LIVE from Your Speakers: Genesis, SECONDS OUT

Friday, July 6, 2018

Prior to recording the first of their two 1976 albums, A TRICK OF THE TALE, Genesis decided that their drummer, Phil Collins, was the ideal candidate to take over for Peter Gabriel as lead singer — something that must have surprised Collins as much as it did the rock press and Genesis fans. Drummers do what they do behind racks of tom-toms and stands of cymbals; bringing the bearded, rather nondescript Collins out front to lead the band must have seemed initially, as the British put it, daft. Crazy. Nuts.

Collins, of course, wound up being just fine, showing versatility and range through A TRICK OF THE TALE and the gorgeous WIND AND WUTHERING later that year. The tours behind those records were high-quality affairs, if 1977’s live album SECONDS OUT is any indication. The album shows Collins wholly graduated into his new role, and the remainder of the band — guitarist Steve Hackett, keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford — perfectly acclimated to the change.

You can hear it immediately on “Squonk,” where the song’s atmospheric intro doubles as the concert’s intro, immediately grabbing the audience and lifting it on a straight-ahead tempo and an undercurrent of synthesizer. On A TRICK OF THE TAIL, it spoke of where the band might go as a four-piece; on SECONDS OUT, it gives the audience the good news about where they’re headed that evening.

There is so much beauty in WIND AND WUTHERING’s “Afterglow,” it’s hard to contain it in a mere four-plus minutes. The melody goes directly to the heart and wraps around it, as any great music can; the lyrics expand on that emotional response, leading up to those final lines: “The meaning of all that I believed before / Escapes me in this world of none / I miss you more.” The mock-choral conclusion gives the song a majestic ending, drawing Side One to a close and setting up the listener for the start of Side Two, a lovely run through “Firth of Fifth,” with its extended middle section, in which Banks and Hackett trade probing, expressive solos.
Of course, there’s all 24 gloriously proggy minutes of “Supper’s Ready,” with its tempo shifts, dynamic passages, funny voices and abstract storytelling. Banks’ keyboards — layers of them — set the tone and set the song in motion. This one of the great prog rock epics, certainly the equal of pieces like Yes’ “Close to the Edge” and Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.”

By the time SECONDS OUT was released, Steve Hackett had left Genesis, leaving the Banks/Collins/Rutherford trio that would constitute the band for nearly two decades, until Collins’ departure in 1996 (he subsequently returned for a reunion tour in 2006). SECONDS OUT is the last expression of early Genesis, and the first indication of the success that would follow.

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