Genesis – Nursery Cryme (1971/2013)

Genesis - Nursery Cryme (1971/2013)
Artist: Genesis
Album: Nursery Cryme
Genre: Symphonic Prog
Label: Virgin
Year Of Release: 1971/2013
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

Tracklist:
1. The Musical Box (10:24)
2. For Absent Friends (1:44)
3. The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:10)
4. Seven Stones (5:10)
5. Harold the Barrel (2:55)
6. Harlequin (2:52)
7. The Fountain of Salmacis (7:54)

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Personnel:
– Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, flute, tambourine, bass drum
– Steve Hackett / electric and 12-string guitars
– Tony Banks / organ, Mellotron, piano & electric piano, 12-string guitar, backing vocals
– Mike Rutherford / bass, bass pedals, 12-string guitar, backing vocals
– Phil Collins / drums, percussion, lead (2) & backing vocals

Nursery Cryme is Genesis’ third studio album. Where the previous album Trespass (1970) was a giant leap forward for the band compared to their debut, Nursery Cryme continues in the vein of Trespass, with just a few more twists. Despite the fact that 2/5 of the band’s line-up changed, Nursery Cryme is a surprisingly similar album to Trespass.

Founding guitarist Anthony Phillips left Genesis shortly after the release of Trespass after his fear of performing became unbearable. Phillips was replaced by another shy man, Steve Hackett. Already with Nursery Cryme, Hackett is a stylish and innovative guitarist, though not as virtuosic as, say, Yes’ Steve Howe or King Crimson’s Robert Fripp.

Drummer John Mayhew had to leave because the rest of the band was not satisfied with his performance. Mayhew’s replacement, Phil Collins, was a real find. Phil Collins, a child actor and performer who had recorded with Flaming Youth, would become one of the best rock drummers of his generation a few years later. On Nursery Cry, his performance is still a little uneven, but a vast improvement on the stiff Mayhew.

he main difference between Nursery Cryme and Trespass is that the folky pastoralism is reduced and the mood is a bit more energetic and rocking. Certainly thanks in part to the new recruits and especially Collins’ drumming.

Nursery Cryme is a more uneven album than its predecessor Trespass. The three long (10-8 min.) highlights of the album, ”The Musical Box”, ”Return Of The Giant Hogweed” and ”The Fountain Of Salmacis” are Genesis’ best songs so far, but the remaining four shorter tracks are, on the other hand, weaker than any of the Trespass songs.

The four shorter pieces are not unworthy per se. Just a little uninteresting. ”Seven Stones” has a nice pastoral feel to it, and the rhythmically paced ”Harold The Barrel” with its black humour is also quite funny. The rhythm section Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins do an excellent job on that song. And the absurd lyrics about Harold, the suicide bomber who has fed his toes to his family, do make you smile a little.

”Harlequin”, on the other hand, is a completely pointless song in which Peter Gabriel gives perhaps the weakest vocal performance of his career. Gabriel is made to sing the song way too high and he sings the song in a thin and strange semi-falsetto.

”For Absent Friends” is a light tune by the band’s new recruits Hackett and Collins, with Collins making his vocal debut with Genesis. The song itself isn’t great, but Collins performs quite well as a singer and sounds surprisingly much like Gabriel even at this stage. This makes you wonder how come Collins wasn’t considered as Gabriel’s replacement a few years later when the time came…

As the aforementioned ”Harold The Barrel” showed, Genesis still practised a charmingly whimsical escapism in terms of lyrics on Nursery Cryme. Many of the album’s lyrics are twisted fairy tales that were at least partly written with a twinkle in the eye.

The album opener ”The Musical Box” is a good example of the style of the lyrics on the album. ”The Musical Box” is a Victorian psychosexual story about two children, one of whom, Cynthia, accidentally kills a boy named Henry by cutting off his head with a cricket bat(!). Later, Cynthia discovers Henry’s old music box and as it plays, Henry’s spirit is released from the box, rapidly ageing into an old man who, driven by decades of sexual frustration, attacks Cynthia, who is still apparently a child. Cynthia’s babysitter happens upon Henry and throws a music box at him, destroying both Henry and the box. Quite eccentric!

The music of ”The Musical Box” also supports the surprising twists and turns of the lyrics. The song starts with an acoustic intro that recalls the atmosphere of Trespass, but Gabriel’s vocals already have more edge in this quiet part than before. Gabriel also plays flute and oboe at the beginning of the song in his own modest style, but still supporting the atmosphere. Collins rattles the cymbals lightly and Hackett plays a subdued electric guitar part. At just under four minutes, the band finally kicks into high gear with the drums kicking in and Hackett playing a gritty electric guitar riff. This nice uplifting track reminds me a bit of the heavier sections of ”The Knife” from the previous album. At the end of the song, Hackett’s guitar wails in an original way and the song takes another turn for the better. The end also features some effective unison rhythm playing from the whole band, even if Collins’ drumming does sound surprisingly stilted at times. Collins pushed his playing considerably in later concert versions and ”The Musical Box” became a popular live song, parts of which were still played by Genesis decades later as part of their classic medley. In the song’s finale, Gabriel’s ”Now! Now! Now!”, worked wonderfully.

The other two longer tracks on the album also offer several great moments. Nursery Cryme’s heaviest and most haunting offering is ”Return Of Thr Giant Hogweed”. The eight-minute mini-epic tells the bizarre story of a Victorian explorer who transports a clever (and royal!) giant hogweed from Russia to London that eventually threatens the whole of humanity with its fury! And the Genesis people didn’t even dabble in drugs… Gabriel sings the hilarious tale with convincing commitment. ”Human bodies soon will know our anger. Kill them with your Hogweed hairs. HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANI!” In the handsome instrumental section at the end, Hackett, while soloing, comes up with a tapping playing technique in passing. Usually Eddie Van Halen gets the credit for this, but Hackett was about a decade ahead of him.

Closing the album, the eight-minute ”The Fountain Of Salmacis” is based on Greek myths, with lyrics a little more serious than the other two long tracks on the album, and features some really tasty-sounding bass playing from Mike Rutherford. Tony Banks uses the Mellotron to great effect on the track and his way of using that quirky instrument has more than a little King Crimson influence. The rocking short instrumental section of the song at around four minutes is perhaps the finest music Genesis had made to date.

The slightly gruff and flat sounds leave Genesis as the clear underdog compared to rivals of the same era such as Yes and ELP. This is especially true of Hackett’s guitars, which sometimes sound stiflingly anaemic, and Collins’ shabby drums, which don’t really cut through at climatic points in the songs as one would hope.

Uneven but at its best stunning, Nursery Cryme was a natural follow-up to its predecessor Trespass. It wasn’t a huge step forward for the band stylistically, and Genesis’ popularity didn’t exactly leap to new heights with the album, which didn’t even make the UK album charts. However, spurred on by strong new songs, Genesis steadily increased their live success and continued to hone both their playing and composing skills, and in 1972 all this came to fruition with the release of their finest album of their career, Foxtrot.

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