[Review] Genesis: Foxtrot (1972)

Genesis graduates from the nursery to higher education with this progressive rock classic.

Kronomyth 4.0: A flower?

Foxtrot is one of my five favorite albums. Minstrel in the Gallery, Selling England by the Pound, Fragile and Close to the Edge are the others. When I was young and single, I used to imagine that if I knew the world were going to end in thirty minutes, I would listen to Supper’s Ready. And then stare off awkwardly into space for seven minutes, dying as I lived.

These days, of course, I have faith and a family and Foxtrot, in that order. I still have yet to encounter a song that sums up the human existence so well as “Supper’s Ready.” “Heart of the Sunrise” comes close. “Baker St. Muse” does too, when I’m in a darker mood. But Peter Gabriel’s Christian upbringing connects earth and Heaven in a way that Ian Anderson and Jon Anderson never cared to.

Although clearly patterned after the play-acting of the previous Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot is also a product of its progressive times, which would have notably included Aqualung and Thick as a Brick and Fragile. In fact, the whole second side of Foxtrot may not have existed without those albums. Steve Hackett’s acoustic guitar introduction, Horizons, has its clear precedent in Steve Howe’s “Mood for a Day,” while the multi-part, album-length “Thick as a Brick” paved the way for “Supper’s Ready.” Those albums also featured a heavier sound, and in many ways Foxtrot is the heaviest album that Genesis ever made.

The album opens with Watcher of the Skies, invoking nothing less than God and creation in its arched cathedral of sound. Time Table is a sublime retelling of Arthurian legend and perhaps as close as any band has ever come to re-creating the world of literary fantasy in music. Get ‘Em Out By Friday is Gabriel’s play-acting at its peak, and one of the most socially biting songs that Genesis has released. Can-Utility and the Coastliners, despite its inscrutable title, returns to the theme of a savior and closes the quartet, a perfect progression of progressive rock.

Side two starts with “Horizons,” Hackett’s classical guitar solo based on a piece by J.S. Bach. What follows is unquestionably the band’s magnum opus, “Supper’s Ready.” Stitching different pieces into a remarkably rich tapestry, the entire piece is one highlight after another. Mere mention of its morsels—“a flower!,” “walking across the sitting room…,” “Mum to mud to mad to dad,” “And as you listen to my voice to look for hidden doors, tidy floors, more applause”—conjures treasured memories for Genesis fans. I don’t doubt that many have memorized it word for word, a badge of honor like memorizing Monty Python skits but less annoying.

Now, on some days I prefer Selling England by the Pound, a dilemma no less difficult than choosing a favorite child. Yet my affection for Foxtrot has not waned since that first encounter. Each listening renews my loyalty afresh, each retelling returns me to its fabled lands. If you haven’t heard this album, think not now your journey done. And, when you do arrive, remember: You’ve been here all the time.

Original elpee version

A1. Watcher of the Skies (7:19)
A2. Time Table (4:42)
A3. Get ‘Em Out By Friday (8:33)
A4. Can-Utility and the Coastliners (5:43)
B1. Horizons (1:39)
B2. Supper’s Ready (22:53)
i. Lovers’ Leap
ii. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
iii. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men
iv. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
v. Willow Farm
vi. Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchett)
vii. As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Mens’ Feet)

All titles composed and arranged by Genesis.

The Players

Tony Banks (organ, mellotron, piano, electric piano, 12 string, voices), Phil Collins (drums, voices, assorted percussion), Peter Gabriel (lead voice, flute, bass drum, tambourine, oboe), Steve Hackett (electric guitar, 12 string and  string solo), Michael Rutherford (bass, bass pedals, 12 string guitar, voices, cello) and also starring Guy and Paul. Produced by David Hitchcock and Genesis; engineered by John Burns; equipment & stage sound by Richard Macphail (sound friend).

The Pictures

Sleeve design by Paul Whitehead.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on October 6, 1972 in the UK and the US (Charisma, CAS 1058) [avail. on pink scroll and , later, large mad hatter label], Italy (Charisma, CAS 530 1058), Germany (Charisma, 6399 922) and Japan (Charisma, BT-5161) with gatefold cover; reached #12 on the UK charts. Also released on elpee in 1972 in Italy (Charisma, 6399 922) with gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in the UK (Charisma, CAS-1058) [small mad hatter label] with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Charisma, 20PP-67).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Portugal (Charisma, 6369 922) [small mad hatter label].
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Greece (Charisma, 6399 922) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Canada (Charisma, CA-1-2163) and France (Charisma, 9103 107) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Charisma, RJ-7303).
  7. Re-issued on cassette in France (Charisma, 7164 011).
  8. Re-packaged with Nursery Cryme on 2-for-1 2LP in 1979 in the US (Charisma, CA-2-2701).
  9. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1984 in the UK and the Netherlands (Virgin/Charisma, CHC/CHCMC 38) with gatefold cover.
  10. Re-packaged with Trespass on 2-for-1 cassette in the UK (Virgin/Charisma, CASMC 112).
  11. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in the UK (Virgin/Charisma, CASCD 1058).
  12. Re-issued on cassette in 1987 in Argentina (Virgin/RCA/Ariola, TMS 90017).
  13. Re-released on Definitive Edition remastered compact disc on October 4, 1994 in the US and Canada (Atlantic, 82674-2) and the UK and the Netherlands (Virgin, CASCDX 1058).
  14. Re-released on remastered CD+DVD in 2007 in Europe (Virgin/Charisma, 5099951955229) with bonus DVD.
  15. Re-released on remixed, half-speed mastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2008 in the US (Atlantic/Rhino, R1 516778).
  16. Re-issued on remastered CD+DVD on January 28, 2009 in Japan (Virgin/Charisma, TOGP-15022) with bonus DVD.

1 thought on “[Review] Genesis: Foxtrot (1972)

  1. ‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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