Friday, March 7, 2014

Significant Albums: Genesis - Foxtrot (1972)


When I 1st checked out Genesis, I believe it was again Mike Portnoy, talking about The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, likely on Dream Theater's official site. I recall liking much of that record, namely the track "In the Cage," but I guess I never fully fell in love with it nor the band until later. Maybe partially due to Peter Gabriel's voice.

I guess I kind of wanted to get into them like I got into Marillion, but it didn't really happen too quickly.

But then a few years later, when I went to Nearfest and hanging out the friends I was with there, and the other fans at NF, and maybe even when Transatlantic covered some Genesis at that show in 2000, my motivation to invest more time into Genesis, especially the Peter Gabriel records went up.

And I went through them somewhat meticulously, but after about 18 months or so (just guessing), I came to a conclusion:

-All of their albums with Peter Gabriel were better than any album they released after he left (save for their debut, From Genesis to Revelation, which to this day, I still have yet to hear,lol).

-Among the 5 definitive Gabriel records, The Lamb was THE WORST, even though I came to love a lot of it.

Among the other four, they are about equal, but given the achievement of "Supper's Ready," I came to see Foxtrot as my favorite.

And it's not just due to what some consider the definitive progressive rock epic piece, but it's hard to ignore. It's one of those epics that has a ton of ideas, segued to together extremely well.

I guess I'll mention a couple of my favorite moments in it for now. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man certainly.

I know a farmer who looks after the farm.
With water clear, he cares for all his harvest.
I know a fireman who looks after the fire.

You, can't you see he's fooled you all.
Yes, he's here again, can't you see he's fooled you all.
Share his peace,
Sign the lease.
He's a supersonic scientist,
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
Look, look into my mouth he cries,
And all the children lost down many paths,
I bet my life you'll walk inside
Hand in hand,
gland in gland
With a spoonful of miracle,
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary.
We will rock you, rock you little snake,
We will keep you snug and warm.

I get goosebumps every bloody time I hear that part, right when Peter Gabriel sings that 1st line "I Know a farmer, who looks after the farrrrrrrrrrm...." I just am in awe of the way it introduces such a magical piece of music and the sound of the chord progressions, crescendo and Gabriel's expressive vocal lines.

the movement that follows [Ikhnaton And Itsacon And Their Band Of Merry Men] , I think of for a a couple of things.

But we saw a host of dark skinned warriors
standing still below the ground,
Waiting for battle.

The fight's begun, they've been released.
Killing foe for peace...bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang...
And they're giving me a wonderful potion,
'Cos I cannot contain my emotion.
And even though I'm feeling good,
Something tells me I'd better activate my prayer capsule.

Today's a day to celebrate, the foe have met their fate.
The order for rejoicing and dancing has come from our warlord.

Right when and after Peter sings "waiting for BAHHHHTUHHL" the music really starts to move. 
Tony Banks lays in such great harmonic lines that complement Peter's vocal phrasing. The whole "today's the day to celebrate.." even though the subject matter is talking about a battle or fighting, the melody is actually really happy sounding or *celebratory*. Some of the Steve Hackett refrains also stand out at times here.

[Apocalypse In 9/8 (Co-Starring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)]

Most people love this part of this piece most, which while I do still enjoy it, I'm not as fond of as those previous two sections I mentioned. But the way it builds methodically, just fits perfect for the grand finale of this story and album. The way Genesis keeps bringing in track after track, adding to a mass of tracks, by the end, you're kind of thinking how much BIGGER can this song get?

Now, there is the whole other side to Supper's Ready, being the story/subject matter. Which I often don't hold too much importance  most music, compared to the music itself, but with the Gabriel Genesis especially, I ended up getting more into the lyrics and stories for some reason. The fables or tales Gabriel created somehow.

"Supper's Ready," I think of a few similar ideas or stories, but probably the biggest most direct is Dr.Moreau's Island. The way the genetic hybrid and experiments are described. And per the artwork, which shows an *Island*.

"Get Em Out By Friday" is another favorite that is also quite story driven. The line:
This is an announcement from Genetic Control: "It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on humanoid height."

Referring to "Genetic Control" and the directors-of and such, I came to think about the scene in the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil. In the movie, the organization isn't identified with Genetics exactly, but if I recall, they have to more or less kick people out of their living space for possibly many reasons.

I mean in a real-world level, it does cite the idea of people being evicted, population control and overcrowding. But with the reference to "Genetics" specifically, it seems to infer a more inherit purpose with humankind, not just purely social.

