Home Read Classic Album Review: Genesis | Archive #2: 1976 – 1992

Classic Album Review: Genesis | Archive #2: 1976 – 1992

The prog kings' rarites collection picks up where frontman Peter Gabriel left off.

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This album came out two decades ago. Here’s what I had to say about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Being a Genesis fan is a lot like being a Van Halen fan — no matter how much you love ’em, it’s hard not to end up choosing sides.

As you surely know, both bands have gone through their fair share of nearly identical musical changes over the decades. They swapped their beloved lead singers for less-talented replacements. They watered down their signature sounds to embrace commercial radio. And by doing so, they divided their fans into distinct factions who are fiercely loyal to one and only one incarnation of the band. All you have to do is ask a Van Halen fan one question — Dave or Sammy? — to know where they stand.

Same goes for Genesis, although the names in question are Peter and Phil. As in Gabriel and Collins, the band’s two frontmen over the years. Under Gabriel’s influence — roughly 1966 to ’75 — they were a pioneering prog-rock outfit, dishing up elaborate concept albums that they performed in their entirety during equally flamboyant stage shows. After Gabriel left and Collins moved from his drum stool to take the mic, though, Genesis slowly evolved (or, depending on your opinion, devolved) to the massive hit-making machine they were in the ’80s, spinning out chart-toppers like Turn It on Again, Mama, I Can’t Dance, Abacab and Misunderstanding one after the other. Many of their older fans balked at the reformed band’s blatant commercialism, but there’s no denying it won them millions more fans than they had during their artsty early days.

On the surface at least, these late-comers seem to be the fans that Genesis fans Archive #2 is designed to please. This three-CD set picks up where Gabriel literally left off, chronicling Collins’ years at the helm before he too left to concentrate on his solo career. Following the game plan of the first Archive, this 34-song compilation consists solely of rare and unreleased non-album material — outtakes, demos, live cuts and several examples of the peculiar ’80s phenomenon known as the 12″ mix.

There are, of course, some unearthed minor treasures to be found. It’s hard to see why some of the stronger numbers — the bittersweetly poppy Abacab leftover You Might Recall, the Supremes-influenced bounce of I’d Rather Be You and the prog-edged Feeding the Fire (both left off Invisible Touch), the delicate Wind and Wuthering-era ballad Inside and Out — never made it to album. Although I am willing to hazard a guess: Because they sounded too much like the old Genesis. A big chunk of the dozen or so unreleased studio tracks here consist of more prog-oriented material, presumably jettisoned in favour of newer, more commercial ditties as the band strove to make a clean break with its past. Working versions of Paperlate and Mama are also much-appreciated mementoes that deserved finally to see the light of day.

Sadly, though, quality rarities like these are in the minority. For the most part, it’s easy to see why most of Archive #2’s material languished. More than a few of the studio outtakes seem less like songs and more like unfinished jams. Like, say, the ballad Evidence of Autumn, a treacly stream of sap that goes nowhere. Or Naminanu, an Abacab-era number whose lyrics consist only of its nonsensical title. Or … well, you get the idea.

The inconsistency of the studio leftovers seems to be the reason for all the live cuts and remixes. This way, they can include familiar, bona fide hits like No Reply and Invisble Touch without resorting to previously available material. Admittedly, some of the live bits are interesting — ’70s fare like Ripples, Entangle and Burning Rope recall the band’s more musically ambitious days. But does anybody really need to hear a live version of Illegal Alien? Or an 11-minute, multi-part remix of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight?

Somehow, I can’t imagine any Genesis fan — of any era — enjoying that.