Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
The Doobie Brothers,
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

Or, What Were Once Harmless Affectations Are Now Threats to the Public Good. When it comes to the Doobie Brothers I’ll never be able to say it better than The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, who dismissed the band’s 1976 Takin’ It to the Streets with the words, “You can lead a Doobie to the studio, but you can’t make him think.” But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

But before I do that, I should ‘fess up. I like a fair number of Doobie Brothers songs, probably because I heard them as a kid on AM radio and if you can get a kid at the right age and deny him anything better he’ll lap any old shit up.

I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere where the notion of a real rocking time was going to the CYO dances on Saturday night, and every single one of the faceless bands that played those dances tossed a few Doobie Brothers into the mix. You were as certain to hear “China Grove” as you were to hear “Colour My World.”

So there it is, I’m fucked for life and need some serious deprogramming I’m never going to get if only because I don’t really want to be deprogrammed. I get off on the stupid circle in the round singing on “Black Water” and always will.

But hey, I wouldn’t be a world-famous rock critic if I weren’t able to put my own feelings aside (yeah, right) and don the mantle of objectivity, and by any objective standards the Doobie Brothers produced lowest common denominator rock for the common man, like Grand Funk or Three Dog Night only with a little more boogie in ‘em. When you can dismiss a band with the words, “Yeah, well, they rock harder than Loggins & Messina” that band is in trouble, and it didn’t help that the Doobies never put out a truly solid LP. You have to go to their greatest hits album for that.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bob Marley
and the Wailers,
Natural Mystic: The
Legend Lives On

Is not liking reggae a full-blown mental disorder? A symptom of hopeless whiteness? Or just a sign that one has closed one’s heart to the message of Jah?

I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve never liked reggae, and I’ve spent my entire adult life looking for a cure. I didn’t like the reggae booming out of the rooms in my college dormitory; I didn’t like the reggae being played every day I spent on the beach at Cancun during my first honeymoon.

It was too laid back for this terminally uptight caucasian; I don’t do relaxation, and subliminal grooves like “Jamming” gave me a discernible facial twitch. I wasn’t down with reggae when I was smoking as much ganja as a Rastafarian, and things didn’t get any better when I stopped because the shit was making me as crazy as your average baldhead.

Rock ’n’ roll I get, but where’s the rock ’n’ roll in “Trenchtown Rock”? How Bob Marley and the Wailers could address a subject like burning and looting and sound so relaxed while doing so left me befuddled. Marley’s uncanny knack for wedding militant lyrics to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” riddims made no sense to me, just as his chill delivery and occasional “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” lyrics offended the pessimist and anti-escapist inside of me.

But I’m nothing if not tenacious, and I meant to “get” reggae if it killed me. What I needed was a way in, and I finally found it in the form of 1995 Bob Marley compilation Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On, which my girlfriend, god bless her, lent me. It’s not the best Marley compilation out there, but it worked its magic on me. I listened to it in my car for a solid week, and finally, after a long life of uneasy skanking, things began to jump out at me.

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Graded on a Curve: Lynyrd Skynyrd,
God & Guns

I’m a giant Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, but I’m not an idiot; I know damn well the greatest Southern Rock band of ‘em all played their last worthwhile gig at Greenville Memorial Auditorium just hours before their plane went down in that swamp near Gillsburg, Mississippi on October 20, 1977.

And the reason is evident to anybody with a functioning brainpan. Ronnie Van Zant wasn’t just the heart and soul of Lynyrd Skynyrd, he was The Talent, and his tragic death put paid to any notion that the band could again rise to greatness. You might as well try to recreate the Who without Pete Townshend.

But diminished or not rise from the ashes they did, and who am I to gainsay the legion of adoring fans who have faithfully followed Lynyrd Skynyrd Mark II down all the years? I never paid them much mind, although I did attend one of their shows as a writer for the Washington Post and went on to dismiss them as a meat and potatoes rock ’n’ roll band sans the meat.

For the most part we went our separate ways, Skynyrd and I–they minded their business and I minded mine. That is until I ran across a copy of their 2009 LP God and Guns and, intrigued by its take-that-pussyfooting-liberal title, decided to give it a spin. And not surprisingly, I was downright appalled. Or would have been, that is, if I didn’t have a healthy sense of humor.

