||GENESIS: 'SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND'
October 12, 1973, Genesis would release their fifth studio album titled 'Selling England By The Pound'. This is the third in a string of quality albums that began with 'Nursery Cryme'.
Although not a concept album, much of its lyrical content can be seen as social commentary on the State of Britain in the 1970s, a state of the nation report which concluded that the country was in terminal
After all, this was a time of serious social unrest, economic uncertainty, and the beginning of a three day working week.
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Veering between Arthurian legend, Ealing comedy and medieval minstrelly, 'Selling England By The Pound' gently mourns the passing of a nation without cloning sentimentality, but pulls no punches in pinpointing commercialism, Americanization and the gradual erosion of long standing values as the greatest way of English life.
'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight', a brilliant opener, starts with an accompanied Peter Gabriel asking the question that sets the tone for much of what is to follow. "Can you tell me where my country lies?", he pleads and as the instrumental backing builds up momentum behind his words, we are taken on a guided tour of some of the social changes beginning to make their mark on Britain in the early 1970s.
The lyrical complexity is matched by musical setting, featuring some inspired guitar work from Steve Hackett whose contributions to this album are outstanding throughout.
'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)' was the first top 40 hit for the band and it got as high as number 19. On one level, the track is about a simple man whose Life is dedicated to cutting grass, but in the context of the album wider social issues are implied. The English class system and the importance of knowing one's place are strongly reflected in the lyrics and the chorus.
The whirling sound which starts and ends the track which was apparently achieved by playing the same chord on two different keyboards (electric piano and organ) which were slightly out of tune with each other. The result was a 'beating' sound provided a neat way to represent a lawnmower to open and close the piece.
Other fine tracks are 'Firth Of Fifth' as well as 'More Fool Me', Phil Collins' lead vocal debut with Genesis, although no one could have guessed at that time that this would become a permanent arrangement three years later.
'The Battle Of The Epping Forest' is another example of Gabriel's sharp social observation, here presented in a manner that marries his eye for detail with surrealistic vision with keeping with the overall tenor of the album.
'After The Ordeal' is the album's only instrumental track and the album's final two tracks are 'The Cinema Show' and 'Aisle Of Plenty' and they could very well be classified as one cohesive track.
It is Tony Banks' finest hour. Here he demonstrates his talents with such skill and craftsmanship, the way a woodworker takes to put the finishing touches on an old rocking chair.
In closing, 'Selling England By The Pound' was Genesis' finest hour and a coming out party for Peter Gabriel's social conscience and that is where he will sharpen his political skills to his greatest effect as a solo artist.
'Selling England By The Pound' sets the stage for the band's climatic piece work 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'.
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