Duke (1980)


 
1.Behind The Lines 2.Duchess 3.Guide Vocal 4.Man of our Times 5.Misunderstanding 6.Heathaze 7.Turn it on Again 8.Alone Tonight 9.Cul-De-Sac 10.Please Don't Ask 11.Duke's Travels 12.Duke's End

 

The last Genesis album, And Then There Were Three, was their ninth studio album in nine years. Such a hectic pace was common back then, however it was now time for a bit of a break. Phil Collins was having marital difficulties and requested time off to try to salvage his relationship. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford were fine with his request, as both members were now ready to produce the obligatory solo album that tends to happen when one is welded to one’s particular music group after a while. When the band regrouped after their break, they found themselves refreshed, and new ideas and new ways of working allowed them to produce one of their best records ever.

First, each member had a couple of “leftover” solo tracks from their recent excursions. Even Phil Collins had begun working on a solo record during the band’s brief hiatus. Few thought he was up to such a task. After all, he was the singer and the drummer with “limited” musical abilities – at least compared to his bandmates. What could he possibly offer that would be any good? Let’s remember that this was still a few years before Phil Collins became a household name, but when one listens to his two contributions, Please Don’t Ask and the top twenty single Misunderstanding, it was immediately obvious that Collins had something quite special in the songwriting department. Genesis was never a band that had many hits at this point of their career. Listening to these two compositions by Collins made it apparent to many that such a distinction might not apply to this group in the near future.

Mike Rutherford’s two tracks are quite accessible as well. Neither are remembered by any other than the faithful, but their quite catchy and pleasant. Tony Banks’ songs are….well….Tony Banks songs. Their strong in terms of chord structure and complexity, but not necessarily easy tracks to hum to while driving or performing light housework.

So that’s about half the record. The other half have the guys working together and starting with nothing. They work completely from the ground up on songs such as Turn it on Again and Duchess. The freshness and spontaneity are quite apparent. The members wisely decided, eventually, to work together exclusively in this fashion, which can probably explain why they would soon dominate the charts and sellout stadiums. The strongest track here is the instrumental medley of Duke’s Travels and Duke’s End. It’s mostly an instrumental with the guys playing their respective chops at a very fast pace sounding as though they’re on fire. This was arguably the best thing that they have ever done – it certainly includes familiar elements of the band’s strengths as musicians.

This record sounds very fresh. I was a big fan of the last record, the above mentioned And Then There Were Three, but there were times during that record where they still sounded as though they were figuring out how to operate as a three piece. You could hear the growing pains in places. On this album, they’ve obviously matured to the point of where they know exactly how they want to sound, and they pull it off admirably. They were still not quite as known in the United States. Yes, their albums charted, but they were still much more of a “college crowd only” band. This record seems to have the rare distinction of being favored by those who either liked the “old” or the “new” version of the band.

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