Genesis – BBC Broadcasts: Album Review

The BBC archives are trawled for a new Genesis collection…

Release Date: 3rd March 2023

Label: UMC

Format: 5cd set / 4LP vinyl box

Another one from the Genesis/BBC live archives in which we pose a question that’s been bubbling around a while now: Is there a definitive Genesis live album? and indeed, have Genesis been done justice in their live releases? There have been plenty through the years.

Now anyone who knows me, also knows that Seconds Out from 1977 is my dream Genesis LP. The record that kickstarted a job for life. However, it’s not perfect, being a compilation of recordings from 1977 (and 1976) which aside from Afterglow doesn’t even feature anything else from the album they were promoting at the time. Despite its magnificence, Seconds Out might be a flawed diamond. The encore piece, for example, The Lamb/Musical Box appears midway through the set in a strange re-sequencing of the music to fit the format.

Prior to that, Genesis Live from 1973 served as a handy stop-gap post-Foxtrot, containing the key tracks of the era from Manchester and Leicester. However, no Supper’s Ready…axed to make a single LP more palatable for consumers. Three Sides Live was a patchy 1981 collection, the fourth side, depending on where you lived in the world, was either a collection of studio b-sides or three odd (but good) tracks from the archive – 1976-78-80. Again, sequencing is not a strong point; the 1981 opening piece, Behind The Lines, is saved till the start of side two. Maybe the limitations of vinyl, yet….

At least The Way We Walk – Longs/Shorts from the 1992 tour contained a better representation, but again, gathering the music into longer/shorter songs collections was a puzzler. One that maybe allowed the fans who preferred their mprog of the more traditional persuasion to avoid the pop songs. And then the release of the Over Europe 2007 set – a little like some of the U2 fan club releases – at least replicated the tour set and with ‘best’ versions of the songs played from assorted locations.

We’ve also had the Archive Collection 1967-75 whose centerpiece was a live recording of a full Lamb Lies Down On Broadway show and the set from London’s Rainbow in 1973 included amongst some very early material. Granted, some of The Lamb material had been touched up for the release, but at least we got a full show, of sorts as the old ‘the tape ran out’ excuse necessitated some studio trickery. Its companion, Archive #2, was less satisfying and to be truthful, a bit of a pup. The hotch potch of live cuts that hadn’t appeared elsewhere cobbled together, 12″ mixes and b-sides from the 1976-1982 period that failed to live up to the heights of its predecessor.

The exercise in recapping does indeed sound a little like a moan fest and when compared to the live releases of several of their Prog Rock peers (and indeed any other rock band you could name) the Genesis live archive hasn’t served them too well and seems to have had a less than satisfactory history. However, there are some shining examples to be found…if one knows where to look

Any fans familiar with the, ahem, unofficial recordings (oft disguised as ‘Italian imports’) through the medium of bootleg albums, the tape-sharing circles and digital file-sharing/torrenting of the modern era, will know a different story. The Movement has become an invaluable source of information and it doesn’t take much digging to reveal treasures that go far beyond the official documents. In particular, the sterling work of TM Productions has seen definitive live recordings become available from Zurich 1977, Chicago 1978, Frankfurt 1981, 1973 (“the album Genesis Live could have been”, “an outstanding triumph”), and The Lyceum 1980 (surprise surprise).

So what does BBC Broadcasts offer us? For starters let’s get the logistics over and done with. 53 tracks on 5CDs and 24 tracks on a triple-LP set, containing previously unreleased Genesis recordings for the BBC from 1970-1998 which have been curated by founder member Tony Banks and the group’s long-time engineer and producer Nick Davis.

The set comes with the bait of containing only a handful of the tracks being previously officially available (note italics). More of that later. It’s also teased as both a collector’s cornucopia and an alternative “greatest hits”. It heads back to almost the very beginnings of the band’s career (check Archive #1 for that) via appearances on the ‘Night Ride’ and John Peel radio shows, plus selections from both of the group’s Knebworth performances (78 and 92) as well as their 1980 show at London’s Lyceum, and the triumphant sell-out run of shows at Wembley in 1987.   Add in material from the NEC in 1998 and Paris Theatre and Nightride sessions from the early 70s, as well as a ‘sought-after’ encore version of Watcher Of The Skies at Wembley Empire Pool in 1975, and the set does cover some ground.

However, there seems to be some sort of compromise from the powers that be in that anything that’s maybe featured in a live collection elsewhere can be omitted here. Hence we fail to get the whole of the ’78 Knebworth radio broadcast (point in case, where’s the stellar Fountain Of Salmacis? oh, we have one from Paris in 72 so it does;t matter…?) and some bits missing from the Lyceum in 1980. The Wembley ’75 Watcher is nice, but as the broadcast also included a handful of ‘Lamb’ tracks (albeit not complete, for the sake of completeness, couldn’t they have been includedAh yes, we do have the full Lamb show on Archive #1, but maybe an opportunity missed. Want the missing tracks? Go find them on the other sets seems to be the unwritten message – a bit petty and couldn’t someone in the inner sanctum, for once, produce a definitive set of, say, the whole/complete/definitive BBC sessions rather than leave it to the semi-official profiteers? I know there are numerous versions in the BBC archive of Return Of The Giant Hogweed but from different sessions, and no hogweeds here sadly. Yes, it’s all BBC-related, but with what’s escaped and circulates amongst collectors already, this set adds very little and arguably nothing. There’s scarcity enough of ‘classic’ period Genesis with Gabriel and Hackett on board so one could argue that the ’71/’72/’75 material should be released in full.

Sorry to sound like what Neil from The Young Ones called a negative vibe merchant, but I know I’m not in the minority. On a small-scale sample of 5 other long-term fans, all agreed. Ok, unlike some of them, I’ll actually be buying the set because I’m a fan and like those final (and sometimes painful) final concerts in ’21/’22, it’s a bit of a duty and brings some closure. Like many in the know, it likely be with a deep and resigned sigh that we’ll ultimately be back to the bootlegs. A disappointing end-of-term report for the Genesis archive compilers whose record shows little improvement. You feel like giving someone a slap – come on Genesis/Tony/Mike; open up that famous cupboard in The Farm and do the decent thing. Give us some full shows instead of these scraps thrown together piecemeal. Surely Genesis deserves the same care and consideration as Pink Floyd and King Crimson whose archive releases have served their fans so much better.

Here’s some footage from The Lyceum in 1980:

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1 reply »

  1. incredibly frustrating. Tony has this thing that if a song has been released live, then it has to be excluded from whatever collection they’re putting together, it’s like an OCD thing. Lesser bands have complete shows from multiple years (or the same) available. I can get an official KISS soundboard live album from 77, 84, 2001, 98, 2005, ect, ect. Full shows! Just as an example.

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