Atlantic Records, 1979


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The Police reunited in 2007 for an overpriced arena tour and, to get their name out, released a double-disc best of collection.

Genesis did the same thing, but instead of a double disc collection, they released remastered (again) versions of the first five albums with Phil Collins as lead singer, the ones made between 1976 and 1982. Not only are the discs remastered, each is a double-disc set unto itself, with the second disc a DVD with 5.1 sound mix, interviews, some live footage and more goodies.

Duke is the fourth of this five-CD lineup, which includes A Trick Of The Tail, Wind & Wuthering, ...and then there were three and Abacab. Although several hit singles came from the latter three, all five showed that the art-rock spirit of the best early Genesis hadn't completely died. 

Still, Duke is a chore, a mundane pop approach that fails to recall the greatness of old or invoke something new. It is still a group effort, with Tony Banks and his synthesizer dominating the proceedings, but there's just not enough solid songwriting to endear it to either longtime fans or newbies who only know "Misunderstanding."

Originally, five of the songs here were part of a 28-minute suite - "Behind The Lines," "Duchess," "Guide Vocal," "Turn It On Again," "Duke's Travels" and "Duke's End." These songs are scattered throughout the disc and help unify the proceedings. "Behind The Lines" is an obvious pop song, reminiscent of the bass-free weenie production that would characterize most Collins/Genesis music from this point on, but there are times where the music and Collins' vocals recall my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, and for that it's worth hearing. This is still original pop, unlike most other new wave music of 1980, and it's fascinating.

"Duchess" is a short song bookended by two minutes before and after of ambient piano playing, while "Guide Vocal" is a minute-long piano solo with Collins singing above it. Neither song is particularly great, but taken together with "Duchess" and "Behind The Lines" it ends an interesting pop suite, not as compelling as anything Paul McCartney did in this vein, but worthy of the Genesis name.

Would that the rest of the disc lived up to that standard. "Man Of Our Times" and "Heathaze" are among the most boring Genesis songs ever, not even exciting enough to have made the cut on ...and then there were three. "Misunderstanding" was the hit, though it's simply good and nothing more, while "Alone Tonight" and "Please Don't Ask" are also boring, slow and only possessing a smidgen of passion, sounding like rejects from Wind & Wuthering. If you like the synthesizer, you'll love this album (the only spot of note is a brief snippet of "Please Don't Ask" that sounds like A Trick Of The Tail, the best post-Gabriel album). "Cul-De-Sac" is acceptable too.

There is only one bright spot on the middle portion of the disc -- the rollicking, arena-ready "Turn It On Again." It was good enough to be chosen as the name for the band's first hits collection, and it remains a great pop song, punched up with Collins' drums and some of his manliest vocal work.

The art rock tag comes back into play with the final two songs of the original suite, "Duke's Travels" and "Duke's End," representing 10 minutes of instrumental work. Sure, with no guitar, it's pretty lame, but it proves the band can hold the listener's attention with compelling, winding keyboard-led instrumental passages, anchored by Mike Rutherford's bass and Collins' drums. It's a tad bombastic compared to the rest of the disc but it fits in as solid art-pop, which I guess is what Genesis would be called here.

That ambition would be scaled back on each successive release of the 80s as Phil Collins went solo at the same time. This one remains a fascinating, flawed entry into the Genesis canon.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A



© 2007 Benjamin Ray 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.