I believe this is the first progressive song I ever heard and it began a life long love affair with this music. Genesis’ Nursery Cryme begins with “The Musical Box.” It is one of the all time great prog rock songs and is still played in some form by the band on even the most recent tours, and tribute bands (of which there are many) cannot perform without at least a nod to this. It is a mix of dynamics with light and shade throughout its over ten minutes. “Musical Box” is full of 12-string guitars and powerful electric, almost a textbook lesson in prog songwriting. I had never heard music this beautiful before. Upon hearing this for the first time, I knew I had heard “my” band.
This was also the first album for Steve Hackett and Phil Collins who would both become integral parts of the music industry for years to come. They both bring forth really good performances on this album, and we are even treated to a rare early vocal performance by Phil on the quiet “For Absent Friends.” Hackett has great moments on “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” and “The Fountain of Salmacis.” Not forgetting anyone else here the Mellotron drenched “Seven Stones,” “Return of the Giant Hogweed” and the amazing “Fountain of Salmacis” drive home the talents of Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford as well.
Peter Gabriel was really finding his voice and developing his theatrical talents at the time and the stories he is telling are designed to put on a show. “Harold the Barrel” is hands-down my favorite “silly” song by the band. It has funny voices and call & answer sections as it reveals a story of a man drawing a crowd while standing on the ledge ready to jump. The addition of Collins not only as a top-notch drummer, but as a vocalist really help out on Nursery Cryme, as this song and the sweet harmonies on “Harlequin” confirm.
Compositional and songwriting skills were at their peak beginning here. Playing ability and recording techniques would get even better later. I’m not certain about this, but I don’t think you can be a progressive rock fan and not have at least one Gabriel-era Genesis album in your collection. I think it’s pretty much a rule. Although I might pick the next album 1972’s Foxtrot over this, you can’t go wrong with Nursery Cryme as a seminal work from an inspirational band. They are setting standards here for themselves and the prog community for years to come.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on July 19th, 2011