"Can-Utility and Coastliners" is one of the most underrated  or overlooked tracks in the Gabriel-Genesis canon. It's a terrific, multi-part piece with your time changes and dynamics. I do love Tony's textures and mellotron on this piece in the middle especially. It's so moody,and \it harmonizes with Hackett's acoustic guitar lines really well; I actually could have gone for that instrumental section go on for a few minute longer than it does.

Then when Gabriel comes in and Tony's organ takes the lead, it's so thematic. You can almost sway to it it, or dance in a mid-tempo way.  And then it segues to feature Mike Rutherford's upfront bass lines. And later features Tony Banks organ solo. I really can't get enough of that solo he takes.

Its parts or sections of music like that where I began to really LOVE Genesis and this period. They are like a drug that the more I heard them, the more I came to love them. And even though I don't listen to them nearly as often as I did 10 years ago, I swear, their music never gets old to me. I'm not sure why, but there's something so unique about the way they used instrumental passages and tones, with moods and Peter Gabriel's vocals telling stories, I was and am still am in awe of.

"Watcher of the Skies" in some ways may be the most known or thought-of Gabriel-Genesis track (maybe along with" Firth of Fifth," or "I Know What I Like"). It opens up this record and sets the stage for a trip within each track. Is it about a Stargazer? maybe. Musically, the way it goes from slow to soaring parts. The bass-line rhythm which has often been said to be using Morse Code, which is rather distinct, as I don't know much if any music who did that sort of thing before that. The only piece I sort of think of in a similar way is Rush's "YYZ", but that was many years later.

Watcher is also another track that features Tony's mellotron, which is rather distinct.

Judge not this race by empty remains Do you judge God by his creatures when they are dead? For now, the lizard's shed it's tail This is the end of man's long union with Earth.

That is one lyric I often think of. I used to think Peter Gabriel sang "the end of man's universe" instead "union with earth." Which in some ways could be meaning the same thing.

The section after where Peter is sort of telling a history of life or someone's life; I almost think this song is not so much about a Stargazer, but someone whose been through history. Maybe human history on Earth, or just a few lifetimes. It's so storybook or fairy tale-like. I don't think I've ever really thought about music and lyrics in such a way.I'm sure Gabriel and some of the other guys don't think all that much about the stories and fiction they were creating when they were that young and early in their careers as musicians/artists, but I think it's some of the most creative works of telling stories. Fables, Fairy Tales, etc.

And among the many stories that the Peter Gabriel period of Genesis made, on Foxtrot, I came to find to be the most interesting as-a-whole or rather, on 1-album. Being cohesive still (Lamb, I'm looking at you :p).

"Supper's Ready" is a landmark piece of music, composed like a piece of classical music, that in Rock music, hadn't been done maybe as successfully and with the narrative moments that got me so engaged. And maybe why Genesis never made another 20 minute epic again, because how were they ever going to make something that good again? I dunno.

And the rest of the music on this record complements it so well. It's almost like a a bunch of incredible appetizers (not thinking about the lyric "human bacon" with the metaphor mind you :).

"Time Table" and "Horizons" included.

"Horizons" being a solo acoustic Steve Hackett piece, which is simple, yet beautiful. I suppose not only seeing Steve perform that tune live a few times, but also its similarity (if not being identical) to the Make-A-Wish Foundation theme or music used in the spots that used to air on television when I was a kid. It may have just been in the Twin Cities (although a Wikipedia entry shows Make A Wish isn't/wasn't exclusive to my hometown). that those ads aired.

But I recall trying-to but never being able to find some old commercials to hear that theme and compare. But Make-A-Wish didn't start until 1980. It may be pure coincidence, but who knows, the founders or producers of those PSAs may have been fans of Genesis, Foxtrot and/or the "Horizons" piece. But from memory of those commercials, the acoustic guitar music and chord progression, tempo, is nearly identical. Although I suppose Hackett has mentioned the inspiration/influence on Horizons was some classical guitar pieces (JS Bach?), so that may have been the influence/inspiration on the Make-A-Wish theme as well.

I just came to conclude how similar they sounded. I remember some woman singing over that acoustic guitar "Young chiiiiiiild" but I have failed to find a video online of the PSA/PSAs that I recall at this point.

I am heading to see most-of this record performed live by The Musical Box in Minneapolis tonight. I expect nothing less than being wow-ed and in awe, like I was when I saw them in Milwaukee about 10 years ago, as getting to hear and see music-from one of these significant records performed live should be.

Save for the band doing a reunion with Peter Gabriel, I would hope something like that (or someone like Kevin Gilbert) would also be given to other people who come to love this record and the Gabriel Genesis as much as I do.