Great Album Retro Review: Abacab by Genesis

41sSESitKELI read an article reporting on the psychology behind why people tend to favor the first album they’ve heard by a musical artist over the rest of that artist’s output. It has to do with familiarity. Since it’s the first album you picked up, it’s probably the one you’ve listened to the most and so it’s your favorite. Makes sense.

I can think of a some albums that weren’t the first I’d owned by a particular band, but are my favorites (XTC’s Skylarking, for instance). However, when I give it some thought, there are plenty of favorite albums in my collection that fit in the “first heard” category. This month’s album is one of those.

It’s Abacab by the prog (becoming more pop) rock band Genesis. Released in 1981, it wasn’t my first exposure the UK band. I knew and liked the song Misunderstanding from their 1980 release Duke. That song had gotten a good deal more radio play than anything from the band’s previous nine albums. But I didn’t buy Duke.

When Abacab’s title single hit the radio, I was impressed enough to buy the album. So, my first Genesis album was the band’s eleventh! Abacab was more pop than their previous albums. The songs were simpler and more direct, which was intentional so as to stay fresh in their sound. Not being much of a prog rock fan, the poppier aspect was more attractive to me.

The tracks:

Abacab – Named for the sections (A, B, & C) that make up the song, when creating the song the band would move the sections around until they found the one configuration they liked, Abacab was one of those section configurations, but not the final one. Still they liked the way the letters made a “word” and used it for the album title. This song (and album) also had that big Phil Collins’ drum sound, a sound that would influence much of pop music through the 80s. As I said, I was really impressed with the song. Still am.

No Reply At All – Oh, boy! This song just jumped off the record for me. I loved the horns, provided by the horn section of the R&B giants Earth, Wind & Fire. There’s just something about a good jaunty horn section to boost a song. And the lyrics of a lonely guy pining for love struck a chord with my high school self.

Me And Sarah Jane – When I got to learn more about the history of this band and of Peter Gabriel, their original lead singer, I could hear more of their prog roots here and I can also hear why the band picked Collins as their new leader singer. There’s quite a lot of Gabriel’s sound in this song. A quieter song that builds and gets quiet and builds and gets quiet.

Keep It Dark – My favorite track on the album. I love the guitar riff and the lyrics of a man who had been abducted by a gang of thieves. Or were they aliens? The protagonist decides not let on exactly what happened to him. He decides to keep it dark. Great song.

Dodo/Lurker – This one is probably the most prog of any of the songs of the album. I enjoy the flow of the song as it makes time changes and discusses the plights of dodos and minxes.

Who Dunnit? – I don’t know about this one. I do like it. However, it feels a little like a throwaway song. On the other hand, the song also seems a bit tongue-in-cheek and shows the band to have a sense of humor. It’s also just plain weird. I don’t know about this one… But, I like it.

Man On The Corner – This one is a start out quiet and build until it’s hitting the ceiling song. It is a tried and true (and sometimes overdone – see Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton) style of song delivery. Genesis makes it work here. I think because the whole build up is so slow and the ceiling isn’t too high.

Like It Or Not – Another quiet song that builds well, but it still holds back just enough. I like that. Sometimes that holding back makes a song more powerful (don’t see Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton).

Another Record – The album started with a big drum sound and it ends with big drums. Yeah, I know, there were big drums pretty much the whole album, but this track sounds as though the drums are the lead instrument. The song is a little of an anticlimax – good, but not quite as powerful an ending as the album’s beginning.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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