- 12:44 pm - Tue, Aug 14, 2012
- 3 notes
Q: I'm gonna ask two: Yes and Genesis.
[Guitar and synth in 7/8 time]
In the true spirit of Prog this response is long, repetitive and quite possibly incoherent. I should preface my response to this by saying that I now only have a few tracks by each band, although as a teenager I listened to them a lot. I pretty much stopped listening to them so obsessively after 1976. This was partly due to punk/Year Zero but also due to new friends and new music. I didn’t cut my hair short and scratch my Prog records with a safety pin. I started listening to Dub, Disco, Bowie, Dylan, Steely Dan and, er, the Grateful Dead along with Patti Smith, Talking Heads and PiL.
When I studied art at school I became obsessed with Salvador Dali because he combined weird imagery (which bolstered my sense of special arty sensitivity) with traditional craft (he can handle his instrument). When I started Art college I soon discovered that Dali was regarded as hackneyed and shallow and so I discarded him for other artists. It was only later that I came to a point where I could come to appreciate both the virtues of Dali (for me his work from the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s) as well as his weaknesses.
It’s a similar story with Yes and Genesis. I pushed their records to the back of the box and have only lately returned to them - not so obsessively as a teenager but not so disdainfully as my post-punk self.
OK. Yes first. I know next to nothing about their work after Relayer apart from the odd singles. Apart from that my knowledge is mostly limited to the albums released from Fragile to Relayer. I saw the band live in 1974, when they played at QPRs football ground - a gig that I have since discovered was filmed and is available on Youtube. That was when Patrick Moraz was on keyboards. ANYWAY:
I’ve seen all good people: I know this from the live version on Yessongs which my friends and I would listen to during school lunch breaks out on the field. The song has a great sense of dynamics from the tight, light vocal harmonies to the deep driving rhythm section. The studio version sounds relatively polite. I suspect that this was done as an encore, when the band knew they didn’t have to keep anything in reserve and could rock out.
Close to the Edge: I always liked the aspect of Prog that allowed you to immerse yourself in a piece of music and this piece is stuffed with inevention and excitement. Jon Anderson’s lyrics aren’t overwhelming (see Tales of Topographic Oceans for that) but another rhythmic and tonal component of the music.
Siberian Khatru Listening to this again I’m reminded of just how exhilarating the band can be. Also, how much the vocals remind me of CSNY.
Owner of a Lonely Heart Part of me feels disloyal for not sticking to the classic Yes line-up but this is such an awesome piece of music. As I said when I posted this at This is My Jam this is like a prog black hole - all of the strangeness and dynamics compressed to a ball of crackling energy.
Other contenders include: Roundabout; Yours is no disgrace
I should state for the record that I have next to no interest in the band after Peter Gabriel left. I bought Trick of the Tail when it came out and kind of liked it for a while - but after The Lamb Lies down on Broadway (TLLDOB) it seemed like a band taking a step backwards and reassuring its fans that nothing had changed. Peter Gabriel had a quirky sensitivity that added richness and complexity. The others were competent musicians.
Fly on a windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974 Even after I had pushed my Prog records to the back of the box I still played TLLDOB. God knows what the album is actually about but the first of these two tracks has an eerie quality balanced by the snappy rhymes and an outsiders view of America in the second.
Harold the Barrel One of the qualities that I like about Genesis is a peculiar English eccentricity that links them (in my mind) to John Betjeman (another artiste on Charisma records), Lewis Carroll and Hillaire Belloc. This song could well be one of his cautionary tales while the section from Harold’s perspective anticipates Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up.
Anyway Another track from TLLDOB. I dismissed the rest of Genesis as competent musicians earlier but that shouldn’t detract from how good they can be. They have an ability to create strong, memorable melodies - which many Prog bands struggle to do. Subsequent displays of musical craft are then anchored to something more substantial. Here the piano intro and later guitar solo serve the mood of the song rather than just being an excuse to show off. At the heart of the song are Peter Gabriel’s musing on death - something he manages to inject with some humour which only serves to make the song more plaintive.
Supper’s Ready in honour of my teenage enthusiasm - this was the track that we became obsessed with back in the day. It hit all the buttons: a long track, divided into sections! Check. Quirky titles? Check! Profound subject matter dealt with in an idiosyncratic way? End of days, dude! Check! I haven’t listened to it in over 30 years and I’m afraid I might hate if if I did. I suspect that it will remain best appreciated as a memory.
[Fade - 12 string guitar over Mellotron]