[Review] Genesis: Selling England by the Pound (1973)

The real stars were, indeed, still to appear on this celestial alignment of sound and vision.

Kronomyth 6.0: Worth its weight in gold.

Progressive rock is a kind of musical storytelling. The last two Genesis albums, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, certainly fit that description. Maybe even Trespass too. But Selling England by the Pound elevated the discussion with sounds that felt like a fantasy tale come to life. The guitars from Stephen Hackett, the keyboards from Tony Banks and the vocals from Peter Gabriel are almost otherworldly in their expression. Add in the rhythm section of Phil Collins and Michael Rutherford, and you have some of the most sublime music ever to grace the diamond’s edge.

The songs on Selling England by the Pound are rich tapestries of sound that often feature several sections stitched together, like “Supper’s Ready” but compressed. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, Firth of Fifth, The Battle of Epping Forest and The Cinema Show/Aisle of Plenty fit this description and collectively stand as some of the greatest progressive rock songs ever written. The same principle was at work in “Get’ Em Out By Friday,” but the arrangements are a bit more grandiose, the execution a bit more confident this time.

There are also several shorter songs on the album to break up the heaviness of such weighty epics. I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe) even gave the group their first hit single. More Fool Me is a harbinger of things to come with Phil Collins on lead vocals, while After the Ordeal is an instrumental piece that serves as a pleasant connector. (Fans of these last two tracks would do well to check out Anthony Phillips’ The Geese and The Ghost.)

I’ve listened to thousands of albums, yet Selling England by the Pound and Foxtrot have remained at the top of my list over the years alongside Close to the Edge, Fragile, The Yes Album, Minstrel in the Gallery and Songs from the Wood. Each of those albums is a warmly remembered adventure, and this an old friend from bygone days of battles, madrigals, water nymphs and legends.

Original elpee version

A1. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (8:02)
A2. I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe) (4:03)
A3. Firth of Fifth (9:36)
A4. More Fool Me (3:10)
B1. The Battle of Epping Forest (11:43)
B2. After the Ordeal (4:07)
B3. The Cinema Show/Aisle of Plenty (12:40)

All tracks done by all.

Original 8-track version
A1. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
A2. I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)
A3. More Fool Me (begin)
B1. More Fool Me (concl.)
B2. The Battle of Epping Forest
C1. The Cinema Show/Aisle of Plenty
C2. After the Ordeal (begin)
D1. After the Ordeal (concl.)
D2. Firth of Fifth

The Plastic

Tony Banks (keyboards, 12-string), Phil Collins (drums, percussion, vocal), Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute, oboe, percussion), Stephen Hackett (electric guitar, nylon guitar), Michael Rutherford (12-string, bass, electric sitar). Produced by John Burns/Genesis; engineering assistance by Rhett Davies.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Betty Swanwick.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in October 1973 in the UK and Israel (Charisma, CAS 1074) [large mad hatter label], the US and Canada (Charisma, FC/8FC 6060) and Australia and Greece (Charisma, 6369 944) with lyrics insert. Reached #3 on the UK charts and #70 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS 19277).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Charisma, CAS 1074) [blue label].
  3. Re-released on Definitive Edition remastered compact disc in 1994 in the UK and the Netherlands (Charisma, CASCDX 1074) and on October 4, 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 82675).
  4. Re-released on remixed 180g vinyl elpee in 2008 in the US (Atlantic/Rhino, R1 516781) and Europe (GENLPY 4) with lyrics innersleeve.
  5. Re-released on picture disc elpee in 2013 in Europe (Universal, 00602537637072).

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