Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 29, 2005)
Every year when the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame announces its inductees, complaints arise. Sometimes folks gripe about the acts who made it into the Hall, but usually fans moan because the Hall ignored their favorite. Many of the acts cited will not and should not make it in, but some of the criticisms are legitimate. For instance, it remains absurd that Black Sabbath aren’t in the Hall. I don’t like the band, but their impact on rock is far too substantial for their omission.
At least they’ve been nominated. More bizarre is the fact that the Hall consistently ignores Genesis. A very long-lasting and successful band in their own right, two members – Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins – went onto solo careers that are Hall-worthy in their own right. Heck, even guitarist Mike Rutherford churned out a few hits with Mike and the Mechanics! It seems to me that Genesis did more than enough over their decades together to warrant induction. I’m no fan of progressive rock, but Genesis grew out of that genre and definitely are among rock’s all-time elite.
Maybe the voters at the Hall will give this new DVD a look and reconsider. Called The Video Show, this package collects 32 music videos that span a period of 23 years. These mostly appear in reverse chronological order. We start with tracks from 1991’s We Can’t Dance album and then go backwards to 1976’s A Trick of the Tail.
However, the DVD then leaps to 1997 for three songs from that year’s Calling All Stations. Why the change? Because the 1997 Genesis featured Ray Wilson on vocals and doesn’t seem to be considered “real” Genesis; these videos feel almost like footnotes. The package then ends with the 1999 version of “The Carpet Crawlers”. That tune originally appeared on 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, but this track updated it for 1999 and features both Gabriel and Collins on vocals.
Enough background – let’s dig into the videos. I’ll look at each one individually and offer a few comments along with a rating on the 1-10 scale. I’ll also provide album credits.
No Son Of Mine (We Can’t Dance, 1991): With a nod toward Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”, this sepia-toned video looks at a teen boy and his abusive father. It intersperses those shots with images of the band as they play in the kid’s house. As often with Collins-oriented Genesis, the music is overproduced; a sparer version of the song would have a greater impact. Still, it sounds reasonably good and the video becomes effective. 7/10.
I Can’t Dance (We Can’t Dance): Comedy comes to the forefront with this clever clip. It opens with a parody of then-current Bugle Boy ads and continues to mock other promos as well as Michael Jackson. This seems more than slightly disingenuous; if I recall correctly Collins – with and without Genesis – indulged in corporate sponsorship, so it doesn’t make much sense for him to attack others for doing the same. Nonetheless, it’s an amusing video for a decent song. 8/10.
Hold On My Heart (We Can’t Dance): A simple video for a dull ballad, “Heart” shows little inspiration in either category. The tune definitely doesn’t go down as one of Collins’ better ballads, and the video simply shows the band as they lip-synch in a bar. The whole thing looks like it took about 10 minutes to create. 3/10.
Jesus He Knows Me (We Can’t Dance): This song would have been cutting edge commentary – five years earlier. By 1991, greedy, hypocritical televangelists were old news, so “Jesus” feels like headlines from yesterday’s papers. Despite that, the song proves peppy and enjoyable, and the video has its moments. Actually, it’s pretty predictable, but it includes some shots of hot women in bikinis, so I won’t complain. 7/10.
Tell Me Why: (We Can’t Dance): Serious Genesis returns in this “Save the World” clip. Actually, it’s a simple video, as it cuts between lip-synch shots of the band and scenes of needy folks. I give the video applause for trying to raise awareness, but it doesn’t make for an interesting piece, unfortunately. The presentation feels too much like a Sally Struthers commercial, and the song lacks much spark. 5/10.
Invisible Touch (Invisible Touch, 1986): Riding on the heels of Collins’ massively successful 1985 solo album No Jacket Required, I believe Touch was the biggest selling Genesis album, and it introduced them to an era in which they played stadiums. Whether this was good is a subject open to debate.
“Touch” the tune doesn’t stand among the best work done by the band or Collins solo. Its synth-based sound hasn’t aged well, though I thought it was a silly tune 19 years ago. The video offers little more than a goofy take on the usual lip-synch performance genre. Collins clowns around on the set and that’s about it. 4/10.
