The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)


 
Disc One: 1.The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway 2.Fly on a Windshield 3.Broadway Melody of 1974 4.Cuckoo Cocoon 5.In The Cage 6.The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging 7.Back In New York City 8.Hairless Heart 9.Counting Out the Time 10.The Carpet Crawlers 11.The Chamber of 32 Doors Disk Two: 1.Lilywhite Lilith 2.The Waiting Room 3.Anyway 4.The Supernatural Anaesthetist 5.The Lamia 6.Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats 7.The Colony of Slippermen 8.Ravine 9.The Light Dies Down on Broadway 10.Riding the Scree 11.In The Rapids 12.It

 

Here’s how I figured it happened: Genesis was one of those bands that fate smiled upon them as it should for talented musicians as their career progressed. They started off slowly, and built up a steady fan base over the years. By the time last year’s Selling England By the Pound came out, they had a top thirty single and a top five album - in their native England, anyway. So they probably figured that the time was ripe for them to go all out. To really push the envelope. To make something spectacular. Something ambitious. Something that had never been done before! You get the drift.

Well, the fact that Peter Gabriel was always a bit of a showman that preferred interjecting theatrics into the band – both in bizarre lyrics and with his off the wall character creations for the band’s live shows, it’s no surprise that an album such of this was concocted. This is one of those fantasmical double “concept” albums. What is the concept about? I’m not really sure (and I immediately mistrust anyone who states that they do understand it). The inner sleeve for the record album even contains an incredibly detailed narrative of the story in which these songs are based, but reading the gibberish will only confuse you more. Something about a Puerto Rican guy wandering the streets of New York that has all sorts of weird encounters because he’s a schizophrenic or something. Fortunately, for most, this bizarre plot does actually translate to some great music.

Like other double concept efforts (think of The Who’s Tommy, or Pink Floyd’s The Wall), this album is best listened to as a whole, and the sum is undoubtably greater than the parts. In order to tell such a story, there are plenty of non-sense interludes and instrumentals that are quite odd and really don’t serve much of a purpose other than to either help change the mood of the piece, or perhaps just fill some extra space on a double record. It probably helped on stage as well since it gave Gabriel a bit of time to change into yet another costume.

The majority of “real” songs on this album are all quite good. The only detriment to this album is the fact that the extended length can wear one down a bit. Conventional wisdom always prevails in such circumstances stating that the band could have trimmed this down and made one “really good” album, but such justifications aren’t really warranted in this case. One must take the good with the….um… weird. The album also mightily succeeds with its atmosphere. Close listens to this album makes one feel a bit disconnected and strange, yet this is expected due to its subject matter. The weird music does fit the weird story. Really, the only elements added to this Genesis record that we haven’t heard before are the multitude of Tony Banks’ keyboard effects that go plop and pling throughout the album.

Many audiences were a bit puzzled at the time. The band decided to play this double album in its entirety when they toured to promote it (which only left room for a familiar encore or two) and they complemented the performance by (what was then) a high tech theatrical performance. Because of budget limitations primitive equipment, the show seemed to never go off quite as planned. The crowd, however, was usually appreciative. Such spectacles were quite rare in 1974. Maybe the audience didn’t really grasp what was going on, but the multitudes seem to quite enjoy being baffled and confused. Such attitudes were cool back in those days.

In fact, the five key members discussed the possibility of reuniting around 2004 to perform the album in its entirety, yet do it properly. With more money and more care, it probably could have been quite the spectacle. Rumor has it that all were on board except for Gabriel. Maybe he thought it would be a bit silly for a guy in his 50s dressing up like a bunch of seedless grapes? So the project never saw the light of day.

Speaking of Gabriel, this was his farewell to the band Genesis. Other commitments forced him to leave the band. It was disappointing, but not completely surprising. It’s somewhat fortunate that this was his farewell album as it seemed as though this was the culmination of everything that he (and maybe they) wanted to do under the Genesis moniker. They would go on to be much more successful in future endeavors, but they never quite tackled anything quite this ambitious.

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