Calling All Stations


Atlantic Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Should Genesis have dissolved following the departure of Phil Collins in 1996?

Many times over the band's almost three-decade run, they've found themselves having to prove that they can survive losing a key member. When Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975, Genesis was declared dead by the cynics - until Collins filled the position (and quite well, thank you). There were concerns when Steve Hackett left; the remaining members answered the claims of their demise again with ...And Then There Were Three, the album that gave Genesis their first radio hit.

But the first post-Collins album, Calling All Stations, is almost concrete proof that the remaining members' hearts just aren't into the music anymore.

You could make a case that new singer Ray Wilson isn't as strong of a vocalist as either Gabriel or Collins was, but I'm willing to let such a point slide. He's filling some very big shoes in the group, and to expect him to perform at such a high level on the first shot is asking a lot... too much, in fact.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Besides, if the material he's given to sing isn't up to par, then all expectations are thrown out the window. Fact is, many of the songs on Calling All Stations are written poorly, and do not do justice to the vocalist, no matter who it would have been. The title track is a plodding beast that should have taken a bullet between the eyes; the first thing I want to hear on a group's rebirth is not a funeral dirge.

The first single, "Congo," gets off to a promising start, but like its predecessor, quickly gets bogged down -- it almost seems that remaining members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks padded the music side as a safety net. Too bad that by doing so they cut off Wilson's potential contributions.

But this is not to say that Calling All Stations is a complete failure. "Not About Us," despite having a vocal track I wish had more muscle, is a beautiful song about love gone bad -- and, boy, this was not the best choice to listen to for Valentine's Day. A follow-up song, "If That's What You Need," seems to answer the problems the subject is having with his love in "Not About Us"; it reaffirms that he will be there for her, even if they don't remain a married couple. Kind of a lesson we all can learn in there.

"Shipwrecked" and "Alien Afternoon" both show the talents this new version of Genesis has when they cut through the questions and doubts and just get down to the music... if only there were more moments like this on Calling All Stations.

The band's penchant for long-winded songs hasn't gone away; "The Dividing Line" and "One Man's Fool" would have been a lot more effective had they been shorter. (In Genesis' defense, they've been doing this long before Wilson joined the band, so this isn't a new gripe... but one would have thought they'd have wised up by now.)

Whatever your opinion of the new Genesis, one thing cannot be denied: Collins' presence is sorely missed here. Whether Wilson will step up and become a more involved contributor to the music we'll see as time passes -- if it's not too late. But Collins equalled popular appeal, something this album has been lacking since it hit the bins... and stayed there.

Calling All Stations is a transition album for Genesis, and should be approached as such. But with a few exceptions, this might be a call you'd be better off letting the machine get.

Rating: C-

User Rating: A-



© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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.