Live / Duke

Genesis, 1973 / 1980

I (really) try to keep my collection of vinyl to just one-per-artist. Sure, I've created elaborate workarounds to keep from violating the letter (if not the spirit) of that rule. In the particular case of Genesis, my reasoning is this: Genesis was ultimately two different bands. By the time you get to from Live to Duke, the band is cleaved in half—which included losing their lead singer. When guitarist Steve Hackett finally departed too, they even took the unorthodox step of going without entirely. The move to become a keyboard-led band helped usher them in as the pop juggernauts they'd become in the synth-dominated 80s.

In their original form, as Live lays bare, Genesis was a capital-P, progressive rock band—all elaborate and fanciful stories over complicated, driving rock music. This era of the band is important to me as it's part of Peter Gabriel's origin story. Gabriel was my first-ever musical obsession, and I eventually followed his trail of breadcrumbs back to Genesis. Hearing these records explains everything I found so confusing about his first two solo albums, where his widely dramatic voice had yet to find it's nuanced counterpart.

Lately, Phil Collins has been enjoying a bit of reappraisal. Not all his aesthetic sins can be forgiven, but any creative misdeeds ought not diminish the heights he reached. Poor Phil spent long enough as a pop-culture whipping boy. In that regard, I decided to give his era of Genesis second go. Hell, before I caught on Peter Gabriel had been in Genesis, I was a 10-year-old fan of the Invisible Touch single… so there's even some odd nostalgia at play.

Duke is only the second Genesis record as what amounts to the Phil Collins Trio, and it predates his forays into solo song-smithing. One of the tunes he pens—Misunderstanding—clearly points to his next career. If Genesis was always a band-in-transition, Duke was perhaps to be their last turn; from here on, it was straight on 'til daylight. Traces of prog-rock remain, not just in the connected song suites, but in the melodies themselves. Take the single, Man of Our Times: these were still ambitious songs, pushing the band as players and writers.