Rewiring Genesis, De-electrifying the Lamb
Man … I don’t really know where should I start from on how to write my views about this interpretation of the best Genesis album of all time: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Too many things on my head about this version of Spock’s beard drummer & singer after Neal Morse left the band. I may end up writing a novel-long review to appreciate this album as created by Genesis and at the same time how brilliant Nick and his friends rewired the concept album wonderfully! By the time I am writing this, I have just been listening to this double CD for three spins in its entirety. It’s not that I rarely spin it because the first spin really got stuck at track 2 and 3 “Fly on a Windshield – Broadway Melody of 1974″ where i kept repeating it about 6 to probably 8 times because i was amazed with the arrangements.
You might think making a tribute album is quite simple because the basic music has been there and what you need is just to play. But I have another view because it posses two major challenges: First, the-music was not created by themselves so that they have to find the best way to play it. This may or may not be, depends on the complexity of the original composition, difficult. But one thing difficult, for sure, is to discover the soul of the music, especially The Lamb is a masterpiece prog album the world has been talking about for years. By the way, i’ve just realized that when i am writing this review using my Nokia E90 I am wearing T-shirt with the original Genesis album artwork, while sipping iced cappucino in a cafe at Kemang, Jakarta. Sennheiser PX100 headset is on my ears blasting the music of The Lamb from my old iPod from an mp3 ripped from CD with 320 bit rate. I am really enjoying my time now, really! And, man … I am not exaggerating that sometime I find tears in my eyes when I listen to my favorite album being replayed in its entirety by NDV and friends. It’s so wonderful. It touches my heart.
Second, interpret the music and grab the nuances, under the concept behind its music especially its storyline and rewrite the music with their own understanding and interpretation are not an easy thing to do. This is definitely a tough job because the musicians must think very hard on how putting back the music without jeopardizing the original soul. Thanks God, Nick and Mark have succeeded in this tough test, they come up with something fresh and crispy with their own arrangements. They do not really reinvent the music like you hear Kevin Gilbert did the rearrangement of Back In NYC. Rewiring Genesis focused on rewriting the textures of the music while maintaining original structure and melody. By doing so, it minimizes the risk of losing Genesis die hard fans. But don’t worry, you still get something fresh about this album because they have done excellent job in reinventing the textures that surround the music. Man, you must trust me on this: it’s a wonderful record that you should not miss!
Let’s have a look on how it flows …
At first spin the opening track did not impress me as it sounded, on surface, very similar with the original version. Nothing created a “wow !” experience for me. Later spin, i found joy as well with this track and found the “wow!” experience at last. But the second track “Fly on a Windshield” followed with “Broadway Melody of 1974″ were the ones that made me stuck for hours repeating them many times without any sense of getting bored at all. The more I spin, the more I discover how wonderful NDV and Friends have rewritten these two seamless songs. Well, there must be factor that contribute a lot in making the music so amazing for me, i.e. the original compositions are already wonderful. And with this version I appreciate highly the way NDV interprets the vocal job especially on difficult parts such as when Gabriel sung “Klu Klux Klan” and ?Smiling at the Majorette, smoking Winston cigarettes? part in the lyrical verses. It’s so wonderful version without having to copy exactly how Gabriel sung. So, NDV has successfully performed his vocal job excellently.
The key success factor of this concept album is the flow of the music and the roles of bridges between songs. And, this project has successfully managed them very well by putting deeper textures especially on bridges like “Hairless Heart” or “Cucko Caccoon” where you have a totally new and fresh experience as if you listen to new record. Musical instruments wise you will find a different role of electric guitar, the significant roles of violin to create string arrangements that replace symphonic keyboard sound and interesting additions of brass section (trumpet, sax, etc) to fill various roles of keyboard and sometime guitar.
De-electrifying The Lamb?
The overall textures of the music demonstrate concerted efforts that have been put by the musicians who have collaborated in this wonderful tribute album. One significant dimension that I discover is the efforts to replace something electric to become “less electric” such as the use of string arrangements with violin, brass section and Grand piano. That’s why I call it something like de-electrifying or making more acoustic, less electric, version of the original album. So, the music sometimes sounds like an orchestra with vocal but sometimes like a big band in jazz vein. It’s really rich in textures.
On some parts they sound weird at first listen, but it will be OK after second or third spin because you will discover the beauty. The bridge that connects to ?Fly On A Windshield?, for example, there is basically no keyboard is used. They use violin to replace keyboard to maintain the symphonic nature at the beginning of the track. The electric guitar playing in this version sounds much rockin? and energetic as compared to the original release. The typical howling guitar work usually played by Steve Hacket has been removed. The very great part of the ?Broadway Melody of 1974? is the additional string section that plays as background while Nick sings ?Echoes of The Broadway Everglades??.. The acoustic guitar and flute work at ?Cuckoo Caccoon? are excellent.
