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41 Years Ago: Genesis Release ‘Foxtrot’

Charisma Records

The second album from Genesis’ now-legendary five-man lineup didn’t exactly arrive with much fanfare. Before ‘Foxtrot,’ the group had never had a Top 20 album, and its most recent effort, ‘Nursery Cryme,’ had been as intriguing as it was inconsistent. ‘Foxtrot,’ however, finally found a way to balance the whimsy of the group’s earliest music, its quickly developing flair for longform narratives and a newly discovered rock brawn — setting a template for brilliantly overblown concepts that would spark a sequence of early 1970s-era prog-rock triumphs.

Steve Hackett‘s guitar, often the centerpiece during his 1971-77 tenure, is complemented by Tony Banks’ distinctive turns on a newly acquired Mellotron, notably on the seminal classic ‘Watcher of the Skies.’ (Later, Mellotron manufacturers Streetly Electronics even added a preset called the “Watcher Mix” that mimicked Banks’ sound perfectly.) ‘Watcher’ heralded a series of ever-lengthening collaborative breakthroughs, as all six songs were credited to everyone on ‘Foxtrot.’ Together, they fashioned Genesis’ first great album.

Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford formed a complex rhythmic counterpoint that flowed through to tracks like ‘Get ‘Em Out by Friday,’ where Peter Gabriel continues to more fully inhabit a series of character voices, toward the first-side-closing ‘Can-Utility and the Coastlines.’ Hackett offers a touching instrumental showcase on ‘Horizons,’ a track that grew out of a lifelong fascination with Bach, before Genesis launch into a song that just might be its masterwork.

The side-long ‘Supper’s Ready’ (which runs more than 23 minutes) hints at ideas fleshed out on 1974′s expansive ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,’ even as it provides a moment of lyrical wit that sparks the cover image of a fox on a cluster of rocks by artist Paul Whitehead, who also did the art for 1970′s ‘Trespass’ and 1971′s ‘Nursery Cryme.’

Next: Genesis' Debut Single Sells for $3,850

Listen to Genesis’ ‘Foxtrot’

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