April 17, 2012

Meanwhile Lurking By A Stone In The Mud...

As has been chronicled repeatedly on this here blogthing, as a young fledgeling I was quite into this "music" thing that everybody's been talking about for a while now.  While my tastes tended more towards the Go-Gos, Devo, ABC and others of the "new wave" bent, there was a small portion of my brain that leaned towards what would now be called "Prog Rock" or perhaps "Art Rock."  Mind you, I didn't think of it that way, I just found it musically... interesting, in a way that even the more avant-garde groups I listened to (Joe Jackson, your table for one is ready) weren't.  Bands like Yes, the Moody Blues (Vaucaunson's Duck, please crank your volume), Rick Wakeman, Pink Floyd and their ilk... not my main fodder, to be sure, but not entirely unheard at the Olde Home Pond.  One day, an odd little album made its way into my feathery little wingtips.  This record was reviled by many of the long-time fans of the group that made it for being too different.  This record was also reviled by many of the new fans of the group that made it for being not pop enough.

The album is called ABACAB, and it's by the group Genesis.  While these days Genesis is best known
for their catchy Top-40 radio hits, they weren't always that band.  Originally led by Peter Gabriel, they were (to my ears) a particularly "out there" Prog Rock group, one that was barely listenable at all, despite being particularly talented musically.  When Gabriel left the band, the drummer for Genesis, Phil Collins, stepped up and took over the lead vocals.  They also took a more "radio-friendly" turn with their music at the same time.  While their 1980 album Duke had a couple of crowd favorites for concert play, it was ABACAB (1981) that pushed them off the ledge into the abyss of Top-40 radio.  The track "No Reply At All" borrows the horn section of the band Earth Wind & Fire to great effect, and is probably the reason I bought the vinyl in the first place (even as a young'un, I dug the horns).  Add the title track and "Keep It Dark", and you've got a album full of catchy hooks and pop fame forever, right?

Um... no.  Because on the flip side (ask your parents, kids) of the record, you've got some seriously odd things.  "Dodo/Lurker", with its strange spoken-word drop, "Man On The Corner" which tried to bring attention to the homeless problem, and perhaps my favorite track on the album, "Who Dunnit?", which is pure lyrical weirdness.  It's no surprise that the long-time fanbase  of the band tended to hate ABACAB with the fire of a thousand suns, while the ones that jumped on board because of the singles often found the rest of the album to be not what they signed up for.

Despite this dichotomy of musical styles, ABACAB was on the UK Album Charts for 27 weeks, and reached #1 for two of them.  It didn't do that well at all in the US. 

So why do I mention this odd conundrum of an album up here at The Pond?  Because, for all of its faults and it has several (not least of which is a tendency towards overproduction), I was always quite fond of it.  While the track selection on the album may tend towards the bizarre, there's no denying the musical talent on display, nor its ability to keep you interested in what's going on.   And, as I was leaving the pharmacy where I get the "keep Wonderduck alive" pills every month, there was the remastered edition of ABACAB staring me in the face from a bargain rack, for the low low price of $4.99.  Of course I couldn't resist buying it on the spot.

As soon as I got home, I began listening to the CD and discovered something incredible... I could still remember the *pop*s and *click*s my old vinyl copy had, and found it weird that the CD didn't include them.  Of course it wouldn't, that's obvious, but in my mind, the album has them and that's that.  It's still an excellent collection of music, however... not bad for a 31-year old album that pissed off most of the group's fans.

I wonder what friend GreyDuck, a Genesis fan hisownself, thinks of it?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention something I found out many years ago... the movable lighting instruments that we see everywhere these days?  Like at this Pink Floyd concert, for example... they were invented by what eventually became Vari-Lite for Genesis' concert tour promoting this album.  Lighting Designers everywhere rejoiced.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:19 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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