It’s difficult to mention Hackett’s performance on “Wolflight” without bringing attention to his original band Genesis. One of the most famous and successful progressive rock bands, Genesis has an interesting history, mixed with tension, turmoil, change, and division. I could easily suggest for my readers to pick up a copy of one of Genesis’ more popular albums, but that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Instead, I’m going to recommend an album that most fans may not be familiar with, an album that occurred after Peter Gabriel’s time as the band’s singer, and an album that took Genesis towards a new direction.
At this point in their career, Genesis was led by drummer-turned-vocalist Phil Collins, featuring Tony Banks on keyboard/guitar and Mike Rutherford on bass guitar. The calendar just turned to the year 1980, progressive rock music was declining, and pop music was on the rise. Many bands felt the effects of this drastic shift in music, some of them successfully transitioning while others didn’t. Genesis timed their then-latest release, being one of the first progressive rock bands in the 80’s to alter their sound. Many hopped on their album “Duke,” an album that divided their fan-base, but an album I consider one of my favorites in their entire discography.
I cannot say that “Duke” is a progressive rock album. Instead, it is a pop rock album with progressive tendencies. Some signs of that classic sound are found in the songs “Duchess” and “Duke’s Travels,” consisting of rhythmic guitar riffs and keyboard-heavy rhythms. With these progressive influenced songs comes the more pop-influenced songs like “Misunderstanding,” “Heathaze,” and “Please Don’t Ask,” all hopeless love songs that follow more formulaic patterns. Still, despite the clear move to a more acceptable version of rock, I cannot help playing this album repeatedly.
This album will not dazzle you with any wailing vocals or massive guitar solos, but it’s catchy as hell. “Duke” has some of the most hummable choruses and verses of all their work. I guess that was the point of popular music back then, to stray away from the odd time signatures and drawn out compositions, and instead replace it with a beat that you can’t get out of your head. “Duke” successfully accomplishes this goal, since I don’t know how many times I have sung out loud in the most random of scenarios the chorus “I know that I’ll be all alone again, alone again tonight oh, I’m alone again, alone again tonight.” But despite this overtly popular soundtrack to all that was the 80’s, Genesis still managed to sneak in elements of what made them famous. Blaring bass lines, longer instrumental songs, complicated drum lines, and synth-heavy sounds are all in this album, as you can hear in their other albums. The last two songs “Duke’s Travels” and “Duke’s End” can be considered Genesis’ last hurrah to progressive rock, and don’t disappoint.
Despite the harsh criticism that comes with being a Phil Collins fan (Yes, I said it. He’s my guilty pleasure!), I will admittedly state that Collins’ vocals were a perfect replacement for Peter Gabriel, and is easily my favorite thing about this album. Considering his similar pitch and tone, I can easily see Collins rocking it on stage to even older Genesis material. Also, along with a divorce occurring during the writing process, the listener can easily hear the utter pain in Collins’ voice throughout “Duke.” From the depressing lows in the songs “Please Don’t Ask” to the bombastic highs in “Duke’s Travels,” this album presents some of Collins’ best work as a vocalist.
If you’re a fan of progressive rock, I urge you to give “Duke” another chance, as I believe a majority of fans have dismissed this album already. It is the perfect blend of progressive and pop rock, a style that was repeated by some of the most famous bands of that time, including Pink Floyd, the Scorpions, Eloy, Yes, and many others. Please support this album by purchasing it on iTunes. It’s a greatly overlooked album, and deserves to be played as much as some of Genesis’ most notable albums.