Release: Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Original Label: ATCO SD 2-401
Original Release Date: November 1974
Re-Released By: Classic Records
Price: $ 40.00 USD
Reviewer: Scott Faller
Date Reviewed: January 2002
Boy, this one takes me way back. At the time this album was in heavy rotation in my system, I was working outside of my home state of Missouri doing contract engineering and design work for a small firm just in south of the Quad Cities in Iowa. I was driving a 1974 Dodge Tradesman conversion van, travelling back and forth to St Louis on the weekends. My van was the typical 1970's young guys van. A pleasure pit on wheels. Shag carpet on the walls, bed in the back, a divider wall (and curtains :-), plus a kick ass car stereo for the times. Back then I was listening to an old under dash Panasonic Component stack set (remember those?). It had a separate cassette deck with an integrated amp and a bolt on tuner. To give it some more power, I had a Jet Sounds JS-70 combination amplifier and equalizer connected downstream. Under the bed in the back of my love machine, I had built a couple of speaker enclosures that housed a pair of three way speakers. Even back then I was building speakers ;-) Considering the year, I had some pretty good tunes in that old van.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway turned into a weekly ritual for me. At five o'clock on Friday, I was off work and on my long journey home. It was a four-hour trip so I had lots of time to unwind from the busy workweek and listen to music. The Lamb always started my southbound trek. Me, Peter, Phil, Mike, Tony and Steve got to be really good friends.
I had recorded tons of music to keep me company on trips. Back then I was listening to one of the (old) Sansui discrete quad receivers, a JVC quad turntable and an old Nak cassette deck. At the time, this system kicked butt. Oh, the good old days :-)
For those of you who are unaware, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is an epic album that many consider a milestone in rock music. This is four sides of one continuous story told (sung) by Peter Gabriel. Though it has several stand out songs like the title cut and Carpet Crawlers, this really needs to be listened to in one continuous sitting to take in the entire experience. It tells story, and a pretty good one at that if you are into fantasy (supposedly). Just look at the cover art and you can tell how bizarre this story (seemingly) is.
Now, the common consensus is this album is about Rael, a Puerto Rican kid living on the streets of New York City. During one of his frequent bouts of graffiti art, Rael finds himself slipping into the netherworld below the streets of Manhattan. This begins an adventure into the surreal that is as bizarre as it will be foretelling.
Believe it or not, when I was going some background research for this article, I stumbled across the Genesis webring. That in itself is not so unusual, lots of bands have fan based webrings. The Genesis webring has 257 listed sites and if I had to guess, there are probably twice that many sites that aren't part of the webring out there. Quite a few of these have their own variations (on the same theme) regarding the interpretation of this album. It seems to be a hotly debated topic amongst the hardcore Genesis fan. Jeez, there are even been books published that contain chapters dedicated to this albums "true" meaning.
Well, I've never been one to follow the majority (just look at my system) so why should I start here? All of the information I've gathered, couple that with the lyrics, then take into account that Peter was extremely unhappy with the group and thinking of leaving, and I've come to the determination that everybody's interpretations are wrong (surprised?).
IMO, this albums lyrics are really all about Peter's frustrations with the band (and it's members), the making of this album, his illusions of leaving, self-doubt and insecurities. Nothing more and nothing less, it's that simple. Peter created this mythical character Rael and the elaborate tail to disguise the true meaning of the lyrics. Ooouuu a conspiracy theory !!!
I need to give you some more method to my madness. When this album was first discussed between the band members, Mike offered up the concept of a children's album called "The Little Prince". That didn't go over very well. Democracy or not, Peter insisted on his "concept" album that followed the story of Rael in New York City, he pushed and he won.
At this point in their career, Genesis was having quite a bit of trouble, internally. Steve Hackett was beginning to feel left out of the creative process and the other band members were becoming quite perturbed at Peter's onstage flair for the dramatic even though it gave them ton's of publicity. Peter was under some extreme pressure, his wife had had just giving birth their first child and he wasn't there for his family, rather, he was off either touring or cutting an album. Couple that with the infighting between him and the other members and that set the stage for future events.
