50 Years Ago: ‘Selling England by the Pound’ Sets Genesis’ Path
They did just that with the Oct. 13 1973, arrival of Selling England by the Pound. There's a slew of literary allusions here (T.S. Eliot in "The Cinema Show," Tolkien in "The Battle of Epping Forest"), but there's also the almost glam-rock propulsion of "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)."
The literary references are apt, since Selling England might be best described as an anthology of short stories, loosely interwoven but separated rather than a true concept album. Unlike their subsequent double-album opus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which marked the end of Genesis' celebrated five-man lineup, each of the songs here works both together and of a piece.
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If commentary like "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" was a touch too insular in its focus on modern English life, and the puns sometimes a bit over the top ("he employed me as a karmacanic"), it's all counterbalanced by a group performing at its musical zenith.
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A Group Performing at its Zenith
Check out Steve Hackett's stunning solo on "Firth of Fifth," and Phil Collins' jazz-inflected cadences throughout. Tony Banks' underrated keyboard work (notably in "The Cinema Show") remains the album's other principal voicing, but Mike Rutherford's bass begins to take on a more prominent role as well.
Peter Gabriel is at his narrative best in "Epping Forest," while Hackett gets another tasteful feature in "After the Ordeal." There's also a notable hint of what's to come for Genesis with the darkly emotional Collins vocal feature "More Fool Me."
All of this gives Selling England by the Pound a layered complexity and an uncommon accessibility, even as it brings together all of the many disparate elements that made Genesis such a force. At least for the time being: Gabriel would be gone after the next studio project, then Hackett two albums later.
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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso
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