(All Album Reviews by Octavio Trimmingham)
Originally released - March 31, 1980
Band personnel –
Phil Collins – Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Drum machine
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Guitar (12 String), Vocals, Vocals (Background)
Mike Rutherford - Bass, Guitar, Vocals (Background)
My first copy of Duke was on the illustrious and durable 8-track format. Purchased with my measly tobacco farm earnings in early 1983 or so, when 8-tracks were 2 for a dollar!…ahh, the memories. Oh, and the resulting torture my friends endured as I subjected them all to heavy rotation of it (along with Wind & Wuthering, another 8-track gem of mine). It is now almost 20 years later and I still listen to this transitional masterpiece today as much as I did then. Duke was Genesis’ second to last gasp at an album containing anything related to their long time progressive rock prowess (Abacab would wheeze out the last official death rattle). Considering the era ending that it symbolized, I still hold it in high regard as one of Genesis’ finest albums regardless of it’s so called “prog” content shortage. This album still holds a very respectable place in the Genesis catalog where you get the full spectrum of tempos, rhythms, emotions, dynamics, and writing styles which makes an album of this sort stand the test of time.
On their previous release, …And Then There Were Three, the band had floundered a bit in an attempt to find a new sound to compensate for Steve Hackett’s departure from the group. With Duke, they were definitely ready to unveil what new stuff they had invented during their transition. The most obvious traits of this album is a more prominent “in your face” drum sound, some of the most beautifully composed keyboard melodies and intelligently penned lyrical subjects. Many of the lyrics on Duke seem to be loosely based on Phil Collins’ recent divorce and alcoholism problems. This gave his singing style an edgier and meaner feel than on any other Genesis album to date as well.
I’ll start with the most controversial song on the album; “Misunderstanding", and how aptly named it was. This one seemed to be like the perennial "Baby Ruth bar floating in the pool" compared to the rest of the songs. It was a very successful AOR hit but the long time fans felt betrayed by it’s obvious pop intentions. “Where was ‘our’ Genesis going with this thing?" they wondered. I must admit, I usually skip this track myself due more to overplayed-ness than anything else. The rest of the album, as far as I’m concerned, is excellent. “Behind the Lines” opens the album with a smorgasbord of wailing guitar, booming tom-tom fills and shimmering keyboard intertwinings (Phil would later re-record this song for his first solo album a year later). “Duchess” was a poignant look at an imaginary performer going from fame and glory to obscurity and dislike among her fans over time. An oddly ironic subject considering the drastic changes, both personally and musically within Genesis. “Heathaze” seems to be an introspective and beautifully melodic look at a man coping with huge losses/changes in his life and mustering the courage to return to the remnants of his life as he finds it now. “Turn it on Again” was an odd-metered, yet minor hit for the group with a very catchy melody….again, seeming to be about the reclusive recovery period Phil had spent in front of the boob-tube. “Cul-de-Sac” is one of the best emotional songs on the record. Tony's keyboard parts on it are perfectly arranged and this is one of my personal favorite tracks from the album. “Please Don’t Ask”, although it’s a beautiful song and very self revealing for Collins, it’s lyrical subject enough to make you want to end it all. “Duke’s Travels” and “Duke’s End” bring us to an exhilerating and blasting album finale. It could be compared to say, an 80’s version of “Los Endos”?....maybe.
If I had to introduce someone to Genesis for the first time, this is the album I would start with. You can easily go in either direction with it because of it’s transitional qualities. This is an album I’ll still be listening to when I’m 70. You need to check it out if you haven’t yet.
(All Album Reviews by Vinylroolz)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON AUGUST 1, 1980 IN THE "TGIF" SECTION OF THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH NEWSPAPER.
Genesis IS and WAS one of Britain's best bands. Why the paradox? Well, it depends on which side of the fence you're on. Of late, commerciality has replaced innovation with this trio and many of their fans of the early and mid 70s are no longer with them. On the other hand, they've gathered millions of new fans and, to these, Genesis remains a vital musical element in rock.
But the truth is that their accessibility has detracted from their songwriting and performing skills. There is less real stimulus, and the element of risk has all but disappeared from their music.
This is not easy for me to say, as Genesis has resided on one of my highest musical pedestals since I first heard them in 1973. But facts are facts, and Genesis' new album Duke is ample proof. Boys, the fire is almost out.
To say Duke is a bad album is unfair, as it's better than the majority of releases these days. But to say Duke is a bad Genesis album is quite another story. It just can't hold a candle to their past work and it will ultimately be judged as their most inferior album.
Duke accurately reflects the recent changes in the marketplace: a trend toward simplicity and directness. But trends have no place within progressive rock (or “art rock” if you prefer) for to succumb to market and environmental pressures negates the very premise of progression.
Duke doe not progress beyond And Then There Were Three (their last LP) and in fact is not as good. Genesis has peaked, and sadly, has nearly become a parody of itself.
There are some good pieces here, taken out of context, but at 28 minutes per side, there is shameful and self-indulgent excess. Only half the album is worth mentioning.
The opening number "Behind the Lines" is a strong cut, with punchy bass work by Mike Rutherford (though his guitar playing is unconvincing) and crisp drumming from Phil Collins. Tony Banks' keyboards are well-played but predictable, as are Collins' vocals. There are a couple of clever rhythm twists, but the key word here is simplicity.
"Man Of Our Times", the fourth song, is the only other song on side one worth mentioning. Collins' vocals this time are impassioned, his heart really into it. Rutherford's bass and bass pedals fairly kick and drive the song solidly throughout. Banks displays some of his formidable talent in creating orchestral textures, and his embellishments are timely. But the hook in the chorus, while pleasant enough, is planted far too often and the song relies too heavily on it. Again, the construction is terribly basic, as if afraid of making too much music. Their fears are unfounded.
Side two's opener "Turn It On Again" is another strong track. Collins once more feels what he sings and sings it well. The beat is catchy, even stimulating, accented by Banks' bouncing keyboard part. Again, the hooks are rampant but the overall effect is just too lightweight.
Then skip right over the next three tracks to find the best work on the album: eleven minutes of "Duke's Travels" and "Duke's End".
These come closest to revealing the Genesis of yore. There are real compositional considerations and even some virtuosity (something that cannot be said for the rest of the album) yet the melodies are incredibly basic and holes are frequent.
"Travels" is mostly instrumental with a revamped version of side one's "Guide Vocal" at the end. The band does stretch out, but never extends itself. "End" is an instrumental variation on "Behind the Lines" and is more convincing than the original. Both are real energetic numbers and close the album out on a somewhat hopeful note.
Duke will undoubtedly be Genesis' best-selling album to date and maybe they think that's important. It's easy for me to say that it's not, but the only good I can see in Duke’s success is the possibility of new Genesis converts investigating the band's past catalog.