Genesis, ‘BBC Broadcasts': Album Review
The Genesis vaults, it seemed, were bone-dry — a fact crystalized by the prog-pop band’s 2021 compilation, The Last Domino? — The Hits. Released as a sort of cash-grab souvenir shrug tied to their long-awaited reunion tour, the package featured precisely zero unheard material, not one intriguing bonus nugget that justified its shelf space. Just another variation of the same idea: We got nothin', but ... how about this? (We all bought it anyway, of course. Desperate times…)
That's part of what makes BBC Broadcasts, the band's latest archival set, a genuine revelation: Few of us probably saw it coming. The career-spanning project — issued across five CDs or, in condensed form, three LPs — collects material recorded by the U.K. radio giant between 1970 and 1998. Most of it's new to fans, and almost all of it is essential listening for die-hards.
Even though there are some major gaps in the chronology (only one track between the crucial prog years of 1972 and 1978, nothing between the slicker stretch of 1980 to 1987), BBC Broadcasts still presents a solid overview of the Genesis evolution. It opens with a trio of previously released non-album tracks (the dainty, folky "Shepherd," "Pacidy" and "Let Us Now Make Love") recorded in 1970 for the Night Ride program. It ends during a live show from the widely ignored Calling All Stations era, with two dramatic tracks ("Not About Us," "Dividing Line") fronted by the briefly tenured Ray Wilson in 1998.
The big-ticket moments, just like with the studio catalog, fall in between. Several of those come courtesy of renowned radio presenter John Peel, who hosted the band in January and September 1972. These songs, some of the most unfairly overlooked from the Peter Gabriel era, are at times more lively than their album counterparts ("Harlequin," from that year's Nursery Cryme, offers clearer vocal harmonies and a fuller Hammond organ sound), and often way richer sonically ("Harold the Barrel," from the same LP, makes the original sound like a demo).
The traditional live recordings are equally vital, often showcasing subtle arrangement tweaks. A 1978 version of the Zeppelin-like "Squonk" from the Knebworth Festival ends with a jazzier, funkier rhythm section, as live guitarist Daryl Stuermer peels off a glorious bent note; "Dance on a Volcano" from the same gig, is faster and more frenetic, with the guitars and synths punching with an almost feral intensity.
But one particular show, the band's famed (and widely circulated) 1980 performance at London's Lyceum, makes this set worth any price tag. Fidelity, creativity, emotion, uniqueness of set list — it checks every box. "Say It's Alright Joe" is stretched out to its dynamic extremes, from languid to laser-worthy; "Turn It on Again" is heavier than the Duke version, hurtled forward by insane synth-bass; the band seems to be having a blast toying with the prog epic "One for the Vine," with Phil Collins adding some intensely syncopated kick-snare fills and Tony Banks letting his electric piano pirouette like a ballerina.
The Lyceum show is the apex of the Genesis live catalog, and it's a pleasure to own it properly. You could say the same for BBC Broadcasts. Is the vault fully clear? Time will tell. Either way, no one could fault them for stopping here.