Monday, October 26, 2015

Genesis — Selling England by the Pound


   Sometimes poets and artists can predict the future. And in general visions they can do it with higher accuracy than any division of political or social analytics. The power of artistic exploration and its universal perspective lasts in some aspects of such prophecy remaining relevant even many years later. Competent songs readers and listeners can interpret these visions in any historic situation creating a chance for impact on real history. Even if most of predictions were just exaggerated critiques of actual trends. Although such idea of half-abstractive criticism can be easily found in progressive rock lyrics, most of songs are more poetic and contemplative visions of human relations in this world. This attitude is quite understandable considering rebellious roots of rock music. From its very beginning ambitious part of popular music was part of public scrutiny and this means it had to express criticism and objection against establishment and any form of official politics. This can be applied for the whole genre of progressive rock and especially for early creative activities of Genesis band.
   In early seventies, after Trespass in 1970, Nursery Crime in 1971 and Foxtrot in 1972 classical progressive rock band Genesis was on steady raising trend. The lineup of the band was stable since Nursery Crime sessions, public perception of recordings and concerts was well and reviews of their productions were enough enthusiastic to plan ambitious projects without any hesitation. But 1973 occurred to be the turning point for general conditions of rock and popular music market. Especially progressive rock was the scene of deep change. More and more small labels we concentrated in record companies being enough powerful to run their own politics. In the pursuit of profit they pressed for more popular and attractive forms of musical entertainment. The same 1973 listeners were already weary of long and complicated compositions of post psychedelic music, they were demanding melody based and not too long songs with understandable lyrics. This moment was good for progressive rock bands promoting the idea of concept albums including songs that were enough attractive to be played by the radio.

Genesis — Selling England by the Pound (1973)

   For Genesis nothing has changed. The band played smaller song-like pieces from the very beginning. When other bands were looking for their way out of style based on long suites and improvised psychedelic forms, for Genesis it was the time for continuations and recapitulations. They were in good positions as artists fulfilling their creative ambitions, as well as best selling stars with lots of freedom. Even if they felt this state is temporary only. In August 1973 they recorded album Selling England by the Pound – next set of extended songs merging social, economic, cultural and political criticism on loosing English culture values for domination of American popular culture. It was combining poetic lyrics and syncretic musical style connecting rock with some fusion extensions, folk and traditional music. In 1973 five musicians of Genesis were enough trusted to play songs dealing with major civilization issues and cultural changes. The title of the album, Selling England by the Pound, was a reference to Labor Party slogan.
   Probably these sound structures and relations between instruments are the most interesting element of 1973 Genesis style. It was far from typical rock elaborations of these times. Music for Selling England by the Pound was written together by all members of the band: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford. Arrangements of instruments and creative use of their possibilities made Genesis’ music rich and musical narration colorful with lots of progressive style elements like changes of time signatures, various tempo and harmonic sequences. The use of every instrument is more variable and functional than in texture representative for classical rock. It’s like in symphonic orchestra where various instrument parts are united in one structure. One of most interesting example for such approach was nine and half minute long Firth of Forth composition. This symphonic factor is widely presented on Selling England by the Pound album determining Genesis was one of foremost bands in symphonic rock subgenre which is now considered synonymous with progressive rock or art rock.