This band of ringers and second stringers–by 2009, guitarist Gary Rossington and keyboardist Billy Powell were the only original members still around–goes out of its way to offend my tender sensibilities. And I have to hand it to ‘em, because they almost succeed; they love their god and they love their guns, and so far as I can tell their Jesus holds a Bible in one hand and a Smith & Wesson XVR 460 Magnum in the other. And he’s completely amenable to sending you to Heaven with it.

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Graded on a Curve:
Rod Stewart,
Blondes Have More Fun

It’s tempting to say that Rod the Mod jumped the shark on 1978’s Blondes Have More Fun, but it’s hardly accurate; rock ’n’ roll’s most lovable bad boy had been on a downward slide ever since 1974’s Smiler. And anybody who thinks “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” was Rod’s first ignominious bellyflop into the pop music swamp obviously missed “Hot Legs” from 1977’s Foot Loose and Fancy Free.

In short Stewart’s decline was not precipitous but gradual. That said, by the time Blondes Have More Fun came out, Stewart had coarsened from irrepressible rogue to leering roué, and from a teller of incredible coming of age songs to the type of aging lothario who enjoys his “dirty weekends.” Gone was the Stewart who gave us “Maggie May,” “Every Picture Tells a Story,” and “You Wear It Well,” replaced by the old-enough-to-know-better celebrity sleaze who gave us “Attractive Female Wanted.”

Gone forever was the guy who captured the confusion and triumph of growing to manhood; the Stewart of 1978 sounds winded, jaded, and willing to settle for pure pop pablum. No more songs of innocence and experience for the face of the Faces; these are songs of priapism and shlock, his trademark tartan scarf replaced by Italian suits and everything they represent. At his best he sang for Everyman; here he comes across as just another Eurotrash playboy.

At his best, Rod Stewart was an underdog and cheerful fatalist; he was the kind of guy who got arrested in Paris “for inciting a peaceful riot” and fell for the wiles of an older woman but who wrote it all off with a nod and a wink and a homespun philosophy that was as simple as it was sound (“Make the best out of the bad just laugh it off/You didn’t have to come here anyway”).

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Graded on a Curve:
Grin, 1 + 1

What a trooper. Over the course of his long career–from his prodigal years with Neil Young to his sojourn with Grin to his ever-hopeful solo years to his tenure with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band–Nils Lofgren has shown flashes of greatness, but has never become the big solo star he might have been.

The 1970s in particular must have been tough on our rock ’n’ roll journeyman: good press and a fair amount of hype failed to translate to big sales, either for his band Grin or his much-ballyhooed solo endeavors. Like Graham Parker, Lofgren is the epitome of the bridegroom left waiting forever at the altar, and this despite his having produced some truly top-of-the-shelf music.

Take Grin’s 1972 LP 1 + 1. Having parlayed his tenure with Neil Young into a record deal, Nils formed the three-piece Grin, and on this their sophomore LP he put his formidable songwriting chops to good use in binary fashion, bequeathing us an album with a “Rockin’ Side” and a “Dreamy Side.”

Produced by Neil Young associate David Briggs, 1 +1 blends touches of power pop, country rock, hard rock, and good old orchestrated shlock, and if the shlock doesn’t work everything else hits home. The “Rockin’ Side” is a tour de force, highlighting as it does Lofgren’s ability to write terse, no-nonsense power pop and hard rock songs that will stick to your ribs; the “Dreamy Side,” while a tad more uneven (“Just a Poem” is an embarrassing misstep), demonstrates that he has a flair for the softer stuff as well.

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Graded on a Curve:
Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Second Helping

We remember Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ed King who passed away on Thursday, August 23 with a look back from our archives.Ed.

When people—and by people I mean people who can’t believe a person of reasonable intelligence could possibly like the rednecks in Lynyrd Skynyrd—ask me why I love the band, I always tell them the same thing. I tell them that Lynyrd Skynyrd was the best Southern rock band ever, Fight Club, a future meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that was never held, and rock’s greatest tragedy all rolled into one. Of course it doesn’t convince them for all kinds of reasons, including Skynyrd’s prominent display of the Confederate battle flag, its contentious celebration of the state of Alabama and mock feud with Neil Young, “Free Bird”—you name it. Some people just love hating Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I wish I knew why.

