Genesis - Nursery Cryme

Year of Release: 1994
Label: Atlantic
Catalog Number: 82673
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:24:00

Released in November of 1971, Nursery Cryme (Charisma, LP1052) was Genesis' third album and their first full-out progressive rock effort. After the previous year's release Trespass, Genesis had undergone a major evolution in musical style and an even more dramatic and profound change in personnel. Guitarist Anthony Phillips and drummer John Mayhew had both been replaced, Phillips by guitarist extraordinaire Steve Hackett, and Mayhew by some fellow named Phil Collins who, as it turned out, was one of England's greatest drummers and oh yes, he could sing a bit as well

The departure of Anthony "Ant" Phillips opened up numerous avenues to the band, allowing keyboardist Tony Banks to bring his songwriting more to the fore and, with the added musical muscle of Hackett and Collins to bring the band's loftier ambitions to reality, nothing was beyond their grasp. Nursery Cryme, while perhaps not the definitive Genesis album, showed what the band could accomplish and it was one of the group's best releases of their golden age, which I will define as the albums Trespass through Wind And Wuthering.

This release is a textbook of all the critical elements of symphonic progressive rock and a Bible of sorts of the timeless musical aspects of the Genesis sound. Here Peter Gabriel would become the master story teller and Genesis would provide the perfect and magical musical springboard to propel Gabriel's vocals to legendary status. Whether a fable of demi-god and nymph, strange, exotic plants or murder and mayhem most foul, the music of Genesis lifted the story to heights unimagined and Gabriel's voice would bring life to every twist and turn of the tale. With prose to rival Ovid, Keats and Virgil, the band from the Charterhouse school would combine the music of the romantic era with lyrics that brought the golden light of the classics into contrast with the fading twilight of the British empire. Lyrics similar to those of the Gabriel era Genesis could make one cringe coming from another singer, but Gabriel had the ability to both slyly mock and cast in stone the same idea at the same moment, and absolutely nothing sounded pompous or inauthentic coming from his mouth. The band members interest in writing about the entire span of Western literature and history, sometimes straight forward, sometimes strangely twisted, made Genesis not only a musically brilliant, but literally "important" band.

Lyrical content aside, the music of Nursery Cryme shows a musical confidence that would have been impossible without the addition of Steve Hackett in the guitarist's chair. Hackett's virtuosity, and its impact on the music of Genesis cannot be underestimated. Despite his minimal writing credits during his tenure with the band (reportedly the principal reason for his later departure), his contributions were of critical importance to the new sound of Genesis. The combination of his single note lines and his masterful 12 string guitar style was advanced beyond the abilities of most of his contemporaries. It should also be noted that Steve was the first rock guitarist (that I know of) to use the technique of fretboard tapping. I am always pleased to point out that this was seven years before the world really took notice of this technique. My apologies to Edward Van Halen.

Finally then, on to the music of this release. Perhaps after praising the band so highly, I can now annoy the Genesis lover by panning the opening cut of this album, "The Musical Box." It is a good song indeed, but not one of the most exciting songs of the Genesis repertoire. It was well conceived and executed, but it lacks the musical brilliance and emotional impact of what I consider Genesis's best work. Moreover, it is a bit lengthy, outlasting its ideas by several minutes. This album, like Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound, is an album of a few great works and the others, the filler. As "The Musical Box" is such an institution to Genesis fans, I must mention it, but I will confine further remarks to the three songs from this release that bring me the greatest joy and musical satisfaction. If this should be seen as blasphemy, good Genesis fan, then bail out now, as I may rankle you with my choices from this brilliant album.

"Return Of The Giant Hogweed" is a musical rollercoaster ride, and one of the few songs of the Genesis cannon to put the "rock" in progressive. From its opening triplets, played in unison by Hackett and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford topped with Collins' beautiful cymbal flourishes, to Tony Banks' powerful B-3 rhythms and piano fills, this song is one of the most musically overpowering pieces Genesis ever recorded. Gabriel's vocals are spot-on perfect. His botanical tirade, with its horror film slant, are not only well suited to the music, but endlessly amusing as well, and at just over eight minutes in length, this is a track that can sustain the listeners rapt interest right up to its grand and apocalyptic finale.

