(All Album Reviews by AdmKirk)
After Genesis' 1986 album and most pop oriented yet, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford took a bit of a step back with the more organic and, yes, more progressive leaning We Can't Dance. Co-Producer Nick Davis put most of Phil's electronic drums away and made Genesis sound like a band again.
The album opens with "No Son of Mine", an exploration of a son's alienation from his father. Not exactly lightweight material. Collins vocal and the slow build up of the drum track made this a great choice for the first single.
"Jesus He Knows Me" is an apt representation of certain forms of religion in America. The song is propelled by Collins' driving drums and underpinned nicely by Rutherford's bass work. The bridge takes a brief trip to Jamiaca for some reggae giving this song a nice left turn. More left turns show up in "Driving the Last Spike", one the band's forgotten classics. Lyrically, the theme is the construction of the British railroad system in the 19th century from the laborer's point of view. Simple guitar, drum machine and keyboard give way to more elaborate and powerful playing. Once again Collins' drums are a highlight and his vocal work is outstanding. After an almost Pete Townshend set of chords from Rutherford in the middle of the track, the rhythm reemerges with a determined drive taking the track to a higher level.
After 3 songs with serious lyrical content, the overtly humorous "We Can't Dance" lightens the mood. Obviously done with the idea of having the "BIG HIT SINGLE", it doesn't distract from the appeal of this number. The amusing video that accompanied the song adds to its appeal. I've always thought it would be fun to revamp this as a straight blues. Country singer Clint Black lifted this song almost note for note for one of his many hits. After this, the band heads into ballad territory with "Never a Time", one of those pop ballads late period Genesis is regularly thrashed for. Those of you who can't appreciate this aspect of the band should move on to track 6. Pity, though if you do, because it's a nice song in a pop sort of way. Nick Davis' production gives it more of a band feel than former producer Hugh Padgham's at times, sticky sweet work on previous albums.
The balladry doesn't last long however, as "Dreaming While You Sleep" investigates the emotions of a man with a dark secret. Banks' lush keyboards are padding for drum programs, guitar swirls and Collins' vocal. Just when you get comfy with all of this, POW, Collins' drums kick in hard, the vocal becomes more intense and then it sets you back down on that pillow of keyboards even thought the track never completely returns to that comfortable beginning.
"Tell Me Why", working title: "Rickenbacker", is up next and Rutherford's 12 String is the touch that gives this song that something special. This track would have easily fit on ...And Then There Were Three or Duke nicely. Rutherford doesn't slouch on bass on this track either. "Living Forever" features a classic type Genesis guitar riff over a decidedly plain drum program. Elements of The Beatles begin to emerge, particularly in the backing vocals and features a nice solo from Banks with Rutherford and Collins providing some great rhythm work underneath. After a slow start, this ends up as one of the best tracks on the album. "Hold on My Heart" was one of the albums big hit singles, but is not there best ballad, although I imagine it kept the girls interested at the time, and that's OK. At least Genesis acknowledged the female contingency.
"Way of the World" kicks off the last quarter of this album and it comes off as so much filler. A fairly unimaginative R & B drum pattern permeates this song. It probably would have been better on a Collins solo album than on a Genesis record. Next up is the best ballad on the album "Since I Lost You". It's one of those big, powerful Collins songs and although it's a love song, there's a bit more emotion involved here and feels a little more lived in than the other ballads, although I could do without the backing vocals. This then leads into one of Genesis' all time great tracks, "Fading Lights". Although it begins rather inconspicuously with drum program and delightful keyboard work, it evolves into one of the most emotional and thought provoking tracks the band has ever recorded. Lyrically, it could be about a variety of topics: The end of Phil's tenure in Genesis, Old Age, a romantic breakup or the loss of a loved one. Musically, it builds and falls away in the classic tradition of many other Genesis tunes and easily sits beside any of their classic songs. A great track to finish off the Collins era of Genesis.
I must also mention the terrific photo's and great art work which grace the album. I have the LP of this which loses a couple of photo's from the CD booklet, but in any case the photo's of the band are quite nice. This album probably won't change anyone's mind about the Collins era, but for those who are somewhat fond of this era of the band will find much to enjoy.