I get the “Free Bird” bit—it’s long and goes on for a really long time and its been played to death on the radio—but as for the rest of it, I say phooey. I don’t believe—Stars and Bars and pro-Alabama song notwithstanding—that Lynyrd Skynyrd had a racist bone in its body, and people consistently fail to hear female back-up singers Clydie King, Merry Clayton, and Sherlie Matthews singing “Boo boo boo” after Ronnie Van Zant sings “In Birmingham they love the guv’nor” in “Sweet Home Alabama,” perhaps because they simply cannot conceive of a bunch of ignorant rednecks like Lynyrd Skynyrd possessing a sense of irony.

But I always thought Ronnie Van Zant was one highly intelligent guy, albeit rough around the edges and when intoxicated prone to punching people in the face and on occasion even attempting to push them out of airplanes in mid-flight. But I always found Ronnie’s foibles amusing, endearing even, and the fact is that when he wasn’t knocking Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell’s teeth out—twice—he was writing great and nuanced songs in the vein of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, only set to a rock beat. And still he couldn’t win; the same people (Yankee hipsters all) who think loving Merle and Waylon proves their open-mindedness still despise Skynyrd. As Robert Christgau noted when MCA released the compilation Gold and Platinum in 1979, “It’s not fair, really–everybody who was dumb enough to dismiss them as another pack of redneck boogie freaks now gets to catch up.” But most of ‘em failed to catch up even then, and what is to be said about such adamant close-mindedness except their loss?

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Graded on a Curve:
Galaxie 500,
Today

You have to hand it to Boston’s Galaxie 500; they sure knew how to make a lot out of a little. First they made a fetish out of the third Velvet Underground album, then they proceeded to fashion an entire (if relatively short-lived) career paying tribute to it with their minor key but often thrilling dream pop.

Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. We all have our role models, but Dean Wareham (guitar, vocals), Naomi Yang (bass), and Damon Krukowski (drums) took slavish hero-worship to the V.U. about as far as you can without offering human sacrifices at an altar of Lou Reed.

But hey; if you happen to love 1969’s The Velvet Underground (and who doesn’t?), the band that took its name from a friend’s car is guaranteed to light up your pleasure receptors like a pachinko machine. Their droning (but often exhilarating) shoegaze has a way of colliding with your synapses and causing them to sizzle like bug zappers, and if you’re like me the result is a low-dose case of happy delirium.

On 1988 debut Today, Galaxie 500 established the blueprint for their entire career. Slow tempos, delicate melodies, lots of cool strumming and chiming guitar, a dependable drone–and let us not forget Wareham’s (and sometimes Wang’s) fey, tender, and almost tentative vocals. This is music that will break your heart, and not because it evokes heartbreak, terror, pity or any other recognizable human emotion. No, it will break your heart simply because it’s there.

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Graded on a Curve:
Heino,
Mit Freundlichen Grüßen

The septuagenerian German superstar Heino has spent more than five decades doing the predictable–churning out mortifyingly maudlin Schlager and Volkmusik songs for sentimental German-speakers to sing and clap along with. He really has no American equivalent, although Neil Diamond at his very worst comes close.

Heino (aka Heinz Georg Kramm) is perhaps best known in English-speaking countries for his frightening album covers (google the cover of Liebe Mutter, I dare you), but in Germany his old-fashioned renditions of Schlager (it means “hit,” but these are most certainly not your idea of hits) and German folk songs make him much beloved, albeit mostly by the elderly and the kinds of folk sentimentalists who never miss out on a chance to break out the lederhosen.

Germany’s alternative-music loving young people, of course, consider him the enemy–the personification of backwards-looking nostalgia and the bane of anyone who has ever turned on German television only to be treated to a solid hour or two of sheer Schlager terror. But Heino had a surprise–or should we say a blitzkrieg?–up his sleeve. The platinum-haired, dark-glasses wearing Teuton may look like the epitome of a sinister Bond villain, but he has more in common with Liam Neeson’s character in Taken.

