Sunday, April 15, 2018

From Exodus to Revelation: A Trick of the Tale

I'm working on about 14 posts at once here -- don't sweat Cecil Taylor, he's coming -- but today's the day to celebrate another transition, this one of what to many must seem a distant musical past. This, via two stellar radio concerts taped almost exactly one pivotal year of upheaval apart, on two different weekends in different mid-Aprils long ago.
For once upon a time, before the epoch of Autotune, there were these things called bands. They assembled, struggled, got recorded if they were lucky, and toured relentlessly from crappy 1970s Holiday Inn to crappy Holiday Inn across this great land.
At times members of these bands would tire of the ceaseless struggle, and decide they didn't want to be in that particular band -- or any band -- anymore. This often caused consternation and controversy, two staples of the human condition.
Of all these comings and goings, one of the most impactful transformations of a band that's ever happened in our lifetimes is today's subject. Really it's all a thin excuse to share two tremendous bootlegs recorded on either side of the switch.
The year was 1975, and the band in question was just about to see all the previous five years of struggle pay off, with a larger presence in America and a sales arc that was just beginning to show evidence of the commercial powerhouse it would one day become.
When their singer -- whom, to the press and many listeners, was the band due to his theatrical presence and onstage attention-grabbing -- decided he'd had enough of the music industry, things got really foreboding and depressing for a while.
That he told them of his intentions to quit right on the eve of their hugest American tour to date must have had the other four pacing their motel rooms in trepidation. I bet the lousy Holiday Inn food was no help, either.
Eventually the tour ended and the singer's departure was announced, causing the music press of the time to declare the group essentially dead. This seemed to energize the remainder, who then proceeded to audition almost 1000 singers to replace him. None of them worked.
This only increased the unlikelihood they would continue, and then their guitarist went off to make a (fantastic) album on his own, further fueling the by-then-rampant breakup rumors.
Eventually they came back together, at the end of 1975, to try and regroup and record. When it came time for the vocals to be put down, they enlisted their drummer -- who had sung a couple of songs on their previous records -- as a placeholder vocalist, fully intending to feature a different, as yet undetermined singer on the subsequent tour.
As you may have surmised by now, they never found one. Instead, they decided to thrust the drummer out front to sing, and got another drummer -- smartly, one folks would recognize -- to fill the void on tour. This seeming point of compromise and failure turned out to be the start of their ascent to a worldwide superstardom none of them could have ever anticipated.
As the years went by, their guitarist -- really the keeper of the flame as far as their original, Prog Rock sound -- followed their original singer out. Both went on to become superstars in their own right, and over the course of the next decade, the original singer became acknowledged as one of the most beloved and revered songwriters and performers of our lifetimes.
And his replacement, the original drummer? Well, let's just say that if you were Diana Ross, you'd still not have sold as many records as he has. Almost nobody has, really.
It had to be this way, if you think about it... positive outcomes generated from negative circumstances and all. Often humans rise to their greatest heights when challenged with situations that appear, on their face, to be utterly futile and hopeless. We are a species that can be at its best sometimes only when things are at their worst.
Did I mention the bass player -- on the left above, all smiles -- also started a side band that went on to fill stadiums? These fuckers may be English Public School boys, but that's where the demure, relaxed approach of kicking the can down the road ends with them, I'm afraid.

Empire Pool
London, UK
TM pre-FM remaster

01 Watcher of the Skies
02 Cuckoo Cocoon
03 In the Cage
04 The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
05 The Story of Rael
06 Back In NYC
07 Hairless Heart
08 Counting Out Time
09 The Carpet Crawlers
10 Lilywhite Lilith
11 The Waiting Room
12 Anyway
13 Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats
14 In the Colony of Slippermen: Arrival
15 Ravine
16 The Light Dies Down On Broadway
17 Riding the Scree

Total time: 1:08:21

Peter Gabriel - vocals, flute & percussion
Steve Hackett - guitars
Mike Rutherford - guitars, bass, Moog Taurus bass pedals & vocals
Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar & vocals
Phil Collins - drums, percussion & vocals

TM Productions Definitive Edition remaster of the original, pre-FM BBC transcription reels
Syria Mosque
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

01 Dance On a Volcano
02 The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
03 Fly On a Windshield
04 The Carpet Crawlers
05 The Cinema Show
06 Robbery, Assault & Battery
07 White Mountain
08 Firth of Fifth
09 Steve Hackett announcement
10 Entangled
11 Squonk
12 Supper's Ready
13 I Know What I Like
14 Los Endos
15 IT/Watcher of the Skies

Total time: 1:56:38
disc break goes after Track 08

Steve Hackett - guitars
Mike Rutherford - guitars, bass, Moog Taurus bass pedals & vocals
Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar & vocals
Phil Collins - drums, percussion & vocals
Bill Bruford - drums & percussion

SAB remaster (#SAB04) of at least two different master FM captures (likely cassettes); declipped, widened, smoothed and speed corrected by EN, 4.13+14.2018
767 MB FLAC here
Obviously a lot of folks would love a reunion tour from these five, but that seems less and less likely as the years go by and health issues -- the drummer can no longer physically play the drums -- have their way. 
But their catalog -- and being one of the very few Progressive Rock groups to be enshrined in the RnRHoF -- speaks for itself and in some ways makes it easier to let the past be the past. It makes what they achieved back in the day, anyway -- especially rising to the occasion when they were confronted with early extinction -- all the more impressive, if you ask me.--J.