19 February 2010, Cliff @ 10:26 am
All The Help I Can Get (Godfatherecords GR458/459)
“Six Of The Best” Rehearsals, Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK - 29 September, 1982
Disc 1: Back In N.Y.C, Dancing With The Moonlight Knight – Take 1, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight – Take 2, The Carper Crawlers, Firth Of Fifth, The Musical Box, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody Of 1974
Disc 2: In The Cage Part 1, in The Cage Part 2, Supper’s Ready, The Knife, Solsbury Hill – Take 1, Solsbury Hill – Take 2, Solsbury Hill – Take 3
As is well known, vocalist Peter Gabriel left Genesis after The lamb Lies Down On Broadway Tour in 1975, the band subsequently becoming a quartet with drummer Phil Collins assuming vocal duties. Guitarist Steve Hackett had also jumped ship by 1977, leaving the remaining trio to transform itself from a progressive rock band into a mainstream pop group. These developments necessitated the recruitment of additional touring members, Bill Bruford and then Chester Thompson on drums and Daryl Stuermer on guitar and bass.
Meanwhile, Gabriel had not only been releasing solo material but had become a significant figure in world music as the co-founder, with Thomas Brooman and Bob Hooton, of World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD). WOMAD was set up on the assumption that many more people would come to appreciate the music of other cultures if that music was made more accessible, and the first WOMAD festival was held in Shepton Mallett, England in 1982.
Unfortunately for Gabriel, his substantial investment in the organization saw little return and he found himself in financial difficulties. (As Gabriel himself put it, he “lost a pile of money.”) Genesis manager Tony Smith was consequently instrumental in reuniting Gabriel with his former bandmates to perform a one-off concert designed to ease Gabriel’s economic plight. This concert, given the name Six Of The Best, was held at The National Bowl, Milton Keynes, England on 2 October, 1982.
Some years ago an audience recording of the show, in mediocre sound quality, appeared on the Highland label entitled Six Of The Best. More recently, a compilation of seven audience recordings known as the FAde 003 version appeared on torrent sites and this was soon supplanted by the TM Productions version. (The Blue Snaggletooth website calls the former “definitive” and the latter “even more definitive.”) Superior in sound to the Highland release, these versions are, as might be expected, still a little rough around the edges. Those wishing to acquire a recording of the show itself are directed to the recent CD-R release from the Mindwarp label, One Night Stand.
Now Godfather presents us with a soundboard recording (which has also been torrented), not of the show itself, but of the rehearsal held at the Hammersmith Odeon on 29 September. Clearly superior in sound to extant recordings of the concert itself, the rehearsal is referred to in Godfather’s sleeve notes as, “probably one of the most significant underground releases of a historical recording by a major rock group [to have] recently surfaced,” a hyperbolic but not necessarily inaccurate statement. The Blue Snaggletooth internet review of this rehearsal tape (which forms the basis of a large part of Godfather’s sleeve notes, though they do not contain the remark quoted above), concurs, stating that, “it is miraculous to have this soundboard record of such an historic event.”
BBKron’s post on the BB Chronicles site (additionally reproduced on Guitars101) also agrees, stating that, “now we have a better document of this unique time and concert experience…these [tapes] are a marvellous documentation of the event, and the sound quality is much better than the tapes of the actual concert…It is fascinating to hear this behind the scenes glimpse at them running through these songs for the first time in many years.”
The first disc begins with Back In N.Y.C., the first of six numbers from the band’s final album with Gabriel, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. By the time the tape starts the song has already begun, so that we unfortunately miss the beginning. The song begins just before the line, “They call me the trail blazer – Rael – electric razor.” It is an effective, tight performance which constitutes a fine start to proceedings. We then get two stabs at Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, which clearly reveal the circumstance of the occasion. Before the song commences Gabriel can clearly be heard saying that he needs ”all the help I can get.”
The first take demonstrates that Gabriel is unaware of how to conclude the truncated version of the song, and once he reaches the line “digesting England by the pound” he stops and he can be heard saying, “this is new to me. So I just repeat that three times?” The song then recommences from the second line (“said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes”) and reaches the same point as the first take, after which Gabriel than sings again the line “selling England by the pound,” which brings the song to a close. Despite his uncertainties, Gabriel sings well and the performance is very atmospheric.
Carpet Crawlers, one of my favourite Genesis songs, is another effective performance, though the first verse is regrettably absent. Blue Snaggletooth contends that Gabriel “messes up one or two things.” Principally, he seems to forget some of the words in the middle of the line, “Through the door a harvest feast is lit by candlelight,” from the fourth verse. There seems to be a further vocal slip up near the end of the song, though this may in fact be a brief cut in the tape.
When he last sang the song, on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway Tour, Collins backed him up on the chorus, singing high while Gabriel himself sang low. Here, Gabriel has to sing the high part, again demonstrating how things have moved on in his seven-year absence. Like Carpet Crawlers, Firth Of Fifth is a definite highlight, given a splendidly effective performance, with the quiter instrumental section possessing tremendous atmosphere, and the louder section having a pleasing vigour, with some thunderous drumming.