To wit, Heino has a particular set of skills, a set of skills he developed over a lifetime, and in 2013 he put them to hair-raising and nefarious use on the ironically titled Mit Freundlichen Grüßen (which translates as “With Best Wishes”), on which he covered songs by some of Germany’s most popular punk, industrial metal, and hip hop artists. It was a master stroke of agitprop by a man eager to take revenge on the people who despise him, as he made crystal clear in interviews where he expressed contempt for the very songs he was covering.

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Graded on a Curve:
James Chance and the Contortions, Buy

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Of all of the bands that came out of New York City’s No Wave music scene, my faves have always been James Chance (aka James White) and the Contortions. The Contortions combined the atonal jazz skronk of Chance’s blurting and squealing alto saxophone with broken-glass-sharp shards of guitar, played atop one very funky bottom. I preferred Chance because you could actually dance to his music, agitated as it was, because in his own special way he never abandoned that James Brown groove—he just tortured it a bit.

How Chance’s sax stands up to that of “serious” jazz players is open to debate; while he briefly studied under the great David Murray, I think of Chance as an outlier, what with his brief tenure in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Brown screams, nihilistic world view, and frequently antagonistic interactions with the very people who paid money to see him play live. These very “punk” attributes certainly separated him from the likes of his free jazz contemporaries, whose style he incorporated into his own playing. But the bottom line, when it comes to comparisons between Chance and the many other purveyors of free jazz is this: Can the guy actually play his horn, of is he just one very ballsy but amateurish poseur?

I asked my brother Jeffrey, a world-renowned free jazz expert, and this is what he said: “Regarding James Chance, I’m not quite sure where to rank him. Sonically, his alto falls neatly in the Luther Thomas/Noah Howard/Albert Ayler range. Chops-wise, I don’t think there’s a big enough pool of recorded material, especially material where he really stretches out, to see how good he really is, or could have been. That said, I think he’s ridiculously interesting, and captivating, as a soloist. What may have started as a joke, or a goof, very well could have morphed into something far greater.

John Lurie, who began in much the same vein, over time developed into an incredibly articulate player/composer. He outgrew the caricature he first presented himself as to become, in the end, a fine altoist whose sound fit hand in glove with his compositional skills. If James Chance ever played/recorded with some of the more jazz-oriented No Wave players, I think he could have done much the same thing. Imagine him sitting in with the Free Lancing-era James Blood Ulmer trio; that could have been the crucible. As it stands, however, you treat him as a joke at your own disservice.”

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Graded on a Curve: Aretha Franklin,
Lady Soul

The recent passing of Aretha Franklin was hardly unexpected, but it still sent many millions of people the world over into flash mourning. Here in America, the Queen of Soul inspired us through the Civil Rights Years with her soaring voice, set our hearts a-beatin’ with her timeless R&B anthems, and sent us to Heaven with her songs of devotion and praise. She was the very definition of “young, gifted and black,” and her immortal voice will roll down the ages like soul thunder.

With a discography that spanned from the late 1950s to 2017, Aretha produced more than enough great music to stock a top-notch jukebox, but most everybody has a favorite Franklin LP. Me, I turned for solace upon learning of her death to 1968’s Lady Soul.

As with most of her albums, Lady Soul demonstrates Franklin’s amazing range; unlike many of her albums, Lady Soul gives Aretha the opportunity to show off her amazing range on a uniformly amazing collection of songs. She cooks up a heady soul stew, gets real funky, reaches for the stars, and sings from the gut about her poor broken down heart, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had one foot planted solidly in her hometown of Detroit and the other one in the Great Beyond.

Franklin got her start at her daddy’s New Bethel Baptist Church in the Motor City, and while she ultimately took the secular route, her gospel beginnings always showed; just listen to her spirit-rousing cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” on which she sings about a heaven-bound train that’s coming and thanks the Lord more times than I can count. I’m not a devout man, but this one makes me want to cry, “Raise me up, Jesus! I wanna ride that glorious soul train!”

