Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to an artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also thought that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Fast forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for too many details.
As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:
- The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
- No compilations of previous released material will be included.
- However, compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before.
- The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
- Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
Entrance Point: I had heard everything from Genesis going into this and despite never really being into progressive rock, Genesis is one of my rare exceptions in that I can equally enjoy their 70s output as much as the poppier material from the 80s forward.
All albums ranked on a 10 point scale:
- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (10)
As you see, I’ve given this 1974 opus a perfect 10 score and it would actually be somewhere in my top 5 albums of all time – but that said, it’s a weird record for me. The double disc 94-minute behemoth of prog rock, is a sometimes bizarre narrative of a boy named Rael from NYC who goes on a journey and encounters odd things along the way. Peter Gabriel’s story line is great and it flows nicely from song to song and the music is outstanding. Songs like the title track, “In the Cage” “The Carpet Crawlers” and my favorite on the record, “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging” are simply mesmerizing. The weird part of this one for me is that while most of the times I listen to it, I feel it warrants my top five placement and then other times I wonder what I was thinking. It’s an album that I really have to be in the right mindset for considering that prog-rock isn’t what I’m into but when I am, it’s a brilliant damn album.
- Genesis (8.5)
There’s no other perfect album in the catalog for Genesis and I guess at this point (1983) you probably still liked Genesis if you were able to accept that they became a more pop/rock group and abandoned their prog roots. And I hear this all the time – “when they became a pop band” – well, they never really became a traditional pop band. If you listen to any of the records from the 80s, you hear pop songs for sure, but the songs Phil Collins’ writes are typically a bit darker, which you can hear in his solo work and the band and there are prog touches, if not full prog songs on every record.
With their self-titled record, you get all of this – the dark, percussion heavy “Mama” which contains one of my favorite moments in rock music, the points where Phil goes “ha ha hey, ooohhh” – creepy as shit and totally amazeballs. There’s the straightforward singles “That’s All” and “Taking It all Too Hard” and the prog element with “Second Home By the Sea” the almost instrumental progressive companion to “Home By the Sea” right before it. The weirdest single in the catalog is also on here – “Illegal Alien” where Phil sings in his bad Mexican accent which frankly, sounds vaguely racist and definitely wouldn’t fly today. But the record also tails off at the end, finishing with three dull songs. And this the problem with so many Genesis records – they have great moments and some really dull non-singles. But this record has the least of the “filler.”
- Invisible Touch (8.5)
Invisible Touch is of course the commercial peak of Genesis’ career with the fantastic singles that take up the entire first side of the disc, “Invisible Touch” “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” “In Too Deep” and “Land of Confusion.” Some of those singles, if you listen closely simply aren’t as basic as some people tend to think. The album version of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” is more than 8 minutes long with some nice progressive passages in the middle and while “Land of Confusion” is remembered for the video more than anything else, the bass line and Tony Banks’ keyboard work are pretty intricate if you listen closely. The 10 minute, two-part “Domino” suite is good but a bit out of place on this album though and while album closer, “The Brazilian” is a great instrumental, it also seems like it should have been a B-side rather than included here.
- Nursery Crime (7.5)
- Wind & Wuthering (7)
- Selling England By the Pound (7)
Of their prog-rock output when Peter Gabriel was still in the band, Selling England By the Pound has to be the most critical acclaimed of the bunch. Again, as a guy who grew up listening to nothing even close to resembling progressive rock, this was a bit foreign to me for a long while but I liked Genesis a lot more as I grew up and my tastes matured. Personally, I still find this one a little overblown in the end, as “The Battle of Epping Forest” and “The Cinema Show” seem a bit pretentious to me. But it does contain “I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)” and the awesome “Firth of Fifth” which Tony Banks wrote most of and as such there’s some great keyboard work in it.
- Foxtrot (6.5)
- Duke (6.5)
- Trespass (6)
- Three Sides Live (6)
- We Can’t Dance (6)
I really wish this album was better because it’s a pretty fascinating record for 1991. Despite the upbeat and silly “I Can’t Dance” as the hit single on the record, nothing else sounds like it on the disc. Instead you get mostly three flavors of music. There’s plenty of darker tracks like they have been known for, there’s straight adult pop ballads and there’s progressive tunes – and none of them blend well together. Those adult contemporary ballads like “Since I Lost You” that sound like a band going through the motions, don’t work well. A song like the 10 minute “Driving the Last Spike” or the slightly progressive “Way of the World” are both great tunes but in the context of this record, don’t work well. It’s a bizarre mix of sounds on a record that has a lot of potential but in the end falls flat more often than I would like.
- And Then There Were Three (6)
- Abacab (5.5)
- Genesis Live (5.5)
- A Trick of the Tail (5)
- Calling All Stations (5)
The reason I stop here to talk about their final record from 1997 is because it’s that unique outlier in the catalog thanks to Phil leaving the band after the last tour. This is the infamous Ray Wilson record that exactly four people other than myself have listened to and for good reason. Dull. Dull. Dull. Tony and Mike held auditions for a new singer and somehow this was the best they could come up with. His voice is fine but he has the personality of a slug and it doesn’t help that the only trait of any Genesis record that’s present here is the dark, mid-tempo pop. And with the shortest songs being just under 4 1/2 minutes – you get meandering, dull tracks that go on to long with a singer that makes them even duller. After listening to this again, I’m not sure what I even gave this a 5. It’s listenable but you might only hear half before you fall asleep.
- The Way We Walk, Vol 1: The Shorts (5)
- From Genesis to Revelation (5)
- Live Over Europe 2007 (4.5)
- Seconds Out (3)
- The Way We Walk Vol 2: The Longs (3)
I saw Genesis live in concert at one point late in their career and they were pretty solid but they don’t translate well at all to disc and nowhere is it more evident than here on “The Longs” which is as it sounds – performances of their long progressive numbers. The “Old Medley” that starts off the album is 20 minutes of Phil singing on five tracks from the Peter Gabriel era and not pulling them off well. The albums ends with a “Drum Duet” with Phil Collins and Chester Thompson that’s just not worth anyone’s time. In between you have just 4 other songs, for a whopping 70 minute, 6 track record with no power, no energy and zero balls anywhere on it.
- Summary: 21 albums, average 6.1