Selling England By The Pound (1973)


 
1.Dancing With the Moonlit Knight 2.I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) 3.Firth of Fifth 4.More Fool Me 5.The Battle of Epping Forest 6.After the Ordeal 7.The Cinema Show/Aisle of Plenty

 

When one uses the phrase “Old Genesis” in describing this music group, it’s quite often meant to be synonymous with “Peter Gabriel era Genesis”. I think that distinction is a bit vague. When one listens to the Gabriel era Genesis albums (six studio albums in six years) one can definitely hear progression and maturity as the albums progressed.

On this release, they seemed to have grown leaps and bounds over their last couple of albums. Prior to this album, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot were both good albums overall, but there were bits and pieces that sounded a bit rough around the edges. Some of this should be attributed to the overall production in addition to the actual music. On this record, both the musicianship and recording sounds so much more pristine and professional, and all of the songs are much more warm and accessible.

The opening track Dancing with the Moonlit Knight is a strong indicator of the craftsmanship throughout the entire record. It’s starts off very naked, featuring Gabriel singing acapella, only to slowly build up with the traditional Genesis-dueling 12 strings along with Tony Banks gentle weaving of umpteen different keyboard sounds throughout. Pretty soon the thing evolves into a full-fledged rocker, only to gradually dissipate and slowly fade out over a couple of minutes. It’s one of those songs that could have been very beautiful as an instrumental. In fact, one can hear this piece being a potential candidate for a classical music arrangement.

Speaking of musicianship, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett never sounded so good. Firth of Fifth shows off both of their talents quite well. In the past, Banks in particular sounded competent as a keyboard player, if not truly remarkable. On this record, he shows he now has tremendous talent. He also has some dazzling playing on The Cinema Show, another multi minute epic that has that traditional early Genesis sound. I’ve never really been a fan of eleven minute songs, unless the song truly should be eleven minutes in length. This piece fits the bill quite nicely.

And, lo and behold, we also get our very first hit single on this record. Well, sort of anyway. I Know What I Like managed to be a minor charting in the band’s home country of England. It definitely has a bit of a radio friendly vibe and hook-friendly chorus. It still sounds a bit dated, however, and the band’s lyrics on the song (on the whole album, really) never sounded more aloof. This is one of those songs that would be resurrected on the latter day, Phil Collins-led tours, and I’ve always preferred the somewhat extended live versions. Speaking of Collins, he also gets a chance to sing lead on the very pretty More Fool Me. It’s a rather sweet piece, yet it’s obvious that Collins still didn’t have quite the confidence to belt out a lead vocal as he proved he could on later records.

Being that this is early seventies prog rock, there’s elements of such style throughout the record, and sometimes it can be a bit too much. In addition to the above mentioned non-sense lyrics, a song like The Battle of Epping Forrest sounds like their trying a bit too hard, and I’ve always felt that this particular track could have used a rewrite or two. Still, though, most fans of the early years tend to really love it, so perhaps the quality truly depends on one’s personal taste.

The band obviously has a lot of love for this album as well, and it’s quite remarkable when you think that, on their 2007 “comeback” tour, the band played large chunks of three songs from this record (one an abridged version, one part of a medley, and one extended version). For many fans, those trips down memory lane were quite pleasant indeed. This is the record that proved that they were no longer rich kids who lucked into a record deal, but truly gifted musicians and entertainers.

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