Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Foxtrot, released in 1972, was the second Genesis album that featured the complete “classic” lineup—original singer Peter Gabriel, bass player Mike Rutherford and keyboard player Tony Banks were joined by guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins. Although similar in many ways to its predecessor Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot rocked harder, was better produced, and included what would become the band’s signature piece, the (nearly) full-side epic “Supper’s Ready.” It was the first Genesis album to appear in the UK top 20, and helped to launch the band to worldwide success.
Genesis was formed in 1967; the following year, still in their teens, they released From Genesis to Revelation. Its sound, reminiscent of the pre-disco Bee Gees and early Moody Blues, is virtually unrecognizable as Genesis and despite some nice moments, was unsuccessful. Thereafter, the band took over responsibility for its sound, moving toward the longer, more complex songs that became their trademark, on the follow-up album Trespass. Nursery Cryme (their first album with Collins) followed, and marked the point where the band really gelled. During this period, Gabriel became known for bizarre costumes and stage routines, often designed for the practical purpose of allowing the band to re-tune during the longer pieces, but which served to forge the band’s identity.
Most Genesis covers seem to live in a prog-rock space; we have been unable to locate anything as bizarre as the blues version of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” that you can hear here. But Foxtrot has spurred musicians to create truly personal takes on its songs.
Brady and the Wheeler Brothers – Watcher of the Skies (Genesis cover)
The album opener, “Watcher of the Skies” was also the traditional set opener for Genesis during this period. The Mellotron that you hear was purchased used from King Crimson, and known as the “Black Bitch” because it kept breaking down. A post-apocalyptic song, with a title cribbed from Keats and a plot influenced by Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, “Skies” features that great Mellotron intro, some searing guitar by Hackett, and clever, busy drumming from Collins. As if all that wasn’t proggy enough, it also includes sections in 6/4 and 8/4 time.
Normally we try to avoid covers that sound too much like the original, but this one, by Brady and the Wheeler Brothers, is so incredibly spot-on that it merits a listen. Although you can tell that this isn’t Peter Gabriel singing, the music sounds scarily identical to the original recording.
Mad Crayon – Time Table (Genesis cover)
The intensity of “Watcher” is followed by this pretty, nostalgic ballad about “when kings and queens sipped wine from goblets gold,” which turns into a meditation on the transitory nature of power. Genesis loved using puns in its songs and titles, and here the song itself discusses a “table,” while the title can, of course, have more than one meaning. Often overlooked in the Genesis canon, “Time Table” apparently was never played live by the band, and that is a shame. This solo piano version of the song is beautiful. It comes from the official You Tube channel of Italian prog rockers Mad Crayon, but the actual player is not specifically identified.
Lee Lucas & Graham Lavallin – Get ‘em Out By Friday (Genesis cover)
This multi-character piece, in which Gabriel sings in different voices, is a rare satirical song about real estate redevelopment and gentrification. It concludes with the Swiftian solution of simply genetically engineering humans to be shorter so that more of them can fit in less space. This version, which is pretty faithful to the original, is by two British musicians, vocalist Lee Lucas and guitarist Graham Lavallin, who also is credited “with an arrangement of a midi sequence authored by Simon Goodwin.” These gentlemen have posted a series of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis covers on Bandcamp, free for the taking.
Brand X II – Can-Utility and the Coastliners (Genesis cover)
Back we go to medieval times. This tune is about King Canute, a Dane who became King of England in 1016. The son of the wonderfully named Sweyn Forkbeard, Canute ruled England for nearly 20 years, and is considered to have done a pretty good job, probably due to the lack of media coverage. One oft-told tale about Canute is that he commanded the tide to halt, and when it predictably failed to do so, he used it as an object lesson to his sycophants about the limited power of earthly kings. It is a great story, even if it probably never happened (and is often misunderstood), and not the usual source material for a rock and roll song. The original starts off gently, then turns into a rocker – as does the cover, credited to “Brand X II,” although befitting that band, it has more of a fusion feel than the original. The original Brand X was a side project formed by Collins and guitarist John Goodsall, which went through many personnel changes over the years. This lineup included Goodsall and drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgillio, who had briefly replaced Collins on drums in Genesis during the best forgotten Calling All Stations era.
Gonzalo Quintela – Horizons (Genesis cover)
This short piece was a solo showpiece for Steve Hackett, and was likely considered a mellow introduction to the insanity to follow. Based partially on the prelude from Bach’s first cello suite, Hackett veers off and turns it into something of his own. This cover, by Argentinian guitarist Gonzalo Quintela, a member of the prog/metal band The Evenfall, takes the original and adds a bit of Spanish flair.
Kobori Masakasu – Supper’s Ready (Genesis cover)
“Supper’s Ready” is a litmus test. Either you appreciate 23-minute-long songs filled with complex, varied music that is expertly played, with odd time signatures and brilliant, impressionistic lyrics, or you think that stuff like that embodies what was wrong with prog rock. It is a fascinating piece, inspired by Gabriel’s then-wife Jill’s experience of going into a trance and speaking in voices. He insists that no drugs or alcohol were involved. From this, Gabriel, and the rest of the band, produced a song about the biblical Book of Revelation, and the end of the world. Yeah, that again. Much has been written about this one, and we don’t have unlimited room here, so if you want to learn more, you need to do some of your own digging. Here’s a place to get started – after that, you’re on your own.
This version is an all-synthesizer instrumental, thus removing the pesky distraction of lyrics about Magog, foxes playing dice, Narcissus and dragons, and leaves you to appreciate the music. It is credited to Kobori Masakasu, a Japanese artist and tea ceremony expert who died in 1647, but who appears to actually be a guy from Indiana named Sean Goldsby.
Bonus: Men of Lake – Twilight Alehouse (Genesis cover)
Another mostly forgotten Genesis song that deserved better, “Twilight Alehouse” may date from as early as 1969 and was regularly played live. It was finally recorded for the Nursery Crime album, but didn’t make the cut, later being released as a flexi-disc single, and then as the b-side of “I Know What I Like,” a song from the album that came after Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound (another pun). It is a powerful song about finding comfort in drink, and the original is a strong rocker which also includes a long flute section.
Italy, for some reason, has been a fertile ground for prog rock in general, and Genesis in particular. Nursery Cryme hit #4 on the Italian charts, and Foxtrot topped out at #8. And PFM, maybe the best Italian proggers, for a while featured a singer, Bernardo Lanzetti, who vocally was a dead ringer for Peter Gabriel. This cover, by the band Men of Lake, comes from a 1996 double album of Genesis covers issued by Italian label Mellow Records, featuring mostly Italian bands. It’s pretty good, although – like so many prog rock songs – it loses something without the flute.