Originating at Charterhouse School, one of England’s most prestigious public schools, Genesis recorded their first album as teenagers in 1968. They spent their early years losing money and making long-winded progressive rock albums. Their use of gentle 12-string guitars and bass pedals, coupled with Peter Gabriel’s wordplay, gave them a distinctive sound.
By the mid-1980s, Genesis were mega-stars, peaking commercially with Invisible Touch in 1986. Most of the band’s members, both current and past, were enjoying success in the same era. Former vocalist Peter Gabriel released So in 1986, while former guitarist Steve Hackett almost cracked the US top ten with his band GTR. Phil Collins was a 1980s megastar with releases like No Jacket Required, while bassist Mike Rutherford turned side-hustle Mike and the Mechanics into adult-contemporary hit-makers.
Genesis released a lot of great music, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Join me as I rank their fifteen studio albums from worst to best.
Genesis Albums Ranked
#15 Calling All Stations
Genesis had successfully soldiered on after losing key members previously – they’d sustained the losses of Ant Phillips, Peter Gabriel, and Steve Hackett, and record sales had only accelerated. The loss of Phil Collins, however, was fatal – Calling All Stations is sterile arena-rock, with replacement singer Ray Wilson unable to inject his personality. ‘Congo’ remains a worthy addition to the band’s greatest hits.
#14 We Can’t Dance
Genesis and Phil Collins were still superstars in 1991, and We Can’t Dance sold by the truckload. It’s a victim of CD-era bloat, running for 70 minutes and housing soft-rock songs like ‘Hold On My Heart’ that would be better suited for Phil Collins’ solo career. There are still sublime moments – ‘No Son Of Mine’ is an inspired song for a band in their fourth decade, and ‘Never A Time’ is a tuneful yet forgotten single.
#13 From Genesis to Revelation
Genesis were teenagers when they released their debut album. It’s produced by ex-Charterhouse pupil Jonathan King, who’d recently found success with the song ‘Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’. Progressive rock hadn’t been invented yet, and From Genesis to Revelation is comparable with the quirky 1960s chamber-pop of The Bee Gees. A tentative attempt at a Biblical concept album, it’s perfectly enjoyable with Gabriel’s husky voice and the group’s sense of melody.
Genesis became a full-fledged progressive rock band with their second album. Trespass is pretty but isn’t as engaging as their subsequent progressive rock records. It’s a mellow set of songs based around twelve-string guitar, and dynamic closer ‘The Knife’ is the clear standout. The introduction of Phil Collins on drums for the follow-up Nursery Cryme gave the band more impetus.
#11 Wind & Wuthering
Wind & Wuthering is Genesis’ second album of 1976 and their last as a quartet. It’s uneven – classics like ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ and ‘Eleventh Earl of Marr’ share space with second-tier material like Banks’ ‘All In A Mouse’s Night’. It could gave been much stronger – it’s a shame that Steve Hackett contributions like ‘Inside and Out’ and ‘It’s Yourself’ were relegated to b-sides.
#10 Invisible Touch
Genesis became the first band to place five singles from the same album in the Billboard 100 with Invisible Touch. The simpler arrangements and radio-friendly production made their material accessible to a wider audience but also alienated long-term fans. The material, however, is usually tuneful and memorable. The title track is a pop earworm while they revisit their prog heritage with ‘Domino’ and ‘The Brazilian’.
#9 …And Then There Were Three…
Genesis’ first album as a three-piece is a little sleepy in places, relying on Phil Collins’ virtuoso drumming to keep things moving. Rutherford’s ‘Follow You, Follow Me’ signposted the pop direction that the band would soon pursue. There are plenty of enjoyable art-rock deep cuts, like ‘Ballad of Big’ and ‘The Lady Lies’.
Genesis’ twelfth album was self-titled to reflect its collaborative nature. Banks, Collins, and Rutherford came to the studio with no material prepared and worked up these songs from jams. The first side is fantastic, with ‘Mama’, ‘That’s All’, and the progressive rock of ‘Home By The Sea’. The second side is uneven, particularly the much-derided ‘Illegal Alien’.
#7 Nursery Cryme
Genesis’ first album as a quintet was a huge step up; the introduction of guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins added power and personality. The record’s main attractions are the three lengthy and macabre progressive rock epics – ‘The Musical Box’, ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’, and the bass-driven ‘The Fountain of Salmacis’. The shorter songs are good too – the theatrical ‘Harold the Barrel’ and the pretty ‘Seven Stones’ are great deep cuts.
Genesis and Phil Collins were already stars by the time they recorded ABACAB, but to their credit they challenged themselves. Material that they felt sounded too similar to past triumphs was discarded – as a result, outtakes like ‘Paperlate’ and ‘Submarine’ that turn up on Extra Tracks 1976 to 1982 are often excellent. The songs that made the cut are often fascinating – pieces like ‘Keep It Dark’ and ‘Dodo/Lurker’ are among Genesis’ most intense moments, while the title track is a terrific pop song.
Phil Collins emerged as a songwriter on Duke. He wrote ‘Misunderstanding’ which, along with ‘Turn It On Again’, took a Genesis album to the top of the UK charts for the first time. Balancing the pop hits, there’s art-rock material like the ten minutes of ‘Duke’s Travels’. Duke serves as a grand summary of Genesis’ merits.
#4 A Trick of the Tail
Genesis auditioned vocalists to replace Gabriel, but when none of them fitted, Collins was persuaded to sing lead. A Trick of the Tail is impressive and continues the excellence of the previous few Genesis records. Hackett’s unsettling ‘Entangled’, the fusion-inflected ‘Dance on a Volcano’, and the gorgeous ‘Mad Man Moon’ are standouts. The straightforward, yet gorgeous, ‘Ripples’, shows the group starting to branch out beyond progressive rock.
#3 Selling England by the Pound
Genesis’ fifth album is often a fan favourite. There are a couple of slow spots. Banks’ lyrics on ‘Firth of Fifth’ are a letdown after his superlative piano introduction, while the theatrical ‘Battle of Epping Forest’ outstays its welcome. Songs like ‘The Cinema Show’, ‘Dancing With the Moonlit Knight’, and ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’, however, are career highlights.
#2 The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Peter Gabriel conceived the plot of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, perhaps the most ridiculous concept album of all time. It’s full of great songs though – Gabriel snarls his way through ‘In The Cage’, ‘The Carpet Crawlers’ is gorgeous, and ‘Lilywhite Lilith’ is a taut rocker. The New York City backdrop serves to shift the band’s sound from the pastoral twelve-string guitars of earlier records.
Foxtrot houses Genesis’ most celebrated epic – the sidelong, apocalyptic ‘Supper’s Ready’. It’s enough alone to make the album essential – the sinister ‘Lover’s Leap’ section, the silly ‘Willow Farm’, and the intensity of ‘Apocalypse in 9/8′ are among the terrific components of the celebrated suite. But the first side is also strong – Tony Banks’ mellotron shines on ‘Watcher of the Skies’, while the King Canute tale is recounted on ‘Can-Utility and the Coastliners’. Gabriel’s silliness keeps Genesis fun.
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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