The keyboard-based ?In The Cage? has been approached differently by this project by replacing the keyboard with a combination of string section (violin) and brass. The guitar riff is also different, it all sound really nice. The string and brass arrangements make us forget the original taste of the song and this arrangement sounds really excellent. The wonderful keyboard (original version) part at minute 3:18 has been replaced brilliantly by speedy string section at the same tempo as Tony Banks played with his keyboards. Wow!!! It?s really wonderful man! Hey look ?!! Observe how great the inclining note that usually played by keyboard at minute 4:11 is now replaced by high register note trumpet work in long bars. I really admire the trumpet players (Steve Patrick & Jeff Bailey) who can play such high note in long sustain period. It reminds me to the style of Bill Chase (of CHASE fame).
On ?The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging? the music tends to be jazzy with the use of percussion at the intro augmented with choirs that might remind you to Manhattan Transfer style. ?Hairless Heart? has been rearranged wonderfully with great string section and stunning guitar fills. The touchy keyboard part is now replaced by piano. Oh man, the combined work of guitar, string and piano has produced great sound experience to my ears. When the music reaches “Counting Out Time” there is a tremendous change in music style to something like Dixie music which is totally different with original version even though the main melody is not changed.
The eerie keyboard intro in original version of “The Carpet Crawlers” is now replaced nicely by soft piano touch augmented by nice violin work at background accompanying great vocal line of Nick. The guitar work at “The Chamber of 32 Doors” has been made different and it sounds nice. One thing needs to note is the way guitar is played in this version, it?s not somewhat similar in style or whatsoever with the original. But it sounds really nice. It?s like a fresh sound of guitar but it still maintain the soul of original music.
There is no compromise on this version because the whole album in its entirety has been played by the band including the haunting ?The Waiting Room? with their own interpretation. It moves nicely to ?Anyway? which sounds brilliant on piano and string section. The guitar part is really rockin? and kickin? here. Another favorite of mine ?The Lamia? has been rewritten wonderfully. The intro part with acoustic guitar and vocal line sounds great. There is additional female vocal that takes part on the second verse of the lyrics. Their interpretation of “The Colony of Slipperman” is also nice especially on the replacement of keyboard with string and brass section. “Riding the Scree” has also been revamped totally with somewhat jazz-rock fusion style while maintaining original structure and melody. As this song has drums-intensive part, I like Nick’s drumming here. The dynamic part at approx at minute 0:47 has been performed brilliantly with jaw-dropping drumwork and brass section. Wow! It?s a great segment here.
Just purchase this CD! Why troubling yourself with this novel-long review if the music in itself is excellent already. No one argues that The Lamb is a great album by Genesis and Nick d Virgilio is an excellent musician. Nick D Virgilio and Mark Hornsby, the key initiators of this project as the sleeve says so, have done a great job in interpreting this legendary album and rewriting it back differently but without jeopardizing the original soul and nuances of the music. If you really love The Lamb album, too bad .. you have no other choice: you got to buy the CD. I have been listening to this album in its entirety more than seven times and I am still planning to do it again, because it?s excellent, 4.5 stars! Keep on proggin’ …!!!
Peace on earth and mercy mild ? GW
Studio Album, released in 2008
Songs / Tracks Listing
1. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (5:25)
2. Fly on a Windshield (2:50)
3. Broadway Melody of 1974 (2:21)
4. Cuckoo Cocoon (2:19)
5. In the Cage (8:35)
6. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging (2:42)
7. Back in N.Y.C. (5:51)
8. Hairless Heart (2:11)
9. Counting Out Time (3:50)
10. The Carpet Crawlers (6:22)
11. The Chamber of 32 Doors (5:46)
12. Lilywhite Lilith (2:38)
13. The Waiting Room (5:36)
14. Anyway (3:08)
15. Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist (2:32)
16. The Lamia (7:14)
17. Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats (2:55)
18. The Colony of Slipperman (Arrival – A Visit to the Doktor – Raven) (8:41)
19. Ravine (1:56)
20. The Light Dies Down on Broadway (4:12)
21. Riding the Scree (3:58)
22. In the Rapids (2:34)
23. It (4:29)
Total Time 98:05
Line-up / Musicians
- Nick D’Virgilio / vocals, background vocals, drums, percussion
- Kat Bowser / background vocals
- Carolyn Martin / background vocals
- Mike Lusk / background vocals
- Dave Martin / bass
- Don Carr / guitars, sitar, banjo
- Jeff Taylor / piano, accordion, whistle, Rhodes, Wurlitzer
- John Hinchey / horn and string arrangements, trombone
- Steve Patrick / trumpet
- Jeff Bailey / trumpet
- Prentiss Hobbs / trombone
- Sam Levine / saxophone, clarinet, flute
- Doug Moffet / saxophone
- Leigh Levine / clarinet
- David Angell / violin
- Pam Sixfin / violin
- David Davidson / violin
- Kristin Wilkinson / viola
- Anthony Lamarchina / cello
- Jimmy Blankenship / sounds
2xCD – Progrock Records, PRR 570