Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Album: SECONDS OUT
[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]
Throughout both Forty Year Friday and last year’s Thirty Year Thursday series, I’ve generally focused on studio albums. To date only four concert recordings have been featured (by Sting, Pete Townshend, Kiss and Gentle Giant), and two of those were in conjunction with a studio recording by that artist from the same year. There were plenty of great live albums released in the ‘70s & ‘80s but only some of them are definitive statements in those artists’ discographies. Seconds Out, the double-live collection from Genesis, is one of them. Nearly a decade…and eight studio albums…into their recording career, by 1977 Genesis was in the second phase of their career. Their charismatic frontman, Peter Gabriel, had left the band two years earlier, and longtime drummer/backing vocalist Phil Collins took over as their new lead singer. The four-piece lineup of Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks, guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford and lead guitarist Steve Hackett released two wonderful studio albums in 1976, A Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering. Along with touring drummer Chester Thompson, who previously worked with Weather Report & Frank Zappa, the group tackled a wide selection of old & new material on Seconds Out, with 7 of its 12 tracks from the Gabriel years and the other 5 from their two most recent releases.
Collins does a fine job on most of the Gabriel-era material. “The Carpet Crawl” (aka “The Carpet Crawlers”), from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, perfectly captures the beauty & moodiness of the original, while “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” is faithful to the studio recording, with Collins adding some theatrical flair. My favorite Gabriel-era album, Selling England By The Pound, is represented by three incredible performances. The dramatic, multi-layered “Firth Of Fifth” features one of Hackett’s most iconic solos, a 2-1/2 minute tour-de-force that still wows crowds at his solo shows four decades later. Many of his contributions are a bit muted throughout this album, possibly because he left the band during the mixing phase, but listen carefully & you’ll hear one of the unsung greats of the six-string. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” which was their first “pop” hit…in the UK…features an instrumental interlude that includes references to several other Genesis songs. The second-longest song here, “The Cinema Show,” clocks in at nearly 11 minutes. It’s the only performance from the 1976 A Trick Of The Tail tour with Bill Bruford on drums, who effortlessly tackles the 7/8 time signature in the second half along with his battery-mate. The synth melody at 7:20 is one of my favorites in their catalog, and I love the mini dual drum showcase leading into the synth solo. At more than 24 minutes, “Supper’s Ready” was a centerpiece of their early shows. Here they deliver a confident performance of this multi-part suite, but Collins doesn’t quite nail Gabriel’s singular vocals. That’s also the case on “The Musical Box (Closing Section),” where his voice…especially in the “touch me” section…doesn’t pack the necessary punch, but instrumentally it’s a great arrangement for a very short song. Unsurprisingly, Collins’ strongest vocal work is on the songs from his two albums as lead singer. The midtempo “Squonk,” with its loping rhythm & subtle dynamics, is a strong opening number, and I love the slowdown at “mirror mirror on the wall…” The fun & quirky “Robbery, Assault And Battery” is notable for Collins’ cockney accent and the incredible instrumental section that allows Hackett, Banks, Collins & Thompson to shine. “Afterglow,” the only song from the previous year’s Wind & Wuthering, is slow, haunting & gorgeous. Seconds Out closes with the two songs that bookended A Trick Of The Tail. With its melodic hook of “better start doing it right” and a super-tight intricate drum pattern, “Dance On A Volcano” is an era-defining song for them, and it morphs into another dual drum solo that launches “Los Endos,” an awesome instrumental track that clearly brought the crowd to its feet.
Some fans tend to prefer one Genesis era over the others, but I love nearly everything they’ve released, and I think Seconds Out is the ideal entry point for people who unfairly dismiss anything post-Gabriel as “pop” or “sell out.” It’s also arguably among the best live albums ever released. They were a drastically different group than the one that released the enjoyable yet reviled Invisible Touch nine years later. At this point in their career, Genesis was still firmly in the progressive rock realm, displaying impressive instrumental chops & complex compositions with a newfound arena-friendly approach thanks to the unique “everybloke” charms of Phil Collins.