If you look through some of my favourite records of all time – The Wall, Quadrophenia, Tommy, Operation : Mindcrime I & II, The Elder, Berlin, Diamond Dogs, you will learn that I am a lover of the album that can tell you a story, take you out of whatever situation you are in and the second that needle hits the vinyl, you are caught up in a story and drifting along with characters and musical creations. Add to this list The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, which I admit took me a lot longer to discover than those listed above.
The reason for this is very simple, in my youth Genesis basically meant nothing to me. Invisible Touch? Passable eighties pop. Jesus He Knows Me? Joke. I Can’t Dance? Joke. Now I am older, I kind of applaud them for just being able to release light records and fill stadiums. But I could not get this closure until I went backwards and discovered that once upon a time in little England, Genesis were one of the most creative, interesting bands on the planet.
It took me a lot of years for me to discover this, remember that we had no Internet, no Spotify, if you wanted to hear things, you either got a C90 from a close friend or you went out and bought the physical thing. I began reading music magazines religiously, I bought every one that covered the bands I loved. I lost count of the amount of times that my favourite artists mentioned The Lamb. Without it a lot of my favourite albums would not exist. And it is not a cold textbook of a history lesson, it sounds warm, it sounds vital, hell The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is one year younger than I am but it still springs around like the proverbial spring chicken. It’s like The Catcher In The Rye meets Stranger In A Strange Land, an hour and a half of magical majesty that feels like a big screen adventure as it spins thirty three times a minute.
So what makes 74 Genesis so great? Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett. There I said it. This is no slur on Banks, Rutherford or Collins, if you take one ingredient out of a cake, you ruin the whole dessert, but it was surely Gabriel that was the main player in this fantastic record. There are moments of beauty, moments of fantasy, the whole adventure is about escape, finding freedom, finding the cool fresh air outside of a world of oppression and terror. Or is it? That is the joy here, so many clues but no real reveal.
The album was recorded in Wales but the adventure happens in New York City. We follow the traversties of Rael, a young punk falling through hallucinations (or reality? Remember there are no true answers here) and encountering all kinds of traps, chambers, cages, troubles, tribulations. He finds himself, he finds redemption, or does he? Your listen to the tale may be different. That, my friends, is the magic.
‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway‘, the title track is in fact my favourite Genesis song of all time, it sounds like it could be made for Madison Square Garden, or am I pushing the NYC vibe and it has a glorious chorus and one of the finest Peter Gabriel vocals ever, which is saying a lot. ‘In The Cage‘ is a glorious cacophony, “A silent tear of blood falls down his cheek”, beautiful. Steve Hackett is magnificent on ‘Back In NYC‘ and ‘Counting Out Time‘, hell he is incredible all through the album. ‘Carpet Crawlers‘ is another highlight that I discovered through rock radio before I even discovered this record, a fantastic piece of sinister sounding greatness.
The over an hour and half you spend with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a stunning journey through prog rock genius and story telling masterworks. If you still think of Genesis as a Collins fronted nothingness, then please come and visit this masterpiece. It is the Scorsese of concept records and I goddamn adore it.