Spotlight Album Review #5

Reviewed on this page:

The three-decade career of the English band Genesis was a remarkable one, though it was one without a happy ending. Most rock enthusiasts are probably familiar with the band's evolution from an early '70's art-rock quintet to an '80's pop trio. Genesis was originally formed in 1967 by five recent high school grads in Surrey, England. They achieved moderate success in their homeland as an art-rock outfit. Peter Gabriel was their theatrical, storytelling, costume-wearing lead singer. Gabriel's 1975 departure from Genesis was the best thing that ever happened to both parties. They had become a mutual creative burden on each other, and their separation freed both of them to create their best work. Drummer Phil Collins took over the role of Genesis frontman with amazing self-confidence. By the time the '80's began, the band had shrunken to the trio of Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks, and guitarist Mike Rutherford. The Genesis sound changed from prog-rock to pop-rock, and they incredibly became one of the most popular bands of that decade (thanks in no small part to the pure pop of Collins' successful solo albums).

In 1995, Collins finally departed Genesis. Instead of folding, Banks and Rutherford decided to continue with a new vocalist: Ray Wilson, a 28-year-old Scottish singer from the alternative band Stiltskin. Many people thought it was unthinkable that Genesis could exist without Phil Collins, but many had once said the same about Genesis without Peter Gabriel. Banks and Rutherford promised an album that would be "harder and darker". This was a potentially interesting prospect. On the 1991 album We Can't Dance, the final album with Collins, the band did seem to be revisiting some of their old art-rock territory. Some people even argued that Collins' pop tendencies had become a creative burden on Genesis, just as Gabriel's theatrical intellectualism once had. Was it possible to reinvent Genesis a second time?

Apparently not. The resulting album Calling All Stations was a commercial disaster, as was the accompanying tour, and Genesis disbanded. New vocalist Ray Wilson received much of the blame for the band's demise, but a listen to Calling All Stations suggests that it probably wasn't his fault. Banks and Rutherford wrote all of the songs; Wilson shares credit on three ("Not About Us", "Small Talk", "There Must Be Some Other Way"), which are among the better ones. Banks and Rutherford also produced the album with Nick Davis. Calling All Stations is a full return to art rock, but it is bland and unadventurous. Most of the songs are long on atmosphere and short on substance. Banks and Rutherford simply had nothing new or compelling to offer. Wilson is only guilty of being average. In fact, he bears a strong vocal resemblance to Paul Carrack, making Calling All Stations sound like a moody Mike + The Mechanics album. (Sound exciting?). The lyrics mostly dwell on emotional detachment from the world. Unfortunately, the album succeeds all too well at being emotionally detached from the listener. Even the more accomplished songs ("Alien Afternoon", "The Dividing Line") do not reveal any type of inspired vision. It's not pleasant to see a long-running band end this way, but you'll be glad when the album itself is over. (Note: Calling All Stations was reissued in November 2007 in a newly remastered edition which also featured a bonus DVD).

Track Listing:

1. Calling All Stations
2. Congo
3. Shipwrecked
4. Alien Afternoon
5. Not About Us
6. If That's What You Need
7. The Dividing Line
8. Uncertain Weather
9. Small Talk
10. There Must Be Some Other Way
11. One Man's Fool


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)