Genesis Archives Vol. 1 – 1967-1975
(Atlantic 82858)

More than 20 years after most of the material on this 4CD box set was recorded, and a few years after their final chapter was written, Genesis shipped the first of their two volumes of archive material to the stores. This first collection, unofficially referred to as "The Peter Box," represents the first few chapters in the bands history, working its way backwards from their peak of their progressive-art rock years to their humble beginnings as a group of budding school-aged songwriters.

CDs 1 and 2 contain an "almost" live show from their landmark Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour (sadly, no video archives from this visually stunning stage show – complete with costume changes and triple slide screens – exist except for snippets of 8mm silent film). I say "almost live" because as the tape was being remastered, Peter Gabriel redid about 85 percent of the vocals either due to a shoddy vocal track recording or Gabriel's displeasure of his original performance.

In a way, we can almost hear what a Genesis reunion would sound like, as it's the "successful-and-critically-acclaimed-artist-who-gave-us-'In Your Eyes'-and-'Don't Give Up'" Peter Gabriel who sings most of the material instead of the "struggling-prog-rock-frontman-who-wears-fox-heads-and-women's-dresses-on-stage-before-he-became-really-famous" Peter Gabriel.

It's especially evident on the final track of the epic piece "It," as the tape ran out before the end of the show, and they had to use the instrument tracks of the studio version to end the CD (wonderful remaster, by the way). Many of the crowd were put off by the redone vocals, but I'm not that much of a purist. Most of the performance is solid and the show flows smoothly from one track to the next.

Highlights include "In The Cage" (though I still prefer the 3 Sides Live version with Phil), "Counting Out Time," "The Lamia" (achingly beautiful), and "Riding The Scree" (in which Tony Banks lets loose on the poly-moog!).

Steve Hackett also apparently redid some of his guitar parts on the box set, including what is perhaps his only noteworthy guitar solo, in the heavily-influenced-by-early-King Crimson "Firth of Fifth," which appears on CD 3 along with earlier live material with Gabriel that was not included in their excellent Genesis Live CD.

The band is especially tight on "Dancing With The Moonlit Night." Phil Collins makes a lone singing appearance on the refreshingly simple "More Fool Me" before the band returns in full force for their albumside-long magnum opus "Supper's Ready," with one of the few recordings of Gabriel's storytelling interludes. The CD also features performances of material from the Gabriel-Rutherford-Banks-Phillips era, "Stagnation" from the Trespass album and "Twighlight Alehouse," an unreleased track.

"Happy The Man" is a post-Nursery Cryme non-album a-side that sounds very folky in comparison to their more typical British prog sound. The third CD concludes with a single version of the classic "Watcher Of The Skies" which is as enjoyable as the full version.

CD 4 focuses solely on the band's pre-Phil days, starting with a remix of "In the Wilderness" from their first album From Genesis To Revelation. The syrupy orchestral tracks are totally mixed out, and it makes one wish that they'd complete the job with the rest of that album for a remastered re-release!

Next is a trio of non-album tracks from a BBC Radio session, representing the groups transition from being a syrupy British pop group to a progressive British art rock group. With their 12-string acoustics, church organ, and Gabriel's delicate flute work and medieval lyrics, this band would fit right into a Renaissance festival. Tony Banks makes a rare lead vocal appearance on two of these tracks.

Following a few more outtakes from the Trespass album, the rest of the CD becomes horribly unlistenable as over a dozen demos from the band's days at Charterhouse School fill up the space. I don't think I've been able to hear most of these songs in their entirety before reaching for my copy of Genesis Live. It's not that they're bad songs – it's just that they are totally unrepresentative of what I think of as Genesis, and it's of a genre of music I'm not a big fan of. I'll give them kudos for having the balls to put their "garage-band" recordings on such a major release, though.

The box set comes with a beautifully designed book featuring many essays about the band's early days by band members, roadies, managers, and venue owners, as well as many never before seen photographs. Be amazed (or bewildered) by the many stage costumes and masks worn by Gabriel while you laugh at how geeky the rest of the band looked in their beards and jumpsuits. The box set, along with the aforementioned Live album (released originally in 1972) are the essential releases of the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis.

Review by GOD