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Genesis - Trick of the Tail Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 July 2007
format:    16-bit CD/SACD/DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD
performance:    9
sound:    10
released:    2007
label:    Charisma/Virgin
reviewer:    K L Poore

ImageWhen I heard that Genesis was re-mastering and re-releasing much of their post-Peter Gabriel work in multi-format packages, I felt like a kid again. I prowled around what’s left of the big music retailers waiting for their single copy of Trick of the Tail (Deluxe) to be placed on the shelf.

I visited the Virgin Megastore where a computer system that seemed to run on coal couldn’t tell me if they were even going to get one. I went to something called FYE, where the employee knew so little about music I would have had a better chance of ordering a burger.

My conversation with the FYE “music expert” went something like this. “Hi, are you getting the re-master of Genesis’ Trick of the Tail in?” “How do you spell that?” “G-e-n-e-s-i-s.” After watching him type “Jenisis” I said, “I think it starts with a G.” He moved the display screen so I couldn’t read it and his fingers flew over the keyboard in an “I’m not really typing anything” way. “Nope, sorry,” he told me, “we don’t even have it listed. Is it an independent release?” He snarled when I asked him if there was anyone else in the store who might be able to help me, so I eased away from the counter and out the door. I realized I was now on a quest.
After striking out in every store from Hollywood to Orange, I was so desperate I even went to the local Best Buy. Yes, I felt foolish, but the young woman who helped me actually knew who they were. “Phil Collins!” she said as if it was a million-dollar answer on a TV game show. Her impressive knowledge of music did not affect the Best Buy ordering regimen so, feeling more childish than kid-like, I did that thing that retailers are loath to hear: I ordered it direct from the Genesis website in England.

My travails had not ended, though, and it became apparent that Genesis fans everywhere were probably having the same kind of experience when, after a wait of a couple of weeks, the Genesis store wrote to let me know they finally had gotten ToTT back in stock. It was news to me, because I didn’t know they were out. I asked myself how long my love for this particular album could last. As of now it was about 30 years but that could change with a couple more weeks of waiting. How long did that wait feel to me? About as long as it has felt for you in reading five paragraphs before I even talk about this awesome re-release itself and the music on it.

In a history nutshell, Peter Gabriel had just left Genesis and they’d decided to go on with a new front man. After a few months of auditioning singers, everyone agreed that (the somewhat reluctant) Phil Collins should step out from behind the drums. Trick of the Tail was the first release with Phil out front and at that point they still fell solidly in the camp of “progressive rock.”

Needless to say, when ToTT finally arrived I jumped up and down a few times and immediately popped the DTS 5.1 DVD version into my home stereo system and turned it up loud. I wasn’t disappointed. From the opening strains of “Dance on a Volcano” (a song that I truly adore for a multitude of reasons, especially the line “The lava’s a lover who licks your boots away”) to the fade on “Los Endos,” I was that scrawny boy again, thankful that an older kid down the block (he already had some facial hair) had shoved his copy into my hands and said, “This is real music.” (I can’t remember what LP drove him to this action but I swear it was Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, which, he would probably be sad to hear, remains one of my favorites to this day.)

I think of Trick of the Tail as a Grimm’s Fairy Tales for my musical youth. From the cover art to the odd-metered tales of “Squonk” and cities of gold, it transported me in the same way good literature does … with the bonus of providing its own soundtrack.

Listening to “Entangled” was almost like hearing it again for the first time. The detail coming out of my speakers was almost devastating. You can hear the depth and clear definition of the individual guitars that was missing in previous versions. And Phil’s harmonies, muddy on the original vinyl pressing, are vibrant and clean. Some of the synths may sound a bit dated, but at least not in that Emerson, Lake & Palmer way. They pretty much got it right in that Pink Floyd “Welcome to the Machine” way.

Every song on the remastered Trick of the Tail benefits in some way on this deluxe re-release. If you’d like to experience it for yourself listen to the drums on “Squonk.” They come alive in a way our ears aren’t ready for. You can hear the tension on the heads (very wet) and the chiming overtones of the cymbals. The sound and mix of the instruments are so alive that I found myself zoning out and ignoring the vocals for two or three listens in a row. That may not be what they planned on, but it was okay with me; it’s awesome.