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Graded on a Curve:
The Rolling Stones,
The Rolling Stones No. 2

Step back in time with me, won’t you, to the year 1965, when Dylan went electric, The Beatles went “Nowhere Man,” and a scruffy English R&B band called the The Rolling Stones released The Rolling Stones No. 2, which included a few tentative attempts at writing their own material.

In hindsight, the last named might be the most important musical occurrence of 1965, but Rolling Stones No. 2 isn’t a great album because it includes a trio of songs by what would become one of rock ’n’ roll’s most formidable songwriting teams. It’s a great album because The Rolling Stones had their R&R and R&B chops down, and were producing a cocksure product that belied their tender years.

So named because it was the second Rolling Stones LP released in England (if not in America), Rolling Stones No. 2 is a jaunty, swaggering romp through the archives of American popular music by a quintet of wide-eyed English lads who knew what they loved and were dead set on living up to the high standards of the artists who inspired them.

They kick first-generation rock ’n’ roll’s keister with their motorvatin’ version of Don “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” Raye’s “Down the Road Apiece,” which tools down the road just fine; prove they can’t be caught on their souped-up cover of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” on which they say goodbye to New Jersey forever; and go swamp rockabilly with a vengeance on their hand-clap heavy and reverberating take on Dale Hawkins’ immortal “Suzie Q,” which boasts lots of berserker drumming and some of the most frenzied guitar playing you’ll ever hear.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Kinks, The Kinks
Are the Village Green Preservation Society

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Ray Davies is without a doubt the most fascinating and enigmatic figure to emerge from England’s whole Merseybeat movement. Was he a hard rocker or music hall romanticist, an ironically distanced and gimlet-eyed chronicler of an England in terminal decline or the biggest mourner at the funeral?

One can only conclude that he’s all of the above, and add that he was, during the late sixties, the smartest fellow on the entire English rock scene with the possible exception of the Bonzo Dog Band’s Vivian Stanshall. That he chose to exercise his estimable talents during this period writing seemingly modest vignettes—miniatures if you will—of middle-class English life should not stand in the way of our adjudging the results—in this case 1968’s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society—to be undeniable masterpieces.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society—which was released on the same day as the Beatles’ White Album—is probably Davies’ finest hour. Indeed, I for one think it’s the finest of the “concept” albums to be released by the great bands of the era, although I’ll hardly argue with you if you go with Pet Sounds. On its 15 tracks Davies attempts to do what Marcel Proust did with his seven-volume novel À la recherche du temps perdu—namely, to recapture lost time, and in specific his lost childhood spent in the little village green near his home in Fortis Green.

The album is a wistful look back at a “simpler” time, albeit one tinged with knowing irony—the Ray Davies who sings, on the title cut, “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity” is, without a doubt, having us on. And yet there’s an edge of sincerity there too—why not save vaudeville and variety, if they’re sunny childhood memories? But the truly wonderful thing about this remembrance of things past is the way Davies holds out the hope that—as he sings in “Do You Remember Walter?”—memories remain even as people change.

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Graded on a Curve:
Lou Reed and Metallica,
Lulu

Lou Reed was so full of shit in his lifetime it was impossible to ever take a word he said seriously, so when he said of this unlikely 2011 collaboration with Metallica that it was “the best thing ever done by anybody,” it was easy to write it off as just more empty punk braggadocio by the guy who invented empty punk braggadocio.

And it was even easier to write off given that said collaboration, Lulu, is regularly featured on worst-ever album lists and received a largely hostile response from everybody from Pitchfork (who gave it a damning 1.0 out of 10) to noted rock critic Chuck Klosterman who wrote, “If the Red Hot Chili Peppers acoustically covered the 12 worst Primus songs for Starbucks, it would still be (slightly) better than this.”

Me, I gave it a cursory listen when it was released and promptly filed it under S for Suck. But something called me back–Lou, whom I love and hate, is always calling me back–and I’ll be damned if this much derided collaboration doesn’t have more than its fair share of alternately brutal, tender, cold-blooded, and yes even majestic moments.

Sure, most of the songs on this “concept album”–which returns us to the scene of 1973’s equally controversial Berlin–go on far too long, and both Reed and the boys in Metallica go out of their way to pummel normal human eardrums into cowering submission (just check out the hammering and unrelenting “The View,” on which Lou actually bellows). And it’s definitely not for fans of “Melodic Lou,” who opted to stay home during these proceedings.

