Turn It On Again: The Hits


Atlantic, 1999


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Once guitarist Steve Hackett left Genesis in 1978, the remaining three members reworked themselves as a progressive pop act, modifying their sound into a friendly, synth-heavy, lyrically accessible (some say banal) band that fit perfectly on the radio in the ‘80s. At that point, Genesis became superstars (as did drummer/singer Phil Collins on his own), scoring hit after hit on the radio up until 1992, when Collins left.

A lot of people only know Genesis – or only care about them – from this era, and it is this segment that will care most about Turn It On Again. Fifteen of the 18 songs here are from the prime pop era of 1978-1992, with another from the 1997 outing Calling All Stations and the other two (one a remix) from the Peter Gabriel era of the band (1968-1974).

The Gabriel albums were progressive/art rock of the highest order, combining darkly funny, obtuse and/or fantasy lyrics with superb musicianship and strong, compelling songwriting. Many longtime fans of the band heavily prefer this era of the band and tend to ignore anything from 1978 on; other big fans, like myself, enjoy both eras of the band but feel that the pop hits on display here are nowhere close to the creativity and art of, say, Foxtrot.

The truth is that the men of Genesis were songwriters first and foremost, and even as they shed the trappings of prog-rock for a streamlined pop sound, they did not lose the ability to create emotion, hooks and musical resolution in their music. Fifteen pop hits (plus the minor ones not present here) should not be ignored, and those who grew up with this version of Genesis will love having all of these in one place.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Although each Genesis album has its own identity, they do not need to be played chronologically to enjoy them, and so this set mixes up the songs, starting with the propulsive "Turn It On Again" from Duke and winding through a number of solid songs, some great, some pablum, before ending with a reworked version of 1974's "The Carpet Crawlers," turned into a duet between Gabriel and Collins. The inclusion is interesting, presumably intended to entice fans of "Invisible Touch" to dig deeper and discover the band's roots (plus, it's a great song).

"Follow You, Follow Me" is the lone entry from ...And Then There Were Three; Duke is represented by "Turn It On Again" and "Misunderstanding" and Abacab is solely represented by the single version of its title track, a catchy, semi-funky and slightly off-kilter piece of music ("No Reply At All" could have been included, but it is not missed).

Genesis turns in the eerie, Grandmaster Flash-inspired "Mama" and "That's All," while the turgid, mostly terrible Invisible Touch offers up the title track, "In Too Deep," "Throwing It All Away," "Land Of Confusion" and the shortened version of "Tonight Tonight Tonight;" the latter song adeptly chronicles drug addiction and remains a highlight of that otherwise awful album. Finally, We Can't Dance is represented by the smooth adult contemporary of "Hold On My Heart," the funny "I Can't Dance," the pointed attack of "Jesus He Knows Me" and the dark pop Of "No Son of Mine."

The latter-day hit "Congo" is fine but showed that the fire had finally gone out, while the inclusion of "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" from 1973's Selling England By the Pound is completely out of place here, a nonsensical comic piece about lawnmowers and Ethel and who knows what else, complete with weird voices and sound effects, but nevertheless a UK hit and one that the band played on stage consistently through its career (and I like the song, but still). "The Carpet Crawlers 1999" is better at evoking what the Gabriel-era of the band was capable of while also serving as a nice wrap-up to this set.

Listening to all of these hits back to back makes one realize that Genesis was unique. Few other bands were able to combine humor, dark topics like abuse and addiction mixed with lighter relationship songs, catchy melodies and musical twists and turns ("Turn It On Again" is in 13/9 time, I believe). Sure, a few minor singles are missing, but nothing the target audience will really care about. This set simply aims to round up the biggest songs and offer a couple surprises, and it succeeds in both track selection and, for the most part, quality.

Rating: B+

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