It’s my birthday weekend, I’ll fanboy if I want to.
What is it?
Selling England By The Pound is the 1973 album by Genesis, totaling eight songs of wildly varying length. The album is not quite as old as I am.
How does it sound?
It’s mixing better in your sampler:
Why this pick?
Full disclosure time: Knowing that I was restricting myself to one album by a given artist, and knowing that I could easily have flooded this year’s roster with Genesis-related albums, I picked Selling England primarily because it’s my favorite album featuring the main five guys. That forced me to not end up picking a Phil Collins record and a Mike (Rutherford) + The Mechanics record and a record from one of Tony Banks’ projects and a Peter Gabriel record and, oh, GTR or something-or-other involving Steve Hackett.
It helps that this is a great Genesis album, though. This isn’t a gimmick selection.
Which songs are the highlights?
Two of the all-time heavyweight great classic Genesis pieces come from this album: “Firth of Fifth” and “The Cinema Show.” In an album well stocked with lengthy, meandering, somewhat-ridiculous prog-rock pieces, those are the standouts. I never tire of either song, in nearly any recorded rendition.
(Side note: There’s an album by Yngve Guddal and Roger T Matte called Genesis for Two Grand Pianos Vol 2 which features the best version of “The Cinema Show” not recorded by actual Genesis band members.)
We also get what’s considered the band’s first hit single with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).” Nowadays I mostly just quote the opening spoken bit: “It’s one o’clock and time for lunch, dum de dum de dum dum…”
The other two eight-minutes-plus songs on the record are good, if not really great. “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” is more interesting for its instrumental bridge section than for its lyrical content, while “Battle of Epping Forest” is nearly the opposite.
Speaking of instrumental sections, “After The Ordeal” is four enjoyable minutes of musical goofing-around.
Which songs don’t work so well?
“More Fool Me” is kind of a quiet dud. (Sorry, Phil. You do a better job as lead singer a few years later!) And “Aisle of Plenty” isn’t really a proper song so much as an odd two minutes of coda following up on “The Cinema Show” with a callback to “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” so it’s a bit unfair to call it out like this, but there you go.
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
I briefly considered going with Calling All Stations. It’s criminally underrated, for starters, and it would’ve covered the last-added of the official band members (singer Ray Wilson) while freeing me up to use a Peter Gabriel album elsewhere in the year. And maybe one of Phil’s. Maybe.
Did I mention criminally underrated? I have opinions, y’all. The temptation was quite strong.
I could have done one of these project posts for each of nearly everything in the Genesis catalog. The decision-making wasn’t hard at all, though.
Any final thoughts?
While I’m on a tear about it, sure: I wish they’d gotten a second album out with Ray Wilson. The potential was huge, and hugely wasted. Seeing what would’ve happened once Wilson was a fully-integrated creative partner would’ve been fascinating and (I’m certain) enjoyable.
On the other hand, I want to travel to the alternate timeline wherein Kevin Gilbert survived to audition to be the new singer for Genesis. Arguably the biggest and most talented Genesis fanboy ever to record his own album, Gilbert would’ve brought something interesting to the table, make no mistake.
In this timeline, however, what we’ve got is what we’ve got. I’ll leave you with a quick list of essentials, the Genesis albums I love best:
- Selling England By The Pound
- A Trick of the Tail
- Calling All Stations
- Invisible Touch
I’m sure I just offended nearly every other Genesis fan on the planet with that list, somehow. Oh well!