GENESIS Live (Virgin) 

Yes, it’s great, and I’ve known it was great since I first heard Gabriel-era Genesis getting on for a quarter of a century ago (a friend lent me “Brothers In Arms” and “Nursery Cryme”; copied to the same C90 Mr Knopfler’s gentle consumer culture satires rapidly began to pale compared with the crazed English eccentricity on the other side) but reviewing this CD the night after “Close To The Edge” makes it sound like the work of sleepy underachievers. Surely Rick Wakeman wouldn’t be caught in the same postcode as something as, uh, uncomplicated as the rolling Mellotron intro to “Watcher Of The Skies”. There’s also the nagging sensation that, compared with the meticulously controlled studio versions of these songs found on band’s first three Charisma records, they sound a bit fumbled in live performance, lacking the last ounce of drive and dynamism. Whilst we’re racking up the demerits, it would be nice if the somewhat meagre packaging had featured more evidence of Peter Gabriel’s oft-referenced theatricality; as it stands we only see him in his Magog mask and bat wings. At a mere five tracks and 46 minutes it might’ve been better if the album had been made a double, making the existence of a rare Dutch promo pressing that also included more of Gabriel’s between-song banter (all we get here is “That was an unaccompanied bass pedal solo by Michael Rutherford”) and –gasp! – “Supper’s Ready” all the more tantalising.

Many of those criticisms are excused by the fact that “Live” was a budget-priced release, intended as a holding action whilst the band worked on their masterpiece, “Selling England By The Pound”. As a gratifying bonus, “Live” also became the band’s first UK top 10 hit album. If it concentrates on the epics, there are enough moments of light and shade to them to make the exclusion of the band’s more compact compositions forgivable. As a low-cost primer for Gabriel-era Genesis it’s as much of a success now as it must’ve been in 1973.

Peter Gabriel