Another old favourite, The Musical Box, follows, and Gabriel again demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the lyrics at the very beginning, and he struggles with the song’s dramatic conclusion, mistakenly beginning the closing section with its fourth line (“You stand there with your fixed expression”). The Snaggle Tooth review points out that. “the band keep him company in rustiness,” reminding us that, “most of them haven’t played the whole song in years and some of them have never done so!”
Despite these flaws, this is a splendid renditon and the fast instrumental section is given a searing performance, which is the highlight of this version. Phil Collins’ vocals are clearly audible on the “She’s a lady” section, but they fail to mesh effectively with Gabriel’s. The ending of the song is also very striking and the performance suggests that the band members were enjoying themselves greatly.
Disc one concludes with the three opening numbers from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, beginning with the title track, which features some nicely shimmering piano at the start. Gabriel again shows his unfamiliarity with the material when forgets some of the lyrics of the first verse. It could be argued that the has less excuse here, having performed the number live on his first two solo tours.
The song proceeds without further mishap and comes across well until very near the end, where Gabriel, singing without the backing vocala which enhance the album version, suddenly stops mid-word during the closing section that features The Drifters’ 1963 hit, On Broadway, saying “sorry, yeah.” The band then repeats the end of the song, commencing with the line, “Something inside me has just begun.”
A simple but effective version of the vocal section of Fly On A Windshield (without the synthesized vocal backing) then leads into the portentious instrumental section which prefaces Gabriel’s very sinister-sounding vocals on Broadway Melody of 1974. It concludes very suddenly when the last vocal line (“with needles: needles and pins”) is sung, bringing disc 1 to a close.
Disc 2 then opens with the fifth number from The Lamb, In The Cage. Gabriel is heard to sing “I woke up, deep in the deep,” a variant on the last line of the first verse, but then he stops and the song effectively commences with the second line of the second verse. Gabriel also omits some lyrics from the middle of the third verse. The song comes to an abrupt halt just after the point (following the sixth verse) where, referencing the well-known Bacharach/David number, Gabriel sings “raindrops keep falling on my head,” and it then recommences at a point a little before this, continuing to the end in energetic fashion.
The undisputed classic Supper’s Ready is unfortunately shorn of its opening, beginning suddenly in mid-line with the words “saw your face change, it didn’t seem quite right.” The performance goes well thereafter, with the two opening sections, Lover’s Leap and The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man, in particular coming across most atmospherically.
The transitions between the different sections of the song are handled smoothly and all goes well (despite a brief pause with the words “hang on” before Gabriel’s flute part, just prior to the first words of the Apocalypse in 9/8 section) until the band sudddenly breaks down after the lines, “666 is no longer alone/He’s getting out the marrow in your backbone.” However, the song restarts almost immediately and continues until the end.
The last song from the Trespass album, The Knife, is given a vibrant and fleet-footed reading in an abridged version clocking in at three and three-quarter minutes. The second disc then concludes with three takes of Gabriel’s debut single Solsbury Hill, only the third of which is complete. The song has a pleasing, light-textured and sprightly aspect here, which I like very much. The final version makes an effective closer to this release – except that it is not quite the end, as we get around forty-five seconds of impromptu drumming before the second disc comes to a close.
The sound quality is much better than that of extant tapes of the concert itself. Quite often it is very good indeed, as one would expect from tapes recorded professionally with the band’s consent. However, it is not perfect, as might also be expected from tapes which were not designed for public consumption.
As the BB Chronicles account states, the sound quality is “not as crisp, clean, or clear as the best soundboards, uneven mix, and the volume seems to fade in and out somewhat sporadically.” It is, in fact, not so much a fading in and out, but rather several instances of the sound becoming louder and coarser for a few seconds. There is also some audible hiss. Overall, however, there is nothing in the sound that will prevent collectors from enjoying these discs.
This release comes in Godfather’s trademark tri-fold sleeve which reproduces numerous photographs of the band members from the rehearsal itself. The extensive sleeve notes, which purport to be by “Art Gnuvo,” are based heavily on the Blue Snaggletooth review, though the BB Chronicles account is also utilized. There is no booklet.
This is a release of genuine historical significance, comprising, as it does, a unique rehearsal for an equally unique show. No one will claim that these are definitive versions of the songs – that is clearly not the point of this release. What Godfather presents us with is a fascinating insight into the preparations for the Six Of The Best concert. As the BB Chronicles review so rightly contends, “despite the flaws (and maybe even partly because of them) these tapes are a rare find and a ‘must-have’ for any serious Genesis or Gabriel fan.”
It is strongly rumoured that there is more extant material from this rehearsal (Blue Snaggletooth contends that, “this recording has clearly been edited”). After all, one must presume that all the songs were played more than once. The concert also included two songs not featured here, Turn It On Again and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); it is surely inconceivable that they were not rehearsed. Collectors may therefore hold out reasonable hope of a sequel to this indispensible release.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Genesis - All The Help I Can Get (Godfather Records GR458/459),