Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Double Live Album!: Genesis, Three Sides Live

Since I don’t waste enough of my time or yours, I thought I’d trying an irregular series of blog posts on one of the favorite items of music fans my age: the double live album.  That means two LPs in one package.

Double live albums were a great deal for the 1970s record consumer.  You got two LPs of music for, usually, the price of about 1-1/2 single albums (the average list price of a studio album around 1979 was $8.98, with a few $7.98 albums still around; live albums were usually between $11.98 and $13.98).  You got to hear your favorite songs live, which usually made up for not being at the concert.  And sometimes you’d get an idea what your favorite singer’s stage patter was like.  Record companies, on the other hand, loved live albums – the cost to record them was usually minimal (barring studio overdubbing, which was probably more frequent than we’d like to think – The Eagles Live famously had instrumental and harmony fixes that its producer said were “courtesy of Federal Express”), and it was a good way to finish off a contract (especially a money-losing one).  And, once in awhile, you’d have a live album that broke the artist through to a new level (the examples I can think of offhand are Frampton Comes Alive, Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty, and Cheap Trick at Budokan; having said that, I’ll probably be told of a dozen others).

I’m going to put in a few rules for what I review in this series:

  • The album will need to be at least two vinyl LPs (which means Running on Empty isn’t eligible).  For compact disks, I’ve set the minimum running time at a random 68 minutes – so I may have a single CD here from time to time.
  • Reissues that add to the running time are okay.  Cheap Trick has reissued At Budokan in a two-disk version, so that would be okay.
  • I’m also okay with reviewing albums that are a combination of studio and live, as long as the live content is more than 2/3 of the total running time.  (David Bowie’s Station to Station has been reissued with a full concert from Nassau Coliseum, which bumped the running time up to 135 minutes or so.
  • I’m not going to review comedy albums (most comedy albums are live, anyway) or classical albums (no background in the subject).

Genesis, Three Sides Live

Year Issued:  1982

Running Time:  92:42 for version now available, so it’s two discs on both LP and CD.  I would think the older North American-only version was roughly the same running time.

Date of Live Performances:  Except for “Follow You, Follow Me,” everything is from their 1981 tour for Abacab; “Follow You, Follow Me” is from the Duke tour in 1980.  Performance locations are split between the Nassau Coliseum in New York, the Savoy Theatre in New York City, the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England, and the Lyceum Theatre in London.  (The three live songs on the worldwide version were from London, Glasgow, and an unknown location, between 1976 and 1980.)

Track Listing:
Turn It On Again
Behind the Lines
Me and Sarah Jane
Follow You, Follow Me
In the Cage Medley:  In the Cage/The Cinema Show/Riding the Scree/Raven
Worldwide Version (all territories from 1998 on, all territories except North America before that)
One for the Vine
Fountain of Salmacis
It/Watcher of the Skies
North American Version (1982-1997 releases only)
Paperlate [studio]
You Might Recall [studio]
Me and Virgil [studio]
Evidence of Autumn [studio]
Open Door [studio]

Background:  Man, Genesis did a lot of live albums – this was their third (and they’ve issued three more since then).  Genesis Live was quickly put together at the behest of their British record label, while Seconds Out was considered a more authoritative document of their live shows – by that time, Peter Gabriel was gone, but Steve Hackett was still with the band (he would quit while Seconds Out was being mixed).  By the early 1980s, however, the band had moved from prog rock to more straightforward pop rock (and had notched five American top 40 hits in the process), so this contains primarily (although not exclusively) material from the three studio albums since Seconds Out, showing the trio’s metamorphosis.

Does It Have the Hits?:  Some of them.  “Follow You, Follow Me,” “Misunderstanding,” “Turn It On Again,” and “Abacab” are here; “No Reply at All” and “Man on the Corner” are not.  If I were to guess, I’d say “No Reply at All” is absent since it’s a horn-heavy song (I’m pretty sure they weren’t bringing a horn section on tour), while “Man on the Corner”’s single voice and minimal instrumentation doesn’t translate well to a live setting.

Any Rarities?:  None.  Of the three live sides, nearly all of the songs are from And Then There Were Three, Duke, and Abacab.  The exceptions are “In the Cage Medley” (mostly from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, although “The Cinema Show” is from Selling England by the Pound), and “Afterglow” (from Wind & Wuthering – and it had also been used on Seconds Out).

Solo Stuff:  None.  As far as I can tell, Genesis rarely if ever performed Collins solo material or Mike & The Mechanics songs in concert, although they did toss in solo songs by both acts and Tony Banks at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert.

Studio Tracks?:  And thus the album name.  In North America, the 1982 release and first CD release included five studio songs – three from the British EP 3x3 (including ”Paperlate,” which became a minor US hit), and two B-sides from the Duke era which hadn’t been used on that album:  “Open Door” and “Evidence of Autumn.”  However, more recent North American releases and all of the releases throughout the rest of the world have three more live tracks from 1976-1980 (and the songs themselves date from the early 1970s) – which means that version has a misleading title (the fourth side certainly wasn’t live when the vinyl version came out – of course, there aren’t four sides on the CD anyway), and it’s not as much of a reflection of what the band was doing in 1981.  I’m not sure why this was done; I know Collins doesn’t think much of “Me and Virgil” but it was made available on the box set Genesis 1976-1982, and “Evidence of Autumn,” “Open Door,” and “You Might Recall” were on both that and the Genesis Archive 2: 1976-1992 box set– unfortunately, both of them are out of print and aren’t available for download. (The fifth studio song, “Paperlate,” is on Platinum Collection and can be downloaded from there.)  Your best bet for these five studio tracks may be finding a used copy of this CD from its original release.

Performance:  Perfectly okay.  I would argue that Mike Rutherford isn’t as good a guitarist as Steve Hackett, but that’s the way it goes.  Chester Thompson is a very good drummer, so the difference between him and Collins in concert (Collins only played drums on songs that didn’t require vocals) is minimal.

Sound Quality:  Good.  Genesis’ songs lend themselves to a concert setting – you don’t have a lot of people screaming or trying to sing along.

Any Songs Over 10 Minutes?:  The “In the Cage” medley clocks in at 11:53 , but the individual songs were considerably longer altogether in their studio versions.  “One for the Vine,” off the worldwide version, is 11:04 here, 9:59 in the studio version.

Stage Patter:  None whatsoever.

Still Available:  Only in the all-live version.

Is It an Absolute Necessity?:  No, but it’s certainly worthwhile for Genesis fans, especially those who prefer the later version of the band (honestly, I don’t have a lot of use for the early ‘70s stuff).  Almost everybody from college had it (which meant one person bought a copy and everybody else taped it), and I think it still punches the nostalgia buttons.

My Favorite Song:  “Turn It On Again,” which rocks as hard as the studio version – the additional running time isn’t a waste.

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