Fifty Year Friday: Genesis: From Genesis to Revelation; Colosseum: Those Who Are About to Die, Salute You
Genesis: From Genesis to Revelation
Selling less than 700 copies, Genesis first album was recorded mostly in August 1968 and was released on March 7, 1969. Poor sales followed, with a significant percentage of the copies hitting small town UK stores, filed incorrectly, partly due to the absence of the band’s name on the cover, in the religious music bin. Not helping matters was the guidance from British record producer Jonathan King (once best known for his one hit, “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon”, but now known more today as the discoverer of Genesis) for the band to simplify the arrangements. The music, though of lesser quality than later Genesis compositions, was further compromised by removal and trimming of solos, particularly Tony Bank’s keyboard solos, and by later adding orchestral accompaniment to what the band thought was the finished takes. Yet, with all these musical compromises, the album still is worth listening to, particularly for Gabriel’s vocals, Banks keyboard work, and the generally unconventional nature of the songs, which show harmonic, melodic, and lyrical maturity and more or less make up a concept album roughly centered around the contents of Genesis and Revelations.
There are various versions of CDs that include bonus tracks and there is also the fourth CD of the 1998 Genesis: Archives set which includes demos and tracks from this time frame including “The Mystery of the Flannan Isle Lighthouse”, “Hair on the Arms and Legs,” and the “Magic of Time” with Banks providing jazz-influenced piano. Though overshadowed by the quality of later Gabriel-era Genesis albums, “From Genesis to Revelation” is more than a historical curiosity — it is a collection of fine pop songs that are better than most of the pop music recorded in 1968 and 1969, an era providing some of the best rock music of all time.
- Peter Gabriel – lead vocals, flute
- Tony Banks – organ, piano, backing vocals
- Anthony Phillips – guitars, backing vocals
- Mike Rutherford – bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals
- John Silver – drums (except on “Silent Sun”)
- Chris Stewart – drums on “Silent Sun”
- Arthur Greenslade – strings and horn arrangement, conducting
- Lou Warburton – strings and horn arrangement, conducting
Colosseum: Those Who Are About to Die, Salute You
The basic idea behind blues is rather straightforward with the most common format being the twelve bar blues, consisting of four measures of the tonic chord (triad or seventh built on thirds from the first note of the scale), two measures of the sub-dominant chord (built on the fourth note of the scale), a return of the tonic chord for two measures, followed by two measures of the dominant (build on the fifth note of the scale which pulls strongly towards the return to the tonic, particularly when including the seventh note), followed by two measures of the tonic.
There are many variations of this, and basically if one has that I chord (tonic), followed by some flavor of that IV chord (subdominant), with a return to the I chord, followed by the V (dominant), and repeating this pattern, whether in 12 bars, 16 bars or some less-common length, whether additional chords are added such as commonly adding the IV chord prior to the V resolving to the I chord, or adding passing chords or substituting related chords, then one has some version of the blues. The idea here is that we basically have a I-IV-I-V-I progression that repeats for the duration of the song and upon which, if desired, the are multiple avenues for variation on or divergence from the primary blues pattern.
The early American Rock & Roll was primarily blues, the early British Invasion sound included many blues-based numbers, and many bands of the late 1960s, from Cream to the Yardbirds to Ten Years After to Led Zeppelin relied heavily on blues. It’s then natural to consider blues-based rock to be more traditional rock, with the more varied chordal progressions (chord progressions that venture beyond those notes found in the I, IV and V chords) including modal-based chord progressions commonly found in psychedelic rock and extended and altered chords commonly found in jazz to be an indication of more adventurous, exploratory, progressive rock.
And it’s natural that many musicians and bands would first start learning blues progressions and develop from there. And so it was that many rock bands started out as blues-based bands, later developing into psychedelic bands, hard rock bands, acid or heavy metal bands, or even progressive rock bands.
But should a blues-based album sounds like progressive rock? Or can a progressive rock band be primarily a blues band?
Such a question may be addressed in retrospect looking back at Colosseum’s first album, recorded in late 1968 and early 1968 and released in March of 1969. At the time, the term progressive rock had yet to be applied as a label with most listeners not even dividing rock music into genres or styles. The music of that baby boomer generation was simply the music of the times, whether it was rock, or later became to be known as folk-rock, jazz-rock, blues rock, hard rock, acid rock, or psychedelic rock. The label of progressive rock was yet to be in play. and so what we have with this first Colosseum album, “Those Who Are About to Die, Salute You”, is simply a well-performed rock album
But what a performance. The songs don’t stand out: all but two are blues numbers, mostly vehicles for blues and jazz-rock-like improvisation — these two exceptions being Greenslade’s “Mandarin”, ironically based on a Japanese scale and incorporating a short blues-like section before launching into an extended Tony Reeves bass solo, and Colosseum’s version of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale”, titled “Beware the Ides of March” which includes a foray into Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” with additional improvisation. The combination of foundational keyboard work by Dave Greenslade, high quality jazz-based sax work by Dick Heckstall-Smith and outstanding guitar from James Litherland make this a very different blues-rock album than that of contemporary rock bands and qualifies this to be classified as progressive rock — though I must admit, I am never sure what that term really means….
- Dave Greenslade – organ, vibraphone, piano, backing vocal on “The Road She Walked Before”
- Dick Heckstall-Smith – saxophones
- Jon Hiseman – drums
- James Litherland – guitar (except on “Backwater “Blues”), lead vocals
- Tony Reeves – bass guitar
- Jim Roche – guitar on “Backwater Blues”
- Additional personnel
- Henry Lowther – trumpet on “Walking in the Park”