2020 marks the 40th Anniversary of Genesis’s true breakthrough album, 1980’s Duke. It was their first album to hit #1 in the UK as well as their highest charting album in the U.S.to that point. It also featured their first top 20 single in the states, infectious unrequited love opus “Misunderstanding”. But enough of the facts, I’m about to say something controversial so all of you prog rock purists might want to look away for a second. Here goes…
I think Genesis got better once Peter Gabriel quit the band.
Once detached from the confines of Gabriel’s cryptic conceptual costumed creations, the melodic impulses of the remaining band members, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Steve Hackett (he until 1977) were finally able to run unencumbered and free. This of course meant they could fulfill their destiny as the the glorious pop-prog hybrid behemoth gods they were always meant to be.
From the very first release after Gabriel’s departure, 1976’s A Trick of the Tail, the sonic shift was in full effect, its songs possessing both a brevity and succinctness that had only ever been hinted at on previous albums. The lyrics became more relatable, the emotions were no longer obscured by arcane imagery. Most significantly, there was a hearty head nod to pop. Over the years there’s been a bit of a disagreement between the purists who prefer the Gabriel-helmed version of the band and the pop fans who love PHIL, as to which version of the G-Men is better (in broad strokes, it sometimes breaks down as older fans vs. newer fans and, yes, men vs. women). As a member of the latter demographic, I can say that my personal disagreements with other Genesis-loving nerds have consistently, predictably unfolded in this fashion (all in good humor, though, I swear). I think the stretch of studio albums sans Gabriel, released from 1976-1983, represent Genesis at their absolute creative peak. And I just want to offer up one last factoid: Duke, one of the poppiest, most personal, never-met-a-radio-it-didn’t-like albums they ever made, is keyboardist Tony Banks’s absolute favorite Genesis album.
And so with that, meet Steve Reidell.