Album of the Week 16-2013: Genesis – Nursery Cryme

Back when Steve Hackett was still playing guitar for Genesis, they were a much better band than when they became popular. In fact, his debut with the British band is the album yours truly tends to revisit most. Future albums may have been better in terms of performance – ‘Selling England By The Pound’, ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ and ‘A Trick Of The Tail’ spring to mind – the band never succeeded quite as good in capturing their hungry energy as they did on ‘Nursery Cryme’, an early progressive Rock masterpiece.

Those of you who know Genesis exclusively from their Phil Collins-led Pop heyday in the eighties may be surprised when they hear the extended Prog workouts on this album. As for Hackett, ‘Nursery Cryme’ was Collins’ debut for the band, although Peter Gabriel was still singing for the band at the time and it’s mainly Collins’ mindblowing drumming – he was one of the world’s best drummers at that point – that makes his presence known on his album. It’s that powerful drumming that gives ‘Nursery Cryme’ its distinctive aggressive edge. Although the tranquil, folky passages that the band is known for are richly represented here, the album features some of the band’s most aggressive playing to date.

Opening the album is bar none the best Genesis song ever recorded: ‘The Musical Box’. There’s a very strong build-up in this song, with the song growing darker with the introduction of each new part. The song starts out with no less than three guitars, with bassist Mike Rutherford and keyboard player Tony Banks joining Hackett on twelve string guitars. This creates an enormous amount of depth and a very lyrical guitar sound, contrasting amazingly with the pre-Maiden gallops of the heavier bits, that also have Hackett and Banks battling leads. Gabriel does a great job portraying the protagonist of the lyrics as well. Just awesome, I have no other words.

‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ is the other highlight of the album. The dual lead melody of Banks and Hackett in the intro was enough to awaken my interest, but the rest of the song contains a lot of interesting and pulsating riffing, aggressive hammond organ playing courtesy of Banks. The middle part features some very unorthodox playing by Hackett over a fluent piano part. Other songs are almost as good; ‘Seven Stones’ is a strong song, reminiscent of sixties Prog, ‘Harold The Barrel’ sounds like a somewhat more complex take on what Supertramp and Queen would do later in the decade with Collins and Hackett singing in perfect unison, the short and tranquil ‘For Absent Friends’ is Collins’ first lead vocal ever and ‘The Fountain Of Salmacis’ features some amazing, dreamy mellotron playing by Banks.

Genesis would go on and make a couple of more amazing albums throughout the seventies and though I love them all, ‘Nursery Cryme’ is the one that gets most spins at the Kevy Metal residence. Its richly complex nature accounts for repeated listening delight and it’s amazing rhythms get my head banging, while being impressed by the musical accomplisments of the musicians. Isn’t that what all Prog Rock is about? Also, be sure to get the 2008 remaster of the album, you’ll be amazed at how fresh it sounds.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Musical Box’, ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’

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