A Trick Of The Tail


Atlantic Records, 1976


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Genesis' first album following the departure of Peter Gabriel was both anticipated and dreaded for many reasons. Many questions naturally arose. Mainly, how would the replace the most iconic figure in the world of progressive rock? Who could possibly fill those shoes? The band began a long series of auditions which failed to produce any singer they felt was satisfactory. No surprise there. Ultimately, they fell back on their own resources and promoted drummer Phil Collins into the frontman position.

So how does Collins fare in the lead singer role? First off, he proves he's got the pipes to do the job. Collins sounds amazingly like Gabriel, but with different vocal range. They both share that strange, gravelly high tenor, but Collins' voice is a bit smoother. He does however lack the charismatic vocal acrobatics that Gabriel did so well, and he's not quite as evocative during the more dramatic moments. Gabriel's gift was the ability to create personas on the fly, becoming a different character in the blink of an eye. Collins' strength is that he has a more traditional singer's style, and is able to sing cleaner and more clearly, especially with ballads and softer numbers.

Many hardcore fans eschewed this change, claiming that Gabriel was Genesis, which is absurd. Some claimed that they went commercial. This was a more understandable claim, as this album is more finely polished, and has a stronger melodic core than any previous Genesis release. I think commercial is not exactly correct. It would be a few more years before Genesis would transform into the industry juggernaut that they would ultimately become.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With Collins thrust to the front of the stage, the remaining members of Genesis proved they could still produce creative, engaging music without Gabriel. The songs here are finely crafted, the production is lush, and the rich lyrical content is strong. Changes are inevitable when a major creative force leaves. A major change here is their concentration on a very strong melodic sense, similar to that displayed on "Selling England By The Pound." This stands in stark contrast to the musical freakshow of "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway." The result was their most cohesive album to date. The songs go together very well, which adds a sense of continuity. You might say they lost some of the quirkiness that was a huge part of their appeal. You never knew what might come next on the older albums, which was a big part of their appeal. There's much more common structure to the songs on Trick Of The Tail. So, they lose some of the musical eccentricities of the past, but their gain a measure of polish by sticking to the strong melodies and more tightly structured songs.

Trick features some great theatrical pieces in the Genesis tradition. "Dance On A Volcano" and "Robbery, Assault & Battery" are exceptional pieces with their hallmark complex instrumentation featuring Steve Hackett's evocative guitar work and Tony Banks' always-exceptional keyboard arrangements. One of my favorite Genesis tracks appears here -- the dreamlike "Entangled," built around a strummed acoustic guitar, with Tony Banks layering fluid, echoing keys over all. The fantasy and mythology themes Genesis is known for are here as well. The title track and the classic "Squonk" explore the fairy-tale realms that they are so fond of. The songwriting proves that without Gabriel they could still tell deeply detailed stories set to music.

Like it or not, this album signaled a change that would become more apparent over the next few years, with the band moving into a style more accessible to the non-prog fan. Trick Of The Tail was coming close to a last gasp of the avant-garde Genesis tradition, but I personally find it a highly enjoyable album that keeps a permanent place in my personal collection. It creates a very clear snapshot of this transitional phase of a band that would eventually go on to rule the world's airwaves for most of a decade. If some of the off-center oddities of Genesis' earlier work leaves you scratching your head, Trick Of The Tail might be more your cup of tea.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A



© 2005 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.