Saturday, July 7, 2018

Trespass - Genesis

Trespass, released on Oct. 23, 1970, offered the first hints at where Genesis would go, as they began to move away from their debut's more pop-oriented feel. In its place was a newfound focus on balancing bucolic, folk-based sounds with more direct rock attitude. That would remain a part of Genesis' central sound for much of the next decade, even as the group was riven by change. And yet Trespass remains largely forgotten.

The album also marked the arrival of cover artist Paul Whitehead, who would also handle the covers for 1971's Nursery Cryme and 1972's Foxtrot. By then, however, co-founding guitarist Anthony Phillips had departed, not long after drummer John Mayhew — adding to the sense that Trespass was nothing more than a transitional moment, a precursor.

That's not the way it started out. Genesis entered the studio to record the project in the summer of 1970 having hammered themselves into shape with a merciless touring schedule, not unlike The Beatles. Playing nightly, a sound began to emerge.

"There was a huge, lost world of material in between, as we went from our school-boy holiday song-based album through similar songs, but more mature, through to our first experiments with longer forms," Anthony Phillips said. "Tony began using the organ, as we left [original Genesis producer] Jonathan King's more commercial song-based stable. Then, there were long jams, with heavier riff ideas — like 'Knife,' etc. We had to raise the tempo and power to get noisy crowds to listen when we ventured out on the road! In short, we went from songwriters who played a bit on an album to a fully equipped, fighting-force live band."

Trespass, though, struggled to No. 98 in the UK and didn't chart at all in America. (In fact, Genesis' first Billboard placement wouldn't arrive until 1973, when Gabriel's penultimate album Selling England by the Pound reached No. 70.) The pressure began to settle onto Phillips, who was overcome with a crushing bout of stage fright.

"Genesis, in its inception, was very much two sets of composers — the keyboard lobby of Banks and Gabriel, and the guitar one — myself and Mike," Phillips says. "All were equals, though Peter eventually probably dictated band directions more — because he was, oddly enough, the more practical, realistic one who would sit for hours on the phone, calling to agents and getting gigs whilst the rest of us were totally absorbed in our art."

Following the departure of Phillips, Genesis emerged radically different than it had been before. Steve Hackett stepped in for Phillips while Phil Collins replaced John Mayhew. In time, much of Genesis' work from the Gabriel period became belatedly celebrated. The group even earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Trespass hasn't enjoyed that kind of critical reevaluation. It remains, in many ways, an album without an audience — more famous for what it mapped out than for anything it accomplished.

Rock criticism has always had contempt for anything that was not completely utilitarian. Three chords and a gob of spit would get you a Village Voice rave, while anything high concept or classically influenced was lambasted as pretentious, pompous, or bombastic. Sadly, they just don't make bands (or albums) like this anymore. Don't miss it. It is a history lesson unto itself.

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