According to the blurb, this book claims it will cover Genesis’s shows post-1975 from the Trick of the Tail tour, as well as the solo careers of the various official members. It specifically states it will “document the hundreds of rare recordings that document Genesis in its natural environment.” This implies that it will pick up the story from where Paul Russell left off with his 2004 book Play Me My Song.
The book itself fails to deliver exactly what it promises, and in truth is an unfortunate misstep. Priced at £24.99, a level normally the reserve of first edition hardback books, this paperback feels flimsy and includes just shy of 260 A4 size pages.
The coloured margins make it easy to jump to various sections; however, the print starts to wear off rather quickly leaving noticeable white marks. The book has a smattering of images, some of which have been used without the owner’s permission. Two examples are the Brand X tickets on page 199 and the redacted Dark Town press kit page on page 175. A few pages have full-sized images, but these vary in quality: some are noticeably cropped, zoomed, or pixelated. Nevertheless, some are much clearer. The included content makes for useful illustrations, and, in any case, licensing images can be tricky.
Design choices and proofreading are questionable at certain points. There are frequent kerning errors and typos where, given the delays to publication, you would expect them to have been corrected. Various pages in the book contain misguided or poorly researched word choices. For example, Curtis Mayfield is mentioned as being “Motown sounding” – earlier in the book, Motown is also misspelt as “Mogtown”, an unfortunate typo on page 213. Curtis Mayfield was not a Motown artist; his sound is more akin to Chicago Soul. Also, the layout and margins are headache inducing. I am still trying to peek through the valley where half of the words disappear into the spine. Squinting and pressing the book to my face was not an enjoyable experience and caused scoffs of amusement around the house. The text is squeezed to the edge, which is a reasonable criticism because it makes it a chore to read. When you consider the lengths the publisher and author went to on the author’s earlier title, Sketches of Hackett, it feels as though quality control comprises were made for the sake of ambition. Readers expect typos and a few grammatical issues here and there, but not when a book has been delayed so long and not to this extent. It is unprofessional. Nevertheless, the ambition is there, and that cannot be faulted.
Even ignoring the issues with printing, proofreading, and the lack of an electronic version (Kindle, anyone?), there is a distinct absence of journalistic integrity or even a real point to the book. It fails to serve as anything more than an overstated opinion piece (the irony of this review is not lost on us) about bootlegs, which are nonetheless accessible and swapped by many in the fan community. This is the community that would be interested in picking up such a book about Genesis. The question therefore suggests itself: why would they want a book telling them exactly what they already know, or an unqualified opinion with which they might disagree? The attraction of Paul Russell’s book was the fact that he obtained access to the band’s live review tape archive, thus the readers of that book believed – in hindsight, wrongly – that Genesis were testing the waters with Paul’s book to see if there was a market for the live show review tapes.
In addition, factual errors abound. Has anyone ever heard the horns (brass section) on Man On The Corner from the 1981 album Abacab? Well, apparently the author has, which he goes on to talk about on page 51. This is yet another stunning error from the person some people wrongly crown as the Genesis expert. Regarding the overly marketed forewords, did Phil Collins have nothing more to write about the book than a few words no longer than a tweet?
There’s no new content or information which provides insight or depth to the history of the band. If anything, there is a remarkable lack of detail. None of the changes of instruments (some of which would make a huge difference to the sound) is mentioned. The musical terminology is hokey and wrong, with glissades being used instead of the term glissando – unless an accurate metaphor of Tony Banks’ playing during Home By the Sea (on page 91) was akin to descending a snowy slope. Due to the nature of reviewing, phrases become clichéd and unimaginative. Worse than that, they tell the reader little to nothing of value. Occasionally, onstage comments are revealed from the shows and a few moments of interest highlighted, but even these are lacking substance. Steve Hackett’s guitar solos are often “ripping the hairs from the back of your neck…” and Chester Thompson’s “drumming threatens to destroy the drum kit…” – along with any member of the group (barring Tony) who is about to “raise”, “lift”, or “remove the roof off the venue”. If more music theory had been employed, it would have helped to describe the recordings to the degree that the author and promotional material appeared to promise.
In fairness, there are attempts at being technical and to distinguish the performance against the quality of a recording, even if some of the comments are arguably incorrect. For example, how can Mike apparently play bass in Edinburgh 1992 on No Son of Mine, when he clearly plays guitar in every video from 1992? In addition, does Mike’s bass really “fill the room”? We had a listen and it doesn’t – using studio quality monitors at least. Which highlights another point: what audio equipment (speakers or headphones) were used for the reviewing? How many subs were used? No information is included about audio equipment or the listening environment.