Throwing It All Away (Invisible Touch): Collins introduces this one to tell us we’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at Genesis on tour. Indeed, that’s what we get. We see a few performance shots and check out band and crew as they go through their work. None of this ever becomes particularly fascinating, though it’s a decent tour travelogue. 5/10.
Land of Confusion (Invisible Touch): One of the band’s most popular video, “Confusion” used the briefly popular “Spitting Image” puppets to create something unusual. Its parody of Ronald Reagan and its social commentary lack insight, but it manages to become fun and clever all the same. 8/10.
Tonight Tonight Tonight (Invisible Touch): This moody, stylish video feels a lot like one of those commercials the band later parodied in “I Can’t Dance”. It mostly follows the basic lip-synch format but the dark atmosphere makes it more interesting than most. 6/10.
Anything She Does (Invisible Touch): The song sounds like an outtake from No Jacket Required, but that’s not a terrible thing. It’s a peppy little track, and guest star Benny Hill adds a fun tone to the video. He plays the band’s new head of security and goofs up a storm. 8/10.
In Too Deep (Invisible Touch): Another song that comes across like a leftover from a Collins solo album, “Deep” falls flat. It’s a dull ballad and the video does nothing to elevate the drab tune. It sticks with bland lip-synch footage. 3/10.
That’s All (Genesis, 1983): At heart another simple lip-synch performance, “All” adds some distinctiveness as it places the band in a Depression-era setting. It helps the tune itself is edgier than most Genesis ballads. 6/10.
Mama (Genesis): “Mama” was the first Genesis song I ever liked, and it’s also the first song we’ve encountered in this set that wouldn’t sound right at home on a Collins solo album. Yet another lip-synch clip, this one at least manages to use its moody sepia look and grimy cantina setting in an effective way. 6/10.
Illegal Alien (Genesis): We head back to the realm of comedic social commentary here. The video casts the band members as Mexicans who seek a route to the US. It makes some minor points but mostly acts as an excuse for some goofiness. The song is oddly peppy given its subject, but it works. 7/10.
Home By the Sea/Second Home By the Sea (Genesis): As I’ve noted through this review, a lot of Eighties Genesis sounds like solo Phil Collins and lacks much connection to the band’s roots. For me, that’s not a bad thing, as I don’t particularly care for Gabriel-era Genesis; I’m one of six people to prefer pop Genesis to prog Genesis.
Anyway, the farther back we go, the closer to prog Genesis we get, and “Home” is one of the few songs that almost sounds like it could come from that era. It’s not as strange as the Gabriel stuff, but it’s also not as mainstream as most of the Collins material. Too bad the video is a simple lip-synch piece without much to make it interesting. 4/10.
Paperlate (3X3 EP, 1982): Another pop Genesis tune, this one stands as a terrific number. When I stated that I prefer pop Genesis to prog Genesis, I probably should have been more specific. I don’t think a lot of Genesis from 1986 on, and I don’t much like their work prior to 1978. That leaves a small window of material I enjoy, and “Paperlate” represents that element at its best. I like pop Genesis that doesn’t necessarily sound like Collins’ solo work. I don’t know if this makes sense, but there it is!
The “Paperlate” video actually comes from a May 27, 1982 appearance on Top of the Pops. That places it firmly in the category of lip-synch, and restricted lip-synch at that, since the band is stuck on a small stage. At least it has some historical value. 4/10.
Abacab (Abacab, 1981): The farther back we go, the more unfair it probably becomes for me to criticize lip-synch clips. After all, more dramatic or involving videos didn’t really start to emerge until 1982 or 1983, so it’s not right to expect anything like that from earlier days.
Nonetheless, that historical perspective doesn’t make the lip-synch format less tedious. “Abacab” does nothing to distinguish itself as a canned performance clip. It’s a great song but not a very interesting video. 5/10.
Keep It Dark (Abacab): Or maybe there is more to pre-1982 videos than simple in-the-studio lip-synch clips! “Dark” puts the band in trench coats and plops them in the streets of London to do their shtick before they eventually end up in a field. The song lacks much spark and plods along tediously, but at least the video tries to be creative. 6/10.
No Reply At All (Abacab): Another terrific mid-period Genesis number, this one sounds a bit like “Paperlate” but not enough to mar either song. The video sticks mostly with the standard lip-synch, though it adds some wacky shots of Genesis on horns. It ain’t much, but I’ll take it. 5/10.