On The Lamb Lies Down, Peter didn't want to relinquish any of the lyric writing duties stating publicly that "this project couldn't be written by committee". That caused additional problems within the band. Then, in the middle of writing this album, Peter asked the other members if they would mind if he went to Hollywood and make a film version of this album. Needless to say the other guys said no, so Peter went anyway. That was probably the pivotal moment for Peter's final decision to leave. Peter did come back after about a week, at the behest of Phil, to continue with the album.
During the creation of this album the band was staying at Headley Orange House. This was the same house that Led Zepplin, Bad Company, and Pretty Things had lived at and created in before. According to Phil, the house was pretty dilapidated from the previous tenants. I would think that this fact would also play a factor in Peter's mindset for some of the more bizarre lyrics. Speaking of which, several of the band members said that Peter, while writing the lyrics, would isolate himself from the rest of the band, presumably in a separate room of the house.
Keep in mind Peter's total disillusionment with the band, his plans to leave, his self induced isolation during lyric composition, the fact that his marriage and new family was nearly on the rocks, then re-read the lyrics of this album and see if you don't come to the same conclusion I have. Though the title cut only makes one or two references, throughout the rest of the album he is making (seemingly) pointed statements about his band mates, crying out about indecision and self-confidence. Read between the lines and there lies the true meaning of the lyrics (IMO).
I know Peter has kept up the illusion that this is the story of Rael, not only the media but also to his old band mates. I feel it's just been an elaborate ruse to cover the Real story that Rael is Peter. He is just writing about the death of an era (his involvement in Genesis). I can see that I am going to need to write a full-blown interpretation of the lyrics to justify my position to the hardcore believer. Here's one that will blow your mind too, I think that John is really Steve Hackett, but I'll save that argument for my thesis.
In the end, Peter became so alienated within the band that after the second show of Lamb's supporting world tour, he informed their manager that he was quitting the band. Fortunately, he stayed on long enough to finish the dates they had committed to.
If you are really curious about why I came to this conclusion, here are a couple of links to interviews and some of the fan sites that deal with 1975 era Genesis. The first is an old interview of all the band members talking about the creation of the album. This next one is the typical interpretation of the albums lyrics which I now don't agree with (not that I really bought into it when I first read it either). I'd also like to suggest watching VH1's Behind the Music on Genesis next time it comes on. Here you will see firsthand the band members' reactions and more importantly their body language when asked about that period of their lives. A picture is worth a thousand words. These are just three of the (literally) dozens of sources I pulled from to come up with my interpretation.
Interestingly enough, Peter follows the same theme of discontentment with Genesis right into his first solo, self titled, release commonly known as Rain on Windshield. Read the lyrics to Solsbury Hill and Excuse Me (along with some of the others) and you'll see what I mean.
The fine folks at Classic Records have said this is the last of the Genesis series for a while. They still have the rights to the rest of the catalog but they are going to take a break for a bit. Shame, I hate to here that. Classic has done a great job on all the Genesis re-issues so far and this one is no different. I was really hoping they would do their next three releases too, A Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, then finally And Then There Were Three (so aptly named because of Steve Hacketts departure). I guess all us hardcore Genesis fans will have to wait a while for the rest of the albums.
See, I'm a huge Genesis fan. That includes the "new" stuff, though Ray Wilson vocals don't do much for me. I've got a five inch stack of Genesis LP's (including bootlegs) and a 7 inch stack of CD's. In fact, I think I've got everything each of the members has done together and solo. A long time ago, I even went so far as to do a carving of the old lady looking at herself (in a younger light) in a mirror, that is found on the cover of A Trick of the Tail.
