Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

4Jan/130

Driving the last spike….

How to sum up 2012 in a few words? "Genesis-obsessed" might take care of it with several characters to spare.

A few interviews with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett found me diving back into my love of the music of Genesis, moving deeper into the less-explored waters of the Peter Gabriel era.

A September trip to see Gabriel in Detroit would put further fuel on the fire and not too long after I got back, I had to order the Genesis 1970-1975 box set (something partially influenced by my pal Jack, who brought the set with him on our road trip to the Motor City), which would take care of adding the Gabriel-era Genesis albums into my collection. But once you've got one, you have to own them all, right? (The truly music-obsessed will understand this.)

The problem is that 1976-1982, the second box set chapter of the Genesis reissues, is out of print and trading for hundreds of dollars on both Amazon and eBay. It's all good - the first box gave me plenty to soak in while pondering my options to acquire box #2.

And why is that second box out of print anyway? The first one is still available and the third one (covering 1983-1998) is also still available, although perhaps that part is less of a surprise.

I'd read some things that suggested that there might have been some unauthorized bonus content on albums in the second box which led to the set being taken out of print. But after further research, it appears that the total allotment of the second box set just sold out. That struck me as a bit odd, because I personally would have expected it to be the other way around - I would have expected the first box set to be the one that is out of print.

Anyway, my status as a music nut requires me to visit at least one record store per week, so during a visit to The Exchange in October, I asked them to look up the 1976-1982 box set in their system, to find out if any of their area locations might have a copy. Indeed, there were copies, starting at 75 bucks used. Score!

But financial responsibility said "Matt, you really shouldn't blow 75 bucks on a box set right now."

Arrrgh.

Flash forward a couple of months and now it is Christmas time and I get a package in the mail from my good buddy Mike Duquette, with The Movie Box - the collection of Genesis concert films - another item that had been on my wish list for a few years!

Genesis fever was officially back on, after a short break!

As the holidays came and went, I got some gifts (read: loot) which left me in a position to do some shopping. I rang the Exchange again and this time located a copy of 1976-1982 for 70 bucks used...and in relatively pristine shape no less. Score!

With Amazon gift cards, it was time to go to pick up the 1983-1998 box set, the price of which had been chopped to 33 bucks!

Status: Genesis box set collection nearly complete. (I only need the live box set to complete my Genesis box set collecting odyssey.)

There's been some criticism of these box sets for being ear-bleeding brickwalled victims of the loudness wars. I don't find my ears being as offended by that as some folks, but the complaints are out there if you look. Instead, I found it to be a really enjoyable experience, hearing all of the Genesis albums from the '70s and '80s painstakingly cleaned up and restored by the band's longtime engineer Nick Davis.

The work which Davis has done really gives you full opportunity to appreciate what Genesis was able to pull off sonically in the '70s in particular and lots of moments to wonder just how did they do that?

Each album comes with a bonus DVD loaded with material, including 5.1 mixes of the music, plus bonus live material, both official and bootleg, plus extensive band commentary in the form of interviews that were done fresh for these sets. For those of you who have had these sets since 2007-2009 when they were issued, apologies - I'm just now catching up.

It is the bonus material that comes with these albums (not to mention the bonus discs of unreleased and rare tracks that round out each box) that really makes these reissues (and box sets) worth having. It's also an interesting opportunity to reconsider each album.

22 years later, We Can't Dance resonates with me as one of many albums that when I hear it, I can still recall the way I listened over and over again on my portable Sony Discman as I was trudging down the street to go to the local drug store which was about a half mile away from my house.

It was a big deal as a kid (and later, teenager) to have the ability to take my CDs with me. Listening through headphones brought an experience that really had me locked into whatever album I was listening to. It might have been Eric Clapton's 24 Nights, listening to "Badge" or Pink Floyd's Delicate Sound of Thunder, hearing "Comfortably Numb and "Learning to Fly" - all of these were musical moments happening in my ears and I could picture someday having the opportunity to see some of these bands and artists.

1992 was the year that some of that began to happen. I saw Clapton for the first time and I should have also seen Genesis when they came through town for a show at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, but at that age, concert dollars were still carefully spent, so I would have to live vicariously through the later release of The Way We Walk: Live, which wasn't really a fair substitute.

I think We Can't Dance is somewhat unfairly maligned as a Genesis album. There are a few reasons ("Jesus He Knows Me" and "I Can't Dance") to give the album shit, but there are also quite a few tracks that in my opinion, are some of the best material issued during the Phil Collins period of Genesis, post-Gabriel.

It's an odd bird, no doubt. "Living Forever" and "Tell Me Why" probably would be better placed on Phil Collins solo albums, but at the same time, they work quite well as Genesis songs. Hearing a song like "Never a Time," I'm transported back to driving around in my car, with that same Sony Discman playing, thanks to the cassette adapter in my car stereo. It sounds like 1992, when you're listening to that song.

But they also stuck a couple of lengthy epics on We Can't Dance, a reminder that they hadn't completely forgotten their progressive roots. "Fading Lights" for one, appropriately placed at the end of the album (with some hair raising keyboard moments - in a good way - from Tony Banks), but especially, "Driving The Last Spike."

I'll admit, that it's a song which I somehow missed during my early listens to We Can't Dance. It's in an odd place, wedged in between "Jesus He Knows Me" and "I Can't Dance." You can almost picture it going "Jesus, how did I get on this album?" It's that unfortunate positioning which might have caused others like me, to miss it. But you shouldn't miss it.

Especially this part:

Holy crap, what a feeling it must have been to finish that song as a band and know that you had just nailed it. Nailed it.

But don't miss out - you've got to listen to the whole thing.

As a relatively still young music fan, I really keyed in on the way "Driving The Last Spike" made the transition from the first part of the song to the second. It was a metamorphosis which reminded me of the first time I heard Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," and separately, "Band on the Run" (and probably others, too, but those are two that come to mind - "Need You Tonight/Mediate" by INXS doesn't count).

It's still a song that I use to argue for the Phil Collins era of Genesis, whenever the topic comes up (and it usually does at least once a year, with the company that I keep). All of these years later, We Can't Dance holds up quite well and for some reason, I don't even mind hearing "Jesus He Knows Me" as much as I once did (although "I Can't Dance" is still an automatic skip).

I had no idea that I was hearing the final bits of new music from Genesis with Phil Collins at the time that We Can't Dance was released and now, with Phil seemingly retired from music at this point and Genesis on an official hiatus, perhaps we'll never hear anything else new from the band.

I did finally get my chance to see the band live during their last reunion tour in 2007 and even though keys had been adjusted to accommodate Phil vocally, I consider that it was a worthy experience. The albums of Genesis had spent so much time on my turntable, in my cassette player and in the CD deck, that it was a good moment of closure.

These box sets and reissues will provide similar closure for anybody who has spent as much time being a Genesis fan as I have.