Genesis - Selling England By The Pound

Year of Release: 1994
Label: Atlantic
Catalog Number: SD 19277-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:41:00

I was prompted by a recent conversation about "The Battle Of Epping Forest" to give this disk another listen. I hadn't really given it that much attention, in comparison to Nursery Crime or Foxtrot.

Listening to it again I find there is quite a bit to like about it. There are two aspects to Genesis on this outing - the serious and the humorous. The latter isn't in the slapstick, played for laughs kind of way, but more in the "mildly amusing, but making a point" kind of way.

The humorous aspects come in two tracks, the classic "hit" "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" and "The Battle Of Epping Forest." "I Know What I Like?" is much more effective than "Battle," though the humour is more in the presentation than in the lyrics themselves. Drawing vivid characterizations of the people around him, the "lawnmower" compares his lot in life to theirs, presumably the pompous upper class (or so they'd like to think), and finds he likes being the lawnmower (there is more than that being said, of course). This is done with one- or two-line lyrics. The bass and percussion bounce along at the end (along with sitar, I think) where Gabriel delivers the lyric: "Me, I'm just a lawnmower - you can tell me by the way I walk."

On "The Battle Of Epping Forest," which, it is said, is based on "a news story concerning two rival gangs fighting over East-End Protection rights." The humor quotient is higher here, based more on lyrical word play, and over-the-top characterizations. This is no more apparent than on "The Reverend" section of the song ? which is a bit of ribaldry, as well (instead of reprinting the lyrics, I'll point you to the Genesis - The Way They Walk site). While the music is quite good - there is a piano part by Banks that I quite like that has a feel of Italy ? somewhat stereotypical, of course, but I can picture an accordion player in a small caf?. But it is ever so brief that it isn't allowed to go anywhere. There are other snippets of music that are interesting, but get buried underneath Gabriel's vocals. Oddly, it wasn't until hearing this track that I heard just how much Marillion did sound like Genesis, specifically how much Fish mimicked Gabriel. At any rate "Battle" is a bit overlong, I feel, and not really Genesis at their best. In fact, had "Battle?" been presented with the same level of seriousness as the rest of the album, or the balance of "I Know What I Like?" it would be far more successful.

The other aspect is the serious, and spans the rest of the album. "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" opens Selling England By The Pound (1973), and like other Genesis classics (and not so classic), it runs through numerous mood and tempo shifts. My favourite sections of this track are the pastoral intro that begins with Steve Hackett's guitar and Tony Banks' keys supporting Peter Gabriel's vocals. I also like Hackett's first solo bit. The section that surrounds it is quite muscular, with Phil Collins' powerful drumming and Mike Rutherford's thrumming bass. For the outro, Banks entertains with light, lyrical notes over gentle washes that evoke that a crystal clear night, where the air is crisp, and night full of possibility. The whole track itself is quite interesting, but these are the highlight parts for me. If there is a Genesis pattern, this is it, at least where opening tracks are concerned. Even if the instrumentation is different, compare it to "Watcher..." and "The Musical Box."

The true highlight of the album, and the main reason to recommend it, is "Firth Of Fifth." This is my favourite track from this album. From the opening solo piano, through it's shifting tempos, to the beautiful interplay of guitar and keys, percussion, and voice. It is simply a beautiful piece of music. I'm no musicologist, so I can't go over the technical details of the track (though Ed Macan does a fine job of this in his book, Rocking The Classics, which I highly recommend), but the whole presentation of the track is spectacular. There is no "over-the-top" silliness, as one finds later on "Battle Of Epping Forest," for example; no theatrics. Just an elegant, sweeping, symphonic track. Perhaps the best balance of vocals and instruments of any Genesis track. There is the same sense of seriousness as on, say, "The Musical Box" or "Watcher Of The Skies." There is a part at the beginning that sounds a bit like an earlier Genesis track, "Seven Stones"

Between this and "The Battle Of Epping Forest" comes this uncharacteristic track with Collins on lead vocals, "More Fool Me." I thought of, variously, James Taylor and America. And, of course, solo Collins. This is a very light and airy track, just vocals and acoustic guitar; it's a nice track, but far from what I would think of from Genesis. The other often-quoted song from this album is "The Cinema Show."

Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (8:02) / I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) / Firth Of Fifth (9:36) / More Fool Me (3:10) / The Battle Of Epping Forest (11:43) / After The Ordeal (4:07) / The Cinema Show - Aisle Of Plenty (12:40)

Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string
Phil Collins - drums, percussion, and vocals
Peter Gabriel - vocals, flute, oboe, percussion
Stephen Hackett - electric guitar, nylon guitar
Michael Rutherford - 12-string, bass, electric sitar

From Genesis To Revelation (1969)+
Trespass (1970)
Nursery Crime (1971)
Foxtrot (1972)
Live (1973)
Selling England By The Pound (1973/1994)
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 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1806
Language: english


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