SAME VEIN: Genesis' Abacab2
Artist Grade: B
Genre: Rock, Prog Rock, Pop, Rock
Best for: Exploring a Catalog, Jamming In the Car, Relaxing During the Day, Dusk, Evening Listening. Outstanding Track: Paperlate.
Recorded: Summer 1980-82
Released: Spring 1983
Written By: Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks
(except where indicated)
3. Inside and Out
5. Me and Virgil (Banks)
6. Open Door (Banks)
7. You Might Recall (Collins)
8. On The Shoreline
9. Evidence of Autumn (Banks)
10. We Said Hello Goodbye (Collins)
Phil Collins: Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford: Guitar, Bass
Tony Banks - Synth
So you're a big Genesis and Phil Collins fan, and after careful scrutiny of their oeuvre you have finally come to the realization that their Abacab and Duke period in the early 1980s was their most melodically fruitful and accessible while still remaining true to their musically adept prog-rock roots. Plus Phil was in his heartbreak prime. And you wish there was one more just like it.
What's an Apostle of the Book of Genesis to do? Allow me to quench your thirst with the holy water of what I like to call Duke Jr,or AbaDabra, or Abadoob if you want to get silly. AbaDuke? I just can't make up my mind. Dukacab? AbbaDoo? Sounds vaguely like Fred Flintstone or a Swedish pop group. Howabout the simple and elegant branding of Abacab2?
In some ways it was songs they left off Abacab which defined that album. By tightening up their sound, they hit paydirt. Yet the orphans left behind, when gathered together under one leaky roof, might make a strong album in their own right. Consider the perfect pop of Paperlate as well as the radio ready fantastic ripper You Might Recall. Why relegate them to the dustbin of music history?
Many of these songs first appeared on their stop-gap live album Three Sides Live. Atlantic et al did well to release a few further singles in the US (as well as on a EP in England) not only to capitalize on post-Abacab demand while the band toured the States, but also because they wisely realized that by 1983 Abacab was two years old. After Phil's 1981 solo album breakout, they saw they could package and sell anything. Viola-- Three Sides.
The idea that they could acquaint new Genesis fans with the past was interesting, but honestly for most Abacab fans Three Sides Live was bought and then put aside but for a few courtesy listens to the radio hit on the last side.
Yet on that fourth side of the US album there are a few hidden jems so reminiscent of Duke and their sound of that time you can build a great new album. If you also cull some of the B-sides of the era available on their box sets you'll get a rewarding dive into deeper Genesis waters at the dusk of their careers: not yet twilight, but stars are coming out and they are painting with sunset colors.
Here is the album sequence as I've put it together for your listening pleasure:
1. Submarine - This song was a seemingly insignificant B-side to Man on the Corner, but apparently it was an abandoned part to Dodo/Lurker. The very quiet slow intro builds to a Duke's Travels-like finish. Thus, it's a great album opener and perfect example of the band's command of their brush and palette. Inimitable mid-period Genesis.
2. Naminanu - This sounds a lot like one of Phil's multi-timbral polyrhythmic multicultural jams, but with more synth from Banks and a less successful less succinct climax vs. some of the similar songs on the Face Value album.
Both this and Sub are orchestral sized workouts, which is exactly why they were discarded. Out with the old, in with the pop funk tunes ! Viola, Abacab was all about their new direction away from the ancient caves of their youth and into the marble hallowed halls of polished popular acclaim.
3. Inside and Out - This We Can't Dance era B-side starts with ye olde style Genesis plucked 12 string arpeggios and a wheedling vocal that is redeemed by Phil's sensitive reading and a warm build of the arrangement.
Though this is a later era track from an album that earns my total disgust, the instrumentation reminds me of the long form semi-operatic storytelling of the Duke-era. This song is a great reminder of the simple but intellectual and artistic pleasures of old Genesis, the kind that Justin Bateman dislikes. It actually may be better than many of others of the same ilk.
Well, after that classic Genesis you need an Aba-refresher. Lucky for you, next on the menu is basically the fourth side of 3 Sides Live, recorded during the same fertile period:
4. Paperlate - Superlative RnB pop.
5. Me and Virgil - It's hard to come up with any song that can follow the Paper-pop, but this change of pace and extended storytelling tone fits the bill. It seems a lot like The Roof Is Leaking from Phil's Face Value, yet this was written by Banks.
Phil does a good hearty reading of the lyrics exploring tales of rural poverty and hardscrabble survival. The song suffers a little from Ma and Pa-isms, but they are appropriate for the Old West setting and it has an interesting galloping bridge.
6. Open Door - A lovely if a little ponderous slow number, with Phil again mustering his emotive power amidst a Face Value-ish accoustic piano arrangement.
7. You Might Recall - Just like Paperlate, this song features lovely hooks and a gripping chorus with the RnB. The uptempo swing from some timbales and marimba as well as that classic Duke electric piano sound add up to a satisfying jaunt down a memory lane still strewn with leaves for Phil and his lyrics about one day looking back and his ex being filled with regret. 8. On the Shoreline - This B-Side from We Can't Dance is a little like Abacab Pt 2 given it's somewhat of a jam with funky bass. At least it's better than anything on the a-side. No wonder they kept it off Dance so that the album itself could just sink like a stone and they could pretend it never existed.
9. Evidence of Autumn - Again, the soft floating vocals over meandering flute and synth strings and piano that Phil often mined so well on Duke. This is a little baroque, it's true, but it has another fantastic electric piano chorus.
This is a great closer for an album, with depth in the arrangement from minor to major, changes in pace (thought it's almost a little too jaunty in the 16 bar uptempo bridge) and bridges galore. They do it all at length without losing the pop core they were able to locate in each song.
That is what makes this transition period between the difficult Genesis and the pablum Genesis so rewarding.
Ok, how long is this fake album again? I feel like we could just stop right here. But this "album" only adds up to about 35 minutes, so let's add one more.
10. We Said Hello, Goodbye - No Jacket Required B-Side. This is actually from Phil's solo career. He had so few worthwhile leftovers that his B-sides are diminishing returns. That is, except Hello Goodbye. This has a Duke style arrangement so it fits here. All the rest of Phil's B sides are filler warm-up RnB numbers and pop misses.
If you want an even longer album you can add a few later Genesis B-sides, but you do so at your own risk since they don't quite fit the vibe of the rest of the stuff.
11. Do the Neurotic - A little like a Brazilian/Lurker suite, but a little worse and less interesting. Still, the drum work reminds us of old rock and polymath Phil instead of treacle Phil.
This song gets more interesting if you slow it down three whole pitches. It's more groovy than frantic that way, a little more like the Brazilian (which is also sorta mechanical and thus forgettable but at least it's using ethnic instrumentation).
12. Feeding the Fire - Almost as good as Silver Rainbow, but whose fire is being fed? Unknown. And inessential, but if you don't listen closely and do the dishes it sounds like a decent late-era electro-drum and synth pad Genesis song closer to Abacab that you might remember.
And that's all. Just a shame, etc.
Hopefully, you got that "It's a new Genesis album after all these years" tingles from it. Below, find the Youtube playlist of the album... click on it if you dare!