Monday, November 2, 2009

Genesis: Chapter and Verse and Ray Wilson

I bought the book Genesis: Chapter and Verse earlier this year after reading several positive reviews. Being a longtime Genesis fan from the deep dark 70s, I've been fortunate to meet Phil Collins and Tony Banks back in 1982 and have collected many books on the band including Armando Gallo's I Know What I Like (the first detailed book on the band as far as I'm aware), Hugh Fielder's The Book of Genesis, and more recently Dave Thompson's Turn It On Again.

Of particular interest to me was the Ray Wilson era. By the mid-90's after Phil Collins announced his departure from the band I was delighted to discover they would continue with a new singer and drummer. I felt they could use a bit of a change-around to freshen their approach (much as I've loved Phil's contributions to the group). When I heard some clips of the new album Calling All Stations online I was quite intrigued. Ray's voice was darker and as many people have commented since, similar to Peter Gabriel's.

Once I bought the album I had some reservations about the band's new direction but for the most part was enthusiastic as it sounded very unlike We Can't Dance and Invisible Touch. In particular, "The Dividing Line" almost sounded like a track from The Lamb. In fact, in one section the chord progression reminded me of "Lilywhite Lilith." That in itself gave me goosebumps; Tony Banks' chord sequences often have that effect on me. Same with "Uncertain Weather;" some people said the song would not have been out of place on And Then There Were Three with its sweeping orchestral breeze. I would have to agree.

I also enjoyed the opening to "Alien Afternoon" with the augmented and diminished chords setting the eerie mood. Those kinds of harmonic touches were fewer (or at least buried in the mix beneath the drums) back in the latter 80s. It was a refreshing change.

When the 1997 tour was announced I was surprised the band would be playing a large venue like the (then named) Capitol Center near D.C. I thought the management would have started with smaller capacity halls, see how it went and build from there since Phil, a huge drawing card, would not be there with the band. As it turns out Tony Banks said that's what he would have done; but the thought was that the 80s and early 90s fame the band enjoyed would carry over into this new incarnation. Sadly that was not the case and the U.S. tour was canceled due to low sales.

Disappointed, I managed to get a VHS tape of a rehearsal for their first European gig in Budapest of all things! 'Twasn't great quality but I got to see Ray's stage presence and check out Anthony Drennan's guitar lead on "Firth of Fifth" (which I preferred to Daryl Stuermer's, much as I love his playing). I thought Nir Z did a great job on drums and was intrigued with the young blood infusing the band with new energy. The European audiences apparently responded warmly to this semi-return to the Gabriel-era stylings and I was hoping for another album to observe the band consolidate its new assets and move into a new era. From what I've read, Ray did too. I think the next album would have been even better and perhaps the band would've had a chance to build on their European successes and return to the States on the next album tour. I don't believe they would've had the "... nasty lingering death ..." Tony Banks predicted for them. No one will ever know unless they have access to a parallel universe travel device.

Again, disappointment as this particular lineup ceased to exist. I understand Mike and Tony's reluctance to start all over again to build the band up. Tony apparently seemed keen but Mike still wanted to keep the Mechanics going and that would have drained the needed energy from establishing this new Genesis. From my perspective (not having been in a mega-band!) it would have been stimulating and challenging to gear up and remake the band once more. I think had they continued it would have been somewhat like Yes' recent tour successes with Benoit David and Oliver Wakeman. New young blood in the band that has really stimulated and "fired up" the "old" guys. Steve Howe really has been into it the past year with this new incarnation of Yes and I wish Genesis had stuck it out and done something similar.

I'm please that there are several videos of Ray's stint with Genesis; a particularly nice version of "Calling All Stations" I found at

Chapter and Verse has a very informative section on this era of the band with some nice photos and I appreciated the two-page commentary from Ray Wilson ("Ray's Tale"). I hope to catch him live when I travel to Europe.

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