12 November 2014

Genesis - R-Kive

I'd like you to imagine your favourite rock band, one that you've been listening to loyally for decades, they've released infinite bundles of material in a long and well decorated life, as a group and with all their members having been almost equally as successful in their solo careers. Then expect the huge rock fanfare rising all around along with some heady anticipation as your idols, who have been a little off the boil recently coming up with exciting news. And when I saw Genesis' big headline on a Classic Rock Website, well, you can guess as well as I did. Peter Gabriel and/or Steve Hackett making a comeback? Maybe for one concert or perhaps even a string of them? The mind rushes around as wildly doesn't it!

I was genuinely elated on hearing the impending announcement, then all the excitement deflated spectacularly when it turned out that the fuss was all about launching a new compilation box set. I can't remember the last time I was left with a feeling of such incredulous disappointment, worse that this isn't their first definitive collection either. R-Kive (obviously a play on words) is in fact their seventh multi-disc collection, so nothing new seemingly. OR is that the case? Rather than "just" the whole group's retrospective, there's also some members' solo material, aside from that of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford (admittedly from his 80s/90s project Mike And The Mechanics, the other two prominent members, original guitarist Steve Hackett and Tony Banks also have featured tracks on this offering.

Tied to this latest launch is a BBC4 documentary called Genesis : Together And Apart and while it was a great feeling to see the Famous Five back together for the first time in forty years, I side with Steve Hackett on crying foul that his solo work was seriously overlooked. Now I will concede that Mike Rutherford has done a sterling job on the six and twelve strings since Mr. Hackett's departure, I've always preferred the latter's work. Here on ATTIWLTMOWOS we very seldom review compilations, but given the pedigree of the quintet's works both collectively and individually, this really can't be shunned, so here goes. R-Kive is a three disc set, with disc one having what in my opinion is their best work. Disc Two sees Genesis minus Hackett and Gabriel and the remaining three members taking a more commercial approach stretching from their And Then There Were Three right through to the mid 1980s. Finally, the third CD charts their progress from Invisible Touch through to their last studio album Calling All Stations from the late 1990s.

As far as I see it, Genesis fans are split into two groups - those who like their earlier progressive rock creative incarnation, and those who prefer the band's better known hits, and of course, they recorded dozens. On the first CD is their early tracks and a few epic songs, like Supper's Ready, a 23 minute opus and an excellent medieval fantasy tale, and predictably a welter of instrumentation including Gabriel's flute solo. The Knife is a pre-Hackett/Collins single which has hints of hard rock/metal and envisions of what a totalitarian state would be like. Their shorter but just as noteworthy tracks include Carpet Crawlers, a beautiful and free thinking narrative, with a few ovine references(!) which typifies the free thinking that prog rock was all about. And there's also I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) as well as Ace Of Wands, a Steve Hackett instrumental, which admittedly I haven't heard before, but God do the hooks feel very mystical and free flowing. Fantastic work from the guitarista, even if he did have studio support from Mssrs Collins and Rutherford.

So now Disc Two, where Genesis regrouped following PG's departure, and where Collins sees himself promoted to vox duties. First track on this is Ripples, and while it's a good track with strong keyboarding towards the end, he was slightly rough on the edges but it wouldn't take too much time before his voice was well honed and more noted in the following years. It's also where their more commercial facets took off, where we were treated to some Gabriel eventual classics in Solsbury Hill and Biko (a tribute to anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko). But there's also Tony Banks' solo piece in For A While. PLEASE note the vocalist here is folk rock singer Kim Beacon, NOT Mr Banks himself, likewise Steve Hackett doesn't do too many vocals although he features heavily in his next solo and harmony filled Every Day. He departed a couple of years after Gabriel citing frustration that his own work wasn't featured enough on the now foursome's albums. Here, we also see Phil Collins opening his solo account with In The Air Tonight (memorable drumwork of course), the band's synth laden Abacab, the sinister Mama and radio friendly Turn It On Again.

Moving towards the end of their retrospective, their third disc now, and the majority of it is clearly from their two most successful hit churning albums Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance. On the former, there's the title track as well as Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, where their creative touches were quickly being ditched for a more balladsy approach. However, my favourite Collins-era track is Land Of Confusion (I've included the famous Spitting Image video in this blog), while not being leftfield is nevertheless the trio's simple take on the Modern World. There's the emergence of Mike Rutherford's side project (The Living Years, Over My Shoulder) which I've never really favoured creatively, though he has turned Paul Carrack into a star. Towards the end is Calling All Stations, with Collins now replaced by Stiltskin's Ray Wilson, the track's named after the album which is widely acknowledged as being one of Genesis' worst. I've not listened to the whole piece, but this is not a very inspiring song and an affront to a legendary calibre.

My first review of a retrospective has turned out to be a massive headache, not because the album's crap, but mainly because of its band content, the members' content, Genesis is one big dynastical entity don't you know?! Also, you will have noticed that this blog is almost twice as long as the others given the challenge beset before me in writing this, so I hope I haven't bored you to straining point. Anyway, back to my appraisal of R-Kive, it's a reasonable window to the new listener of what Genesis is all about, and Disc One from my point of view is the best out of the three, long before they became the darlings of the airwaves. Personally, I believe there are better Genesis retrospectives which have more tracks and more depth in them. That said however, R-Kive isn't a bad showcase in its own right. Allied to the solo material, it does just enough to convince me that this isn't quite the cynical marketing ploy I was expecting. It hasn't delved deep into the soloists' biggest hits, instead championing their lesser known material. All that remains now is for the five to finally bow to public pressure and reform as the above photo (this year's as well, by the way) suggest.

7.5 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track : Disc One    : I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
                     Disc Two   : In The Air Tonight
                     Disc Three : Land Of Confusion

Buy R-Kive here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can alternatively click on this link
Genesis Facebook page here

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