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album review
Steve Hackett joined the group at this point, not that the previous guitarist Anthony Phillips was terrible, he just couldn't handle the stress of live performances.

Genesis also acquired a new drummer, Phil Collins (not recognizable with a near-full head of hair), who later went on to become one of the most popular stars of the 1980's. Just how a major 80's popstar came from rock'n'roll's geekiest band is one of the world's more tantalizing mysteries.

And so Genesis now had what would be their classic line-up. So although this progressive medieval-Folk album sounds much like Trespass, it's about a billion times better! The band not only hit their stride as a collective unit, they also started to write more consistently interesting melodies, had a better handle on instrumentation, and figured out how to write more engaging lyrics. In other words, Nursery Cryme is a bona fide Prog Rock classic.

Phil Collins is awesome here, in ways that were completely unrelated to his 80's career. The way he was able to expertly throw in complicated fill after complicated fill is enough to make my head spin. In particular, listen to his work on “Fountain of Salamacis”.

One of my favorite things about Trespass was Genesis' constant ability to connect parts of a song with a series of crescendos. Genesis hadn't given up that art on Nursery Cryme, but they used it more gracefully. “The Musical Box” is a 10-minute song that only has a couple of major build-ups, but each one seems very well-deserved, usually getting me on the edge of my seat. The first few minutes of that song consists of medieval Folk with sweet pastoral textures and a haunting melody, gently delivered by Peter Gabriel. But Steve Hackett ups the ante somewhere in the middle by delivering some gruff electric guitar passages, then Tony Banks comes forth with some bouncy organ chords. In short, its ups are exciting and its downs are gorgeous.

I reckon these guys could've figured out how to noodle a little better though ... I'm not nearly as impressed with Genesis as I am with for instance the Mahavishnu Orchestra. But I guess Genesis were a texture-oriented group anyway, and they were quite good at that.

“Harold the Barrel” is a highlight of Nursery Cryme, even if it's not a prog epic. It's more of a silly bouncy-piano poptune, but the melody is fantastic. The number of melodies and textures Genesis cram into just three minutes include enough ideas to fill at least half an album.

Other short songs, like the folky “For Absent Friends” and “Harlequin” don't make quite the same impression, but they're still interesting melodically, and make for sweet listening, with singer Collins (on the former) and Gabriel (the latter) gentle high-pitched vocals lending the songs a bittersweet flavor that I love.

When it comes to epic tracks though, it doesn't get much more epic than “The Return of the Giant Hogweed”. That's a BIG song with BIG ambitions, though its loud organ chords and drum patterns don't quite make up for the weakish melody. But it's still a fun song. And “Seven Stones” is another nice folky ballad, though it does drag just a little bit.

I've read reports that Nursery Cryme is a boring album. I've never understood this - I can listen to an album like this and find it so exciting I practically pee my pants!

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

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Posted: Saturday 8th Nov 2014 2:24 PM

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album review
On Prophets, Seers & Sages Bolan seems to be concentrating on streamlining his music instead of favoring the ultra-weird stuff he was trying out on the debut album.

What I mean by that is this music doesn't sound quite as fresh and unique as on the debut, even though he's still doing the exact same thing. Maybe he was trying to make the music more accessible, or possibly he was just getting lazy. So this album is only recommended to people who loved the previous album to death, and can't live without this weaker but similar follow-up.

This album isn't a complete waste though. "Aznageel the Mage" is my favorite track, not just because the melody is catchy and enjoyable, but also because Steve Took chimes in with some really weird back-up vocals, lending the song an extra dimension that's absolutely wonderful! I wish they'd had that mentality all the way through this thing.

Unfortunately, there are hopelessly bland and meaningless songs like "Trelawny Lawn", and the toneless "The Friends". For one last final assault, they lay down a smelly egg with the closing "Scenescof Dynasty", consisting of Bolan just chanting two bars of music with a repetitive clapping noise. Who needs that?

And then there's the interesting gimmick in the album's first track "Deboraarobed" ... the first half consists of the song "Debora", and the final half consists of the same thing backwards. I didn't even catch that at first, because they sound so similar. So that's kind of neat in a theoretical sense, but not so much aesthetically.

I still like this album, because it's weird above everything else, and it's still kind of fun to listen to. Furthermore, I always like hearing Bolan's spritely voice! It's just a shame he couldn't lift more of this material off the ground.

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

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Posted: Saturday 12th Apr 2014 2:39 PM

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