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Graded on a Curve:
Sir Douglas Quintet,
Mendocino

Hey ears: Hungry for some delicious Tex-Mex? I recommend you head for lovely San Antonio, where in 1964 the late, great Doug Sahm put together the Sir Douglas Quintet, which proceeded to cook up a heady concoction made out of ingredients from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The band hit a creative peak with 1969’s Mendocino, which may have failed to make much of a dent on the pop charts but stands up just fine as a stellar collection of bravura performances by a band that was bravely creating its own Longhorn brand of what Gram Parsons famously dubbed “Cosmic American Music.”

What set the Sir Douglas Quintet apart from its contemporaries was its range of flavorings; thanks to the farfisa organ of Augie Meyers and the psychedelic-tinged guitar of Sahm, the Quintet could deliver the garage rock goods, but they could also turn on a peso and, by means of Sahm’s fiddle and country croon, sound like they were playing a barn dance. And on LP closer “Oh, Baby, It Just Don’t Matter” they ratchet up the decibels, crank up the guitar, and make like nothing less than a Lone Star State adjunct of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Mendocino’s two stand-out tracks are both farfisa-fueled; thanks to Meyers the title track is one of the most cheerful salutes to a small city you ever will hear, while “She’s About a Mover” is a stone-cold rave-up, from its crunchy guitar to Meyers’ Vox Continental organ, which Sahm introduces by saying, “Lay it on me Augie.” A jerky-jerky salute to gutbucket rock ’n’ roll served up border style, “She’s About a Mover” is as timeless as they come and the most noteworthy thing to come out of the city on the San Antonio River since the Alamo.

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Graded on a Curve: Genesis,
Trick of the Tail

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Well, there goes another theory shot to shit. I always thought Genesis hit the aesthetic skids the moment Peter Gabriel split and drummer Phil “The Anti-Christ” Collins took over on lead vocals, but I’ve been listening to 1976’s Trick of the Tail, the first post-Gabriel LP, and I’m afraid I was sadly mistaken. Trick of the Tail is not a great album but it’s a very good one, packed with well-constructed tunes with lovely melodies that occasionally, but not too often, stray into the prog trap of technical virtuosity purely for virtuosity’s sake.

Peter Gabriel’s departure threw Genesis’ future into question. A Melody Maker writer went so far as to declare Genesis officially dead. But the band committed itself to proving it could make good music without Gabriel, and after a fruitless search for a new lead vocalist Collins, who wanted to turn Genesis into an instrumental act, reluctantly agreed to take on the vocal duties himself. Which in hindsight seems like a no-brainer, as Collins is a virtual vocal doppelganger for Gabriel and the obvious candidate as a replacement.

Album opener “Dance on a Volcano” has muscle and a fetching melody, to say nothing of some powerhouse drumming by Collins, whose exhortations (“Better start doing it right!”) sound convincing. There is some technical showing off for its own sake, especially at the end, but this one is more hard rock than prog, thanks to Steve Hackett’s guitar work and Tony Banks’ synthesizer. “Entangled” is a bit fey for my tastes, a quiet little pretty ditty, but it wins me over with its melody, which is simply lovely. There’s a beautiful synthesizer solo, which doesn’t attempt to mime classical tropes the way your more virulent and dangerous progmeisters would, and I like it for that.

“Squonk” is tres cool, a lumbering but still lovely number about a mystical beast that dissolves into tears when captured. Collins’ vocals are excellent, and the band pounds out the beat, and I love it as much as I do any song by Genesis, including the great “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).” The title of “Mad Man Moon” leads you to expect a raver, but it’s no such thing. It opens with some too-pretty keyboards, and is too saccharine for words until it climbs and climbs to a climax that is very, very nice. Then there’s a piano-dominated mid-section that sounds like pseudo-classical hokey-pokey to me, and I suffer. Then the song takes off, and it’s all copacetic, at least for a short while. Unfortunately the song soon returns to its beginning, before finally wilting under Banks’ sugary piano.

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