It was a completely surreal moment in TV history that may never be duplicated - and possibly the most satisfying moment I've ever experienced watching an award show. The befuddled audience sat in stunned silence as the alternative rock band Phish opened the show with "Watcher Of The Skies". The 'oh so' beautiful people appeared dazed and slightly disorientated as if exposed to a hazardous chemical spill - or discovered too late that they boarded the wrong plane and were headed for parts unknown. Where were they? What in God's name was that Baroque funeral dirge coming from the main stage? Where was Ozzie Osbourne ... Aerosmith ... The Stones ... or the latest 'flavor of the month' heroine chic rock & roller propped-up against a stack of Marshall amps? This was the 'Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Award Show' ... where was the rock and roll?
In 2010 when Genesis were inducted into the 'Rock And Roll Hall of Fame' vocalist Peter Gabriel was conspicuously absent from the award ceremony (for what-ever lame reason) ... but one former member was delighted to be in attendance - guitarist extraordinaire Steve Hackett. A sense of accomplishment and long over-due recognition registered in his face while watching Phish perform a signature piece from a time when the guitar work of Hackett was an integral component of the classic Genesis sound. And even though Collins did the lion's share of speaking, the exuberant Hackett beamed with joy as he stood behind the podium with award in hand. Steve Hackett has never shied away from his association with Genesis and the contributions he made to the band during their Classic years throughout the 70s.
And even though a majority of progressive rock purist derided the post-Gabriel years, Genesis continued to represent the genre with much aplomb on their next two studio albums, "Trick Of The Tail" and "Wind And Wuthering". It was after the departure of Steve Hackett that the band charted an altered course - much to the chagrin of their original fans. But it was this change that garnered the band mainstream success and chart topping singles. So in retrospect, without this change in direction their induction into the 'Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame' seems highly unlikely.
Throughout their turbulent career it was impossible for Genesis to be all things for all people while remaining true to themselves - critics were never particularly kind to the lads at any point in their career; older fans lambasted the band for abandoning them for a more commercial approach; and artistic chasms splintered the band from within as members struggled to have their compositions accepted for the next album. But instead of allowing the fruit on the vine to wither and die, Genesis continued to blossomed, with new sprouts and off-shoots branching out and expanding their influence on the popular music scene. Peter Gabriel left the group, embraced the age of MTV music videos, and went on to become a highly successful solo artist. Phil Collins established himself as a multi-platinum solo artist while still performing with Genesis. Mike Rutherford made a series of solo albums and split his time between Genesis obligations with the successful side project, Mike And The Mechanics. Tony Banks recorded a variety of interesting solo projects during his tenure with Genesis, which also included the short-lived band Bankstatement, and two post-Genesis symphonic orchestral recordings. And Steve Hackett ... well he remains the most consistent and interesting of the Genesis alumni, with over 20 solo albums to his credit running the gamut from acoustic classical guitar pieces, to blues, and complex highly energetic progressive rock masterpieces. The soul of Classic Genesis still resides within him.
Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Phil Collins remain content to let their Genesis laurels lie buried in the past, practically disassociating themselves from that chapter in their life as they would the memory of an ugly prom date. Any talk of a reunion has been quelled (Phil's announced retirement from music all but sealed the deal) and most of the members have moved on to other things closing the book on Genesis. But Hackett is that one Genesis alumni who is unwilling to let their amazing library of music languish in the dusty archives.
In 1996 Steve Hackett recorded the album "Watcher Of The Skies - Genesis Revisited" which featured several re-interpretations of classic Genesis tunes. Some of the tracks were experimental re-imaginings with a bit of tongue-in-cheek sacrilege while others remained true to the original compositions. It was a bit of a mixed bag ... yet masterfully done. Hackett unapologetic relishes the music they created during his time with the band. And apparently felt some gnawing obligation to bring a generation of new listeners (kicking and screaming) to the fold with his re-imaginings of Classic-era Genesis.
In 2012 Steve Hackett once more returned to his roots of morbid nursery crymes and faerie tale wonder with this ambitious 2-disc project "Genesis Revisited II". As Steve explains on his website: "I sympathise with Hitchcock's need to re-make an earlier film. The vision is clearer, techniques improve inwardly and outwardly. For all us musicians songs of innocence are now inevitably songs of experience. I love the original Genesis music so much that I want to highlight it even more. The temptation to infuse those tracks with more detail and enriched clarity was irresistible."
And if "Watcher Of The Skies - Genesis Revisited" was a veiled attempt to bring in new blood by introducing them to re-imagined Genesis classics, then "Genesis Revisited II" is for the original stalwart Genesis fans and prog/rock purists who may have been unimpressed with his experimental tinkering and noodlings on the last album. Hackett approached this album as a respectful homage to early Genesis and their fans, retaining the integrity of the original compositions with minimal blasphemes and transgressions. And on the odd occasion where he deviates a bit from the original recording - it's for the better.