Pathetic, isn't it :-)
Anyway, as I eluded before, Classic has done another great job. The improvements on this one leap out at you. I used to think the original release wasn't too awefully bad and didn't leave too much room for improvement. But I was wrong.
Even before this re-issue, the bass on this album was crushing to say the least. It's some of the deepest bass I've heard on vinyl from a rock band. It's even better now. As side two starts with Back in NYC, a repeating single note (really deeeeep) bass chord sets the undertone of the entire song. Bass like this on vinyl, is as rare as hens teeth, and the best part, it's not overdone in the least. Then they roll into Hairless Heart, which has even deeper bass. On the original release, the deepest bass sounded a bit weak, almost flabby and unpronounced now it's firm and authoritative. This album could easily take it's place in the bass-heads hall of fame :-)
The vocal tracks on the original release tend to be a little hard to handle. Peter's voice, when he pushes it to extremes, is right at that frequency that causes paint to peel. The old pressings didn't help this aspect at all, in fact it made it a lot worse. There was a lot of distortion on the outer edges of his voice, the Sss's, Ch's and elsewhere. The Classic re-issue is far smoother. You can now crank it where before it was almost unbearable at high volumes during the vocal passages.
On the original release, the sustain of Phil's cymbals was almost non-existent, now you can clearly here the decay, almost to the noise floor. I was thinking that maybe somebody had used a compressor on the original masters so I called and talked to the guys at Classic about what I was hearing. They told me that they had just taken the master tape and properly cut a master lacquer then made a mother (and then stamper) from that. They hadn't done any re-mixing or added any effects (eq or reverb) at all to this release.
So that lead me to the question, "Why is your reissue so much clearer than the original piece of vinyl?". There were actually a whole host of reasons. First, Classic is out to get the best possible sound out of each piece of vinyl they produce, unlike (so many) record companies of yesteryear who were just out to flood the market with product. Extreme attention is paid to each album that is reissued to insure that every detail that is on the master tape is faithfully reproduced on the vinyl. Back in the "good old days" they just didn't care as much about the quality of the end product. Remember, we audiophiles hadn't been invented quite yet or if we were, we weren't really cognizant yet.
Another issue existed back then that effected the sound quality of a record, many times the record company's original lacquers would often sit for days prior to being plated. During that time the lacquer could be subjected to all kinds of environmental conditions that can have a negative impact on the end product. Classic actually has the master lacquer plated the same day as it is cut, "hot off the press" so to speak.
On The Lamb Lies Down reissue, Classic has tamed nearly all of this nastiness. Gone are most of the sibilant distortions. The low level detail that we never heard is now here for all to behold. The Classic release is so much more enjoyable to listen to. It's as if a veil has been lifted from the entire album. The treble is far clearer, more delicate and refined. The instruments and vocals almost jump out of the speakers at times. As for the bass, it's like I mentioned earlier, this one could go in the hall of fame. I do have to say I did run across a couple of spots that were a little "hot" but it was literally only two or three spots and those had to be due to tape saturation (way over +3db). There's nothing anybody can do about those.
The Quiex vinyl easily lives up to it's billing too. I had it cranked pretty good (105db) on The Lamia, which is a fairly delicate (but bizarre) song and the surface noise was dead quiet. All I heard in the background was the (very) soft analog tape hiss.
Musically, The Lamb Lies Down is (arguably) the groups best album. Forget about my interpretations of the lyrics for a moment, this album takes you on a musical journey that is nearly unparalleled in progressive rock. This release proudly is ranks right up there with of the rock and roll giants like, Physical Graffiti, Tommy, and Dark Side of the Moon without a doubt. This is one of the best progressive rock albums ever recorded.
The finesse in which the crew at Classic applied to this one is quite stunning. Comparing the original release to Classic's reissue, the choice is simple. The Classic Records re-issue beats the pants off the original release.
Wow, my fingers are tired after that one :-)
© Copyright 2002 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com