “The Carpet Crawlers” gave the group a standard which remained in their live sets, for years. The second disc has also some highlights like “Lilywhite Lilith”, “The Lamia” and “It”. However, it’s impossible not to listen to the entire album as a whole, because this is a concept album.
“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” represents unfortunately the swan song of Genesis as the classic quintet as many of us love very much. At the end of the world tour to support the album, Gabriel left the band to pursue his solo career. It’s no wonder that Gabriel left Genesis after this album. It seems, to me, the sound of a leader moving sharply in the opposite direction to the rest of the band. Genesis was a truly unique entity, when Gabriel was in the group, producing albums which, except the first, had become classics and progressive in the strictest sense of the word.
“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” represents also the beginning of one of the biggest transformations that any progressive band would suffer in the future. With the departure of Hackett from the group, after the release of their next albums “A Trick Of The Tail”, “Wind And Wuthering” and “Seconds Out”, Genesis became a very successful pop group with only a slight glimpse of their previous past, as one of the best bands in the progressive rock world.
Conclusion: Unfortunately, “The lamb Lies Down On Broadway” along with “Tales From Topographic Oceans” of Yes has come to be dismissed as a reductive shorthand for all that is grim about progressive rock music, despite the Genesis’ album be a more consensual album than the Yes’ work. However, we are in presence of one of the quintessential progressive rock albums of the 70’s that shows Genesis at their best. It became a landmark in the progressive rock music as the father of all double concept albums. Even today, its presence on works like “Subterranea” of IQ”, but above all, “Snow” of Spock’s Beard, is clearly felt. But, what impresses me most on this Genesis’ album is there isn’t a weak song on it despite the lack of unity in the band’s song writing of the album.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)