“Mad Man Moon” almost sounds as if Peter had rejoined for a song, but that’s not what makes the track. It’s the Copeland-esque instrumental passage in the middle of the song that sets my mind off onto one of its flights of fancy. It sounds as if it would fit onto any of the Gabriel Genesis releases (which I hope hit this CD/SACD/DVD format soon – I’ll be buying Lamb Lies Down on Broadway for the fifth time, but what the hell), while taking the song and easing it into the storybook world of the other cuts.

To my ears “Robbery, Assault and Battery” most clearly points in the direction that Genesis would eventually walk in becoming a mega-selling mega-corp that toured the world endlessly while cranking out enjoyable pop-rock hits. Phil gets to use his Cockney accent and Tony Banks throws in some highly enjoyable keyboards that don’t stray too far from what the average radio listener deems acceptable. The only oddity in the song is Steve Hackett’s guitar atmospherics in the middle section, but he’d be leaving the band after another studio album, setting in motion the Genesis most people know today.

“Ripples” has always been my favorite cut on Trick of the Tail. It’s by far the most sentimental and pop-oriented song on the album, but I’ve always found myself playing it a few times in a row when listening to ToTT. From the 12-string that sounds like a harpsichord to the sing along chorus, it has always set me off on moments of reflection and reverie. Even when I was too young to understand these feelings, listening to the line “Ripples never come back” caused me to recall days gone by and ponder if I would ever be that happy again. Or at least what I remembered as happy times. Was I ever really happy? This song seems to indicate that I was. For me it strikes that emotional chord we all search for in music. The grand piano in the coda sounds as if you’ve crawled beneath it and signaled Tony Banks to start pounding away. It’s well-tempered and gorgeous.

Trick of the Tail closes out with the title cut, which is a cool number with another sing-along chorus that sounds rich and lush with this remix, and “Los Endos,” an instrumental that recalls themes from previous songs (“Dance on a Volcano” and “Squonk”) and proves to be a tight, and appropriate, ending. My friends and I used to have long discussions (fights, really) about Phil’s vocals on the fadeout. Some said he was singing “Peter please come home,” which I didn’t go for. Years later I’m somewhat happy to report he’s singing “There’s an angel standing in the sun/free to get back home.” I’m only somewhat happy because my friends’ version of the lyrics makes for a much better story.

So now after a couple of months of searching for, waiting on, and ultimately listening to Trick of the Tail, I’ve reached that place where I have to convince you that everything I’ve written above is honest, truthful and accurate. Having explained my past love for this particular release, I can see how it would be easy to dismiss my words as those of someone reliving a sentimental past, or enraptured in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I guess the only thing I can write that may be convincing is to disclose that I’ve already ordered Wind and the Wuthering. I’m looking forward to it already, no matter how long it takes to get here.

What more can I say about this remixed and remastered re-release? I think it sounds as beautiful and magical as an early Genesis fan could wish for. A couple of friends have already written and voiced some disappointment, mostly around the compression on the DVD’s 5.1 versions (DTS and Dolby Digital), but since it almost sounds like you’re sitting in the middle of a living room performance I have no idea what they’re talking about. Neither the CD nor DVD versions of Trick of the Tail will disappoint. I found them to be crystal clear and have a separation of instruments and depth of sound that was missing on the original LP. To prove it, I went back and threw mine on for comparison. I’ve got to admit that the LP had been played so much it was a bit too worn out to listen to ... but I know I’m right.

The sound alone on ToTT makes me happy I spent way too much money ordering and having it shipped over from jolly olde England. I hope Wind and the Wuthering sounds half as good. Hell, I may even buy ABACAB. Well … no, I won’t.

Extra Features
Other than CD/SACD and DVD versions of Trick of the Tail, you also get a Genesis concert film that’s pretty damn cool (if you’re a serious Genesis fan you’ve already seen it numerous times), with Bill Bruford filling the drum chair. In case you don’t know, Phil Collins is a mighty, mighty drummer and it’s not an easy chair to fill. Interviews with Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Collins about the making of, pix of a 1977 concert program and videos for “A Trick of the Tail,” “Robbery, Assault and Battery” and “Ripples” round out the rest of the DVD.

The menus on the DVD are really cool, with the characters from the cover changing as their corresponding song comes up. If you know Trick of the Tail you’ll know what I mean, if not it will be a joy for you to discover along with the music.

The special features are just that, special, and made the expenditure worthwhile. I notice that the other releases don’t appear to have as many extras, but since they’ve made me quite happy with this one I’m willing to take that chance.

Still won’t be buying ABACAB, though.

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