There are other comments that are confusing. Phil’s voice is supposedly “ragged” in 1992, despite the pre-FM show actually sounding fairly decent, and Phil’s vocal (although lacking mids) sounding great. No mention of key changes throughout the book, such as the whole-tone-lower version of Turn It On Again from 1998 as one example.
The Phil Collins Both Sides tour is poorly represented with only the European leg featured via a soundboard from the autumn 1994 Manchester performance. However, a very good audience recording from the Marcus Amphitheatre in Milwaukee on 16th July 1994 does exist, and it has a better set list featuring an entirely different song to underpin the band intros – a jazz version of Invisible Touch. The UK Leg, however, utilised Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, which Phil first played whilst a guest of Eric Clapton’s in January 1990 at the Royal Albert Hall, and again in February 1991. Once more you’re left wondering what purpose the book serves, especially when you consider the lazy effort that was put into researching the source material. Phil’s most successful tour, in 1990 in support of But Seriously, is reduced to a single show. Astounding. The word “selection” really is true to its meaning.
These concerts are available on collection sites for anyone to download and listen to for free.
As part of a historical musical foundation, the book really offers very little meaningful insight. Furthermore, it doesn’t work as a biography because it has no revealing scoops and no new interviews with any of the band members or touring members. The appeal of the book comes down to bootlegs being reviewed by a fan who possesses little musical theory or comprehension of live sound production. It is an ego push and nothing more. To truly scrutinise the uselessness and pointless effort of this collection of bootleg reviews would need more thought and criticism than the book itself offers.
The “What They Said” section starts off well enough, but if you’re going to use quotes from outside-sourced interviews, why then stray into using sound bites about song composition and other studio stuff? It’s a book about live shows, so one would expect the sound bites to talk about touring and/or other live performance-related issues, such as rehearsals, as this would have been more suitable. To make this section even more infuriating, it fails to list the sources of the interviews accurately or in full. For example, the Record Mirror was a weekly publication, so from which issue in 1980 does one of the quotes come? The book does not say; it could be from any issue in 1980 (if the year is itself correct).
On a positive note, Alan Perry has contributed a swathe of excellent photographic material that’s used throughout, along with other photographers who are poorly logged in the acknowledgements and bibliography.
In conclusion, a book of this standing should be thoroughly researched, and where warranted, musical theory applied. The content should reflect the pricing of the book and give insight into a subject that was unavailable previously. The two most galling areas are the distinct lack of access the author had to the band’s archive and the solo members’ archives of live/rehearsal material, allied with no new interviews featuring any member of Genesis. The key conclusion is that this paperback is at least £10.00 more expensive than its actual value. It is a tome of poor research and fact checking; a misguided attempt. It is a sad reflection on the author’s earlier work, which is rather more proactive in terms of quality and justified in the sense of a stamp of approval. This title feels as though it is an unfocused cash-in on the group. Here are some suggestions which could have improved the book.
Shows not reviewed that could have been considered for inclusion:
Genesis 22nd March 1980 – Aylesbury The Maxwell Hall (Genesis return to the venue that put them on the map)
Genesis 23rd October 1992 – Southampton Mayflower theatre (only performance of Carpet Crawlers throughout the whole tour)
Ray Wilson 1st June 2007 – Milton Keynes The Stables (Electrifying performance playing to a packed venue)
…and many more.
If you want a fan’s-eye view of a few bootlegs and some very nice, if unaccredited, photographs, this book will be up your street. I must state for the record that we purchased our copy from the author’s online shop, which is a safe and secure online experience – their professionalism extends into lightning-fast shipping at least.
To buy the book it is available via amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Selection-Shows-Genesis-Guide-1976-2014/dp/1908724196/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425909330&sr=8-1&keywords=genesis+selection
Below these are a selection of tickets that the author lacked when putting the visual finishing touches to his book:
Note: Steve Hackett played the Wulfrun Hall on the 27th May 1993 and not the 28th when he was in Leicester performing that evening.
Sub note: This review is harsh, but I will stand by my words and I hope the author is able to appreciate some of the suggestions and thoughts. This wasn’t put together in 10 minutes; like all my reviews, it was thoroughly thought through. More content coming soon.
– Quick update to some of the sentence structures.
– Revision to sentence structure and grammar