Art-Rock Archaeology

For many people -- yours truly included -- Genesis was effectively finished when Peter Gabriel left the group. The band at least seemed destined to travel in a different direction than it had gone during the singer's tenure. For fans of that era of Genesis, a four-CD box set of previously unreleased material has recently hit the shelves with their tastes in mind. Instead of taking the easy route and compiling a "best of" collection, this set offers previously unissued live material, demos, rough mixes and rare single sides.

Working in reverse chronological order, the first two discs contain a complete live performance of the 1974 double-LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Although it was performed in its entirety more than 100 times, this was the only concert to be committed to multitrack tape. While a number of recordings of this work had been in circulation on bootlegs for more than 20 years, this new version brings the set to life with crystal-clear quality. A bit of controversy has surrounded this particular recording, though. Since the masks that Gabriel used during the performances often prevented the microphone from getting anywhere near his mouth, he has rerecorded some of the obscured lines of text. While this may appear like rewriting history, the net effect is quite seamless.

For my money, the third disc contains some of the best material in the set. There are five tracks recorded live at the Rainbow Theater in London, England in 1975 as part of the Selling England by the Pound tour. "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight," "Firth of Fifth," "More Fool Me" and "I Know What I Like" are all included from that album. In addition, there is a nearly half-hour performance of the classic "Supper's Ready." After these tracks, there's a 1971 BBC Radio Session recording of "Stagnation," a couple of sides of singles -- "Happy the Man" and "Watcher of the Skies" -- and the rarity "Twilight Alehouse."

Finally, the last disc brings together numerous demo takes and rough mixes from as early as 1967. Most of these tracks would later appear on the group's debut LP, From Genesis to Revelation. The band was never completely satisfied with the orchestration added to the album and these archival snapshots provide a closer look at its vision of the songs.

In addition to the musical material, there is a huge 80-page booklet which includes essays and remembrances by band members and British journalists, plus a wide array of previously unseen photographs.

For those who were foremost fans of Genesis' "Gabriel Years," this package is a treat not to be missed.

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