"Harold The Barrel" it appears to me, is an homage to one of Genesis' early musical influences, The Beatles, with its rolling, rhythmic piano and upbeat meter, which beautifully contrasts its ghastly lyrics. Of course, what I'd like to know is how one is to climb the stairs to a buildings upper floors after just having cut off all ones toes, but one must suspend disbelief when dealing with a work of art, no? All in all, it is a hugely enjoyable song, and its goofiness is offset by its surreal ending, whereupon our protagonist Harold makes good his threat to "take a running jump" as Banks' unresolved piano chords propel him off the ledge and into thin air. Gabriel's storytelling through the voices of all the players in this drama is tragic and hilarious at the same time.

In my opinion Genesis' greatest work, "The Fountain Of Salmacis" closes this very fine album with a peak rarely reached by any band. I consider this track not only the best song ever recorded by Genesis, but one of the best works of the genre, period. This song has an enormous emotional impact, and its first moments are nothing short of sheer bliss.

It has the finest and most moving Mellotron work I have ever heard, and Hackett's guitar solo representing the struggle between Hermaphroditus and Salmacis is breathtaking in its sonic violence. Collins' tom-tom work in this section creates a martial tone that complements Hackett's solo quite well. For some reason that I do not yet fully understand, the lyrics abridged version of this classic tale hits some emotional spot inside me that I had been previously been unaware of. Gabriel's vocals are perfect, his tone and inflection superb. The line in the first verse, "Within a hidden cave, nymphs had kept a child, Hermaphroditus, son of Gods", and his cry in the first chorus, "Where are you my father, give wisdom to your son," bring on chills and make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. The incredible symbiosis between the songs music and it's lyrical content is magnificent to experience, and powerful beyond any of my expectations. This is progressive rock at its most majestic and proud. My only criticism of this song is that the lyrics fail to fully convey the horror of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis' joining, but that is a small matter indeed.

So there you have it, three masterpieces, and a number of tunes which I can only call "good." Of course there is not a bad moment on this album and all the music on this release is very satisfying, well performed and recorded, though Genesis was never known for the high production values of their early releases. This is, I believe, the best work of the band, though it is hard to call this release superior to Foxtrot or Selling England By The Pound, as they are all essential to any decent collection of progressive rock music. If you do not already own this classic release, the question must be, why not? What are you waiting for?

The Musical Box (10:24) / For Absent Friends (1:43) / The Return Of The Giant Hogweed (8:09) / Seven Stones (5:09) / Harold The Barrel (3:00) / Harlequin (2:53) / The Fountain Of Salmacis (7:54)

Phil Collins - drums, percussion, vocals, voices
Peter Gabriel - flute, percussion, vocals, voices
Steve Hackett - bass, acoustic & electric guitar, 12 string guitar
Tony Banks - organ, piano, keyboards, Mellotron, vocals, voices, 12 string guitar
Mike Rutherford - bass, guitar, voices, 12 string guitar, bass pedals

From Genesis To Revelation (1969)+
Trespass (1970)
Nursery Crime (1971)
Foxtrot (1972)
Live (1973)
Selling England By The Pound (1973)
Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)
Wind And Wuthering (1976)
Trick Of The Tail (1976)
Seconds Out (1977)
And Then There Were Three (1978)
Duke (1980)
Abacab (1981)
Three Sides Live (1982)
Genesis (1983)
Invisible Touch (1986)
We Can''t Dance (1991)
The Way We Walk: The Shorts (1992)
The Way We Walk: The Longs (1993)
Calling All Stations (1997)
Turn It On Again - The Hits (1999)
Archive #1 (1999)
Archive #2 (2000)

The Genesis Songbook (2001) (DVD/VID)
Live At Wembley Stadium (2003) (DVD)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: July 6th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 1975
Language: english


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