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Genesis - Selling England By The Pound CD (album) cover

SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

4.63 | 3662 ratings

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ProgMirage1974
5 stars REVIEW #5 - "Selling England by the Pound" by Genesis (1973)

Coming off of mainstream success from their critically acclaimed album "Foxtrot", Genesis embarked on a tour supporting the album, and once it was finished, got right back to recording a new album, pressed by their record label. This new album "Selling England by the Pound", a title derived from the slogan of the UK Labour Party at the time, says away from Genesis's folk rock roots, and deals with the concept of the Americanization of British culture. Amazingly, they were able to top what seemed to be the best album they could conceivably create with this masterpiece of an album.

We start off with an amazing intro with Peter Gabriel's haunting voice. This track "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" (5/5) builds up amazingly, backed by keyboardist Tony Banks's mellotron. A transition into a set of choir (mellotron) and guitar, this track settles into a rocking groove perfectly to make way for a solo for guitarist Steve Hackett. With lyrics pertaining to the concept, with native English terms, the majority of this song is filled with very well written instrumental passages. This is as strong of an opening track as you can as for, and establishes a great tone for the rest of the album. The second song would be their most commercially successful to that point, as "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" (5/5) would be their first single to chart in the UK. Featuring a story about a groundsman content with his lower-class job, it continues to expand on the album's overall concept - the continuity on this album is great. A very infectious song (hence its commercial appeal) with the chorus and background synth, it is also the song used to enrage Richard Hammond on the automobile-themed TV show Top Gear, as he (somehow) hates the band. The following track is another prog classic, the epic "Firth of Fifth" (5/5) written by Banks. Starting off with a piano intro, it builds up fantastically with the help of Gabriel's vocals and a chord progression - never hitting a crescendo and staying tense. Banks dominates this track with the keyboards, and a converted piano part is played by Hackett on guitar, composing the beautiful solo at the end of the song (the best on the album). Closing off side one is a beautiful light song titled "More Fool Me" (5/5); notable for featuring drummer Phil Collins on vocals. Being a fan of the light acoustic song, the inclusion of one on this album just makes it better - as not only is it the second song to feature Collins on vocals (a position he would eventually become quite accustomed to) but it also closes out the hard-hitting first side very well, preparing the listener for another onslaught of great prog rock. So far, so great.

The second side starts off with the near-twelve minute "Battle of Epping Forest" (4/5), a song devised by Gabriel about a story about a battle between two rival English gangs. With a more humorous and light-hearted approach in the lyrics, we see the one flaw of the album here. Certainly a more serious approach would have earned this album perfect status in my opinion. Nevertheless, this is a very solid song, and has great melodies and instrumental passages to suffice such a long piece. Most notable is the interceding synth parts by Banks and the consistently tense atmosphere of the song. Next up is the instrumental "After the Ordeal" (5/5), which is an epic song of pure guitar shredding by Hackett. A glorified intercalary separating two ten minute plus tracks, this is the token instrumental track which serves to continue making this album one of the greatest of the genre. Another long song follows in the form of "The Cinema Show" (5/5), split into two parts - one with vocals by Collins and Gabriel, then followed by a near five minute keyboard solo by Banks. Another truly epic song, and with lyrics based on "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot, it is another great piece of prog, and as the song segues into the short one-minute closing song "Aisle of Plenty" (5/5) - a book-end reprise of the first song, the listener is greeted with the ultimate end of the journey which is this album. A brilliant masterpiece to say the least.

Considered to be Genesis's best prog rock album, and one of prog's best albums in general, "Selling England by the Pound" is by no means overhyped. From beginning to end, you will be entertained, shocked, and entranced by the music. Everything beautiful about prog can be summarized in this album, from the concept to the music itself. Featuring an instrumental, a short song, extended pieces, and intricate solos, this album is as complete as it really can get. This album hit #3 on the charts in the UK, and #70 in the US, prompting a well-received tour. This is about as good as Genesis gets before their music eventually spiraled off towards more of a commercial appeal, but we are left with this work of art. Definite recommendation to anyone who's a fan of prog or rock in general - and it will probably end up being one of the highest rated albums for me.

OVERALL: 4.87/5 (A+)

ProgMirage1974 | 5/5 |

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