By JOHN KELMAN Published: November 4, 2008
For many Genesis fans, the final box set of the progressive rock group's series of remixed and remastered studio albums is the one they've been waiting for the most. 1970-1975 documents the period when Peter Gabriel was the band's lead singer, before the group began a gradual move away from its art rock beginnings towards a more pop-oriented, radio-friendly sound.
The previous two boxes—1976-1982 (Rhino, 2007) and 1983-1998 (Rhino, 2007)—while perhaps musically controversial to longtime fans for the apparent desertion of the music that garnered the group its early reputation, were nevertheless welcome for the unequaled sonic upgrades to discs that, when first released, often suffered from poor sound quality. While the five albums covered in this box set, originally released on Charisma—Trespass (1970), Nursery Cryme (1971), Foxtrot (1972), Selling England By the Pound (1973) and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)—did demonstrate gradually improving production values, the versions in this box set are so rich and full of depth that it's difficult to believe that some of the music is nearly 40 years old.
Like the previous boxes, each album is a double-disc set (with the exception of The Lamb—originally a double album, it's now a three-disc set)—a CD with the remixed and remastered stereo upgrade, and a DVD that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix as well as a number of bonus video features. The benefit of going beyond mere remastering from the original master tapes to performing complete remixes has provided an opportunity to create far more three-dimensional soundscapes. The music, at its most powerful, bursts out of the speakers on both the CD and DVD- Audio versions, while at its most subtle, reveals nuances that have never before been heard. While all five albums are also available separately, the box set contains a bonus CD/DVD of rare material—some previously available on the Genesis Archive 1967- 75 (Atlantic, 1998) box, some never before available on CD. It's an early glimpse and contains three songs, in particular, that foreshadow later Genesis tunes and prove the group to be already surprisingly mature, even in 1970.
There will undoubtedly be purists who feel the idea of remixing the original recordings is tantamount to blasphemy—as was the case when Bob Belden remixed Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969) for the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Legacy, 1998)—and there's a plenty of controversy about the current use of compression during the remastering process to make music sound better on MP3 players. It would, however, be difficult to argue such a case here.
The depth of the stereo field and room-filling surround sound mixes are incredibly vivid, and the acute attention to detail paid to the remix, especially the vocals, leaves little doubt that, sonically speaking, 1970-1975 is one of the finest reissue sets ever released.
In addition to the DVD-Audio mixes, there's hours of video interview footage describing the group, in the artists' own words, from Genesis' earliest days through to Gabriel's departure after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, with everyone except Trespass drummer John Mayhew involved. There's also hours of video concert footage dating from 1972-'74, making 1970-1975 the definitive document of Genesis' early years, as it gained the confidence and acclaim that would lead to its later mega-success.
Trespass wasn't Genesis' first album—that would be From Genesis to Revelation (Decca, 1969)—but it was the first to possess the compositional and stylistic markers that can be heard, to varying degrees, throughout the group's history.
Listening to the interview on the DVD, it's not all that surprising to hear that Fairport Convention was a significant influence on the band. Despite harder- edged tunes like the concert favorite "The Knife," Trespass is Genesis' most folkloric album, with a pastoral ambience that imbues tracks including "Vision of Angels" and the 12-string guitar-heavy "Dusk."
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