|The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway||1974||2.82/pi|
Main lineup: Peter Gabriel: flute, bass drum, vocals, until 1975. Phil Collins: drums, vocals, until 1997. Tony Banks: keyboards. Mike Rutherford: guitars, bass. Steve Hackett: guitars, until 1978.
Other personnel: Anthony Phillips: guitars, until 1971. John Mayhew: drums, until 1971. Ray Wilson: vocals, after 1997.
One day, Genesis decided to produce a huge, bloated rock opera. Well, Peter Gabriel did, at least. He wrote nearly all the lyrics all by his lonesome (and insisted, for the first time, that they be credited to him rather than the band) while the rest of the band cooked up most of the backing tracks without him. Clearly, the stage was set for a breakup, and so Gabriel’s departure after the album’s supporting tour is not too surprising. I can’t say I’m too saddened by it: Gabriel went on to put out some excellent solo albums free of the tyrannical plastic fist of Tony Banks.
Here and now, though, we’re still talking about Genesis—two albums worth, in fact. This massive, 95-minute project tells us the story of a fellow named Rael, a New York street thug straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Rael is plunged into a sort of nasty, R-rated Wonderland, where he confronts all of the demons of his demented subconscious.
Some people seem to be put off by the somewhat disjointed story, but I don’t mind at all—it is a dream world, after all, it can’t be expected to make sense all the time! Gabriel’s lyrics are fun and dripping, if not with deep meaning, then at least some facsimile thereof.
Sadly, there are some serious problems here. The guitar and flute, never the most prominent parts of the band’s arsenal, have seen their share of the limelight drastically cut here. Even more than in the past, Gabriel is forced to carry the rest of the band by sheer charisma. He does the job ably, but nevertheless, I can’t escape the feeling that most of these songs could have been vastly improved by placing the focus on something, anything other than the all-consuming keyboard fetish of Tony Banks.
As if that wasn’t enough, the band made the unfortunate decision of including four filler instrumentals. “Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats” is pretty but ultimately boring, while “Hairless Heart” ineffectually borrows its melody from Bedrich Smetana. And the other two are merely pointless moody sound effect passages (although “The Waiting Room” has a kind of bent charm, and it turns into an actual song near the end.)
These flaws drag the record down a little, but still, the overall quality of the songs is very high. “The Lamia” is a highlight, with Mr. Banks actually putting his synthesizers to good use, but “it.”, “The Colony of Slippermen”, and “Back in NYC” are equally enjoyable. And that’s only scraping the surface of this behemoth, which is not only a case study in excess but also a fitting swansong to the Gabriel edition of Genesis.