Sunday, June 12, 2016

Genesis - 1973 [1987] "Selling England By The Pound"

Selling England by the Pound is the fifth studio album from the English progressive rock band Genesis, released in October 1973 on Charisma Records. It reached number 3 in the UK and number 70 in the U.S. A single from the album, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was released in February 1974 and became the band's first top 30 hit in the UK; November 1973 in the U.S..
The album was recorded in August 1973 following the tour supporting the previous album, Foxtrot (1972). The group set aside a short period of time to write new material, which covered a number of themes, including the loss of English folk culture and an increased American influence, which was reflected in the title. Following the album's release, the group set out on tour, where they drew an enthusiastic reception from fans.
Critics and the band have given mixed opinions of the album, though guitarist Steve Hackett has said it is his favourite Genesis record. The album has continued to sell and has reached Gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry and the Recording Industry Association of America. It was remastered for CD in 1994 and 2007. Several of the album tracks became fan favourites and featured as a regular part of the band's live setlist into the 1980s.

By late 1972, Genesis had stabilised around Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins. The group had been regularly touring, achieved commercial success with their previous album Foxtrot, and were starting to gig in the U.S., particularly in New York City, where they had a positive response. However, journalists were still criticising the band and comparing them to other progressive rock bands such as ELP, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. The group were too busy touring to write new material, so after coming off the road in spring 1973 they set aside time to create new songs. The group's record company, Charisma Records insisted they had three months to come up with a new album, which Rutherford considered "the kiss of death". Collins formed a pick up band with former Yes guitarist Peter Banks for a few gigs, and Rutherford revealed in an interview to Sounds in 1976 that "there had been worries that Phil might want to leave the group".
Gabriel chose the album title, a slogan adopted by the UK Labour Party manifesto, to ensure that the British press would not accuse them of "selling out" to America. Overall, it represented a decay of English folk culture and an increase in Americanisation.

Genesis proved that they could rock on Foxtrot but on its follow-up Selling England by the Pound they didn't follow this route, they returned to the English eccentricity of their first records, which wasn't so much a retreat as a consolidation of powers. For even if this eight-track album has no one song that hits as hard as "Watcher of the Skies," Genesis hasn't sacrificed the newfound immediacy of Foxtrot: they've married it to their eccentricity, finding ways to infuse it into the delicate whimsy that's been their calling card since the beginning. This, combined with many overt literary allusions -- the Tolkeinisms of the title of "The Battle of Epping Forest" only being the most apparent -- gives this album a storybook quality. It plays as a collection of short stories, fables, and fairy tales, and it is also a rock record, which naturally makes it quite extraordinary as a collection, but also as a set of individual songs. Genesis has never been as direct as they've been on the fanciful yet hook-driven "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" -- apart from the fluttering flutes in the fade-out, it could easily be mistaken for a glam single -- or as achingly fragile as on "More Fool Me," sung by Phil Collins. It's this delicate balance and how the album showcases the band's narrative force on a small scale as well as large that makes this their arguable high-water mark. 

Selling England by the Pound is to Genesis as Hamlet is to Shakespeare. It is a timeless masterpiece of musical ability and performance combined with themes of classical literature and poetry. After 42 years some of the techniques do sound dated but it's true brilliance is in the performance. It is an album performed without shame or excuse for it's near perfect execution. It is the pinnacle of this version of Genesis in both creativity, songwriting and musical ability. Never before or after would Genesis work so well together to produce music of this caliber.. It is a brilliant star in the firmament of progressive music.

Tracks Listing

1. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (8:01)
2. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (4:06)
3. Firth Of Fifth (9:34)
4. More Fool Me (3:09)
5. The Battle Of Epping Forest(11:43)
6. After The Ordeal (4:12)
7. The Cinema Show (11:06)
8. Aisle Of Plenty (1:31)

Total Time: 53:22

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, percussion, flute, oboe
- Steve Hackett / electric guitar, nylon acoustic guitar
- Tony Banks / keyboards (piano, Hammond, Mellotron, ARP Pro Soloist synth), 12-string guitar
- Mike Rutherford / bass, 12-string guitar, electric sitar
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, lead (4) & backing vocals