"Genesis Revisited II" is a true paradox and a hard sell in today's market - an extinct dinosaur from the antediluvian age of adventurous analog music, now digitally reanimated for 21st Century consumption by microbloggers with a short attention span who communicate in 140 characters or less. Most with an aversion to complex time signatures and poetic flights of fancy lasting upwards of 20 minutes.
"Genesis Revisited II" contains all the epic tracks like "Supper's Ready" (23:30), "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" (8:08), "The Musical Box" (10:55), "The Return Of The Giant Hogweed" (8:45), "Eleventh Earl Of Mar" (7:50), and "Chamber Of 32 Doors" (7:35) - long and unfamiliar tracks for kids who grew up listening to the band inducted into the 'Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame'. Those three Genesis guys who made the funny videos and cranked-out pop hits like "Follow You Follow Me", "Misunderstanding", "Turn It On Again", "No Reply At All", "Man On The Corner", "Mamma", "That's All", "Invisible Touch", "Tonight Tonight Tonight", "Throwing It All Away", "No Son Of Mine", and "Hold On To My Heart".
Yet for many of us old timers ... 'this' is the Genesis we knew and loved! And Hackett has captured that moment in time like a mosquito trapped in amber. He then polished and transformed that 'skeeter stone' from an ancient relic into a priceless gem.
Over the years a handful of good Genesis tribute albums have been released (I personally have three in my collection: "The Fox Lies Down", "Supper's Ready" - featuring the Magna Carta stable of artists, and "River Of Constant Change" - a double CD of mostly obscure Italian artists ... in addition to "We Know What We Like - The Music Of Genesis" - from The London Symphony Orchestra). But none can compare to what Hackett has accomplished with "Genesis Revisited II".
Hackett has assembled an impressive cast of vocalists to bring this project to fruition including: Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Simon Collins (Phil's son), Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Conrad Keely (You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead), Nik Kershaw, Nad Sylvan (Agent Of Mercy), Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Jakko Jakszyk (21st Century Schizoid Band, The Tangent), Amanda Lehmann, Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), Gary O'Toole, and John Wetton (King Crimson, UK, Asia).
His list of musicians is equally impressive, but for the bulk of the recording Hackett enlisted members of his touring band which include Gary O'Toole (drums), Lee Pomeroy (bass), Roger King (keyboards) and John Hackett (flute). Additional guest include guitarists Steve Rothery (Marillion), Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings); keyboardist Nick Magnus; bassist Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), Dick Driver, and Phil Mulford; additional sax and flute Rob Townsend; and Rachel Ford (cello), Christine Townsend (violin and viola). For the track "Camino Royale" - a cut from Hackett's 1985 solo album "Highly Strung" - Hackett enlists the band Djabe (Tamás Barabás (bass guitar), Attila Égerházi (guitar, percussion), Ferenc Kovács (trumpet, violin, vocal), Szilárd Banai (drums) Zoltán Kovács (piano, keyboards).
There are over 50 Genesis tribute bands listed on the Genesis Official Website, but if you're looking for the ultimate tribute band look no further than this album. Hackett has assembled the best.
If I have one minor quibble with the album it would be his choice of vocalist on the track "Ripples". Amanda Lehmann has something of a Bonnie Tyler/Stevie Nicks quality in her voice when singing in the lower register which isn't quite suited for the song. When singing the chorus in a higher register she sounds quite wonderful. Another version of "Ripples" was performed by Annie Haslam of Renaissance on the Magna Carta tribute album "Supper's Ready" and it worked much better with Annie's angelic voice. It's strange that of the two Genesis tribute albums I've heard containing the track "Ripples", both are performed by a female vocalist. Amanda Lehmann is also lead vocalist for the track "Shadow Of The Hierophant". On this song her voice is perfectly suited and she sounds absolutely beautiful. So it's a matter of matching the vocals to the song.
Hackett managed to slip in four revamped tracks from his solo career that were originally intended for Genesis but never quite made it into their repertoire. The songs are "Please Don't Touch", "A Tower Down", "Camino Royale" and "Shadow Of The Hierophant", and the specter of Genesis can be heard in each of them. One can't help but wonder what direction the tunes might have taken had the band made a firm commitment to include them as a Genesis track. "Shadow Of The Hierophant" has all the majestic qualities and ethereal elegance of "Supper's Ready" or "Cinema Show".
"Genesis Revisited II" is a must have for both Hackett and Genesis fans. One of my favorite releases of 2012.
Rather than end my review with a simple track listing I've opted to include Steve's personal track list commentary which can be found on his website. I found it to be most enlightening - and decided to include his comments in the review for your enjoyment.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on January 15th, 2013