Man On the Corner (Abacab): If you expect this video will plop Collins and the others on a street corner… you’re wrong. Instead, it keeps the band firmly in the studio for yet another ordinary performance piece. The song’s pretty similar to other Collins ballads, though it has a little more edge than his later, more syrupy work. 4/10.
Turn It On Again (Duke, 1980): More of what I like from mid-period Genesis, “Turn” spans their prog roots with Collins’ pop tendencies to become peppy yet still a little quirky. Nothing exceptional comes from this straight performance video, though. 5/10.
Duchess (Duke): This one uses the lip-synch format in a different way. Collins struts from backstage to the seating area in an empty concert hall as he croons, and the band members follow him. We also see some other audience shots and live bits. It’s reasonably interesting, I suppose. 6/10.
Misunderstanding (Duke): Look – another attempt to do something different! We see the band tool around LA in the back of a truck as they perform, while Collins drives a convertible and sings. He also tosses out some acting as Phil pleads with his gal over the phone. No, this isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it’s ambitious for its era. Another strong pop tune helps. 7/10.
Follow You Follow Me (…And Then There Were Three, 1978): Arguably the first blossoming of pop Genesis, “Follow” comes across as one of those tunes that would work on a Collins solo album. It’s not the best track of that sort, but it’s pretty good. The video lacks spark, though, as it sticks with a studio performance. 4/10.
Many Too Many (…And Then There Were Three): This one offers a soundcheck performance. That means we see the band on an actual stage, something slightly unusual compared to the others. The song doesn’t do much for me, though. 5/10.
A Trick of the Tail (A Trick of the Tail, 1976): The DVD’s oldest performances come from the band’s first post-Gabriel album. This one sticks with performance, but it maintains a goofy charm as all four members – Steve Hackett was still with them back then – gather around Banks’ piano. We also get the odd site of a miniature Collins as he sings on top of the piano keys and elsewhere! We also get an odd image of Hackett with a monster’s claw. All that’s good enough to make this one above average. 7/10.
Ripples (A Trick of the Tail): This is one ballad that sounds nothing like Collins’ later work. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective, but I think it’s a decent tune despite some overblown tendencies. At least it gives us a taste of prog Genesis before Collins’ pop tendencies dominated. The video plops the band in the studio for a fairly ordinary clip. 5/10.
Robbery, Assault and Battery (A Trick of the Tail): The most heavily prog number in the set, this is the one that most heavily shows the Gabriel influence. In fact, Collins seems to impersonate Pete here. It doesn’t work well. At least the video tries to be something different, as Collins and the others perform a skit that essentially acts out the lyrics. 7/10.
Congo (Calling All Stations, 1997): For our brief glimpse of post-Collins Genesis, we start here. The song sounds a lot like mid-Eighties Genesis, though the video clearly shoots for a younger crowd. We see little of old men like Banks and Rutherford and only a few shots of younger singer Ray Wilson. Mostly we watch bits of some story between a hunky guy and a bald chick. It all goes nowhere. 4/10.
Shipwrecked (Calling All Stations): Another dull tune, this one alternates band shots with images of essentially immobilized young folk. It wants to make a point, but I’m not sure what. 4/10.
Not About Us (Calling All Stations): Wilson-era Genesis ends with this track. Thank God! This one offers more nonsense with ordinary people and fails to become anything interesting. The bland ballad makes me long for Collins’ syrupy tendencies. 4/10.
The Carpet Crawlers (Turn It On Again: The Hits, 1999): Although this video features vocals from both Collins and Gabriel – quite a cool coup – unfortunately we don’t see either in this video. It looks like something we’d expect from Gabriel’s solo tracks, as it features a mix of surreal elements and an occasional glimpse of classic Genesis.
Actually, the tune sounds like modern Gabriel. I don’t know the original version, but this one would fit in well on a Pete solo album. Collins does vocals, but only in the background; he doesn’t take a lead. This is odd since Collins had a more prominent singing role in the album version. That one lasts five minutes, 39 seconds, while this edit only goes for four minutes, nine seconds and turns Collins into a footnote. That eliminates the remake’s main appeal: dual leads from Pete and Phil. The arty video can’t overcome that drawback. 4/10.