|The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)|
The rock band Genesis used to be a household name. Back in the ’80s they ruled the charts around the globe – three middle-aged jazzbos playing synthesizers and singing into drumsticks in their videos. Lead singer Phil Collins perhaps the most unlikely of pop heroes. It’s not as if he hadn’t earned his stripes or anything. Sarcasm off.
Flashback to the early ’70s. Glam was waxing and with it, a mutant stepchild: prog rock. The name itself, a shibboleth to indie rock tastemakers throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Avoid with extreme prejudice. This was musical AIDS. Surely those snarling, surly punks circa ’77 had done away with all that…theatricality.
The thing was, when Peter Gabriel fronted the band (till 1975), they were one of the most creative and powerful units in rock history. From the faerie tale theatre of 1970s Trespass thru ’72’s Foxtrot (with it’s 20+ minute nearly side-long epic “Supper’s Ready”) and into ’73s genre-defining Selling England By the Pound, the band weaved a symphonic cacophony that etched away at the culture milieu. You had the gritty, soulful vocals of Mr. Gabriel, the classically-aimed rock fusion of keyboardist Tony Banks, the unexpected and versatile guitars of Steve Hackett and the impeccable rhythm section of Mike Rutherford and Collins. The music hinted at two worlds, not completely in sync. If early ’70s Genesis were of their time – what a strange time it was indeed.
By ’74, the contractually obligated group decamped to a decaying English estate celebrated by other hairy, ’70s rock types (You can find the story elsewhere). The songwriting flowed despite inter-band friction and an occasionally absent Messrs. Gabriel and Hackett. What ultimately resulted was the glorious, four-sided, double-vinyl affair, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Lucky for us, time has been rather kind to The Lamb. Listening now, it’s hard to believe this came out 40 years ago.
While no chart-topper (it just failed to crack the Top 40 in the U.S.), the LP ironically boasts the group’s only FM-rock staple with Gabriel as lead singer – the title track. While I can tire of some of the group’s earlier releases, Lamb never seems to fatigue. Favorite tracks include “In the Cage,” “Carpet Crawlers,” “Anyway,” “The Lamia,” “Colony of Slippermen”…ah screw it, the whole thing is great. Maybe because it goes in so many directions often at once. Unlike some critics, I don’t necessarily think it would be better as a single disc. It’s imperfect, it was rushed, but sometimes limitations make the most of a situation. This was coming from a group that had issued 7 Lps in 6 years (that does include one live LP, but c’mon, these guys were busy).
My advice? Dig in. Enjoy.