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That Time Genesis Inched Closer to a Breakthrough on ‘Foxtrot’

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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 ’70s-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 The 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.

See Genesis and Other Rockers on the Top 100 Albums of the ’80s

Next: Top 10 Peter Gabriel Genesis Songs

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