[Review] Genesis: Trespass (1970)

An early, interesting tapestry of progressive epics and music-box madrigals.

Kronomyth 2.0: Over the garden wall we go…

Now this is a revelation. Trespass marks the beginning of the band’s epic journeys into the progressive woods. Although not entirely unstuck from their youthful debut—religious imagery still abounds—the effect is night and day. A change in the drummer’s chair (John Mayhew replaces John Silver) gave the group slightly more dramatic range, but the real change comes in the choice of instrumentation (organ/mellotron) and ambitious production.

If you’re listening for a direct link to their past, you’ll find it on “Visions of Angels.” It’s one of the few songs where Anthony Banks favors piano over organ and, while it’s still more musically advanced than anything on From Genesis To Revelation, it’s not so far removed from it either. Everything else on Trespass is a quantum leap in vision and execution. Peter Gabriel and the group appear much more confident as they construct epic structures of sound on massive organ riffs, electric guitars, intricately woven acoustic guitars and Mayhew’s heavy-handed but effective drumming.

Rather than looking back to their debut, Trespass looks forward to their next album. “White Mountain” and particularly “The Knife” are clear harbingers of the giant hogweed, and could be counted among the band’s earliest progressive rock masterpieces. The knife is a recurring lyrical theme, appearing on “Looking For Someone,” “Stagnation” and, of course, the track of the same name. I couldn’t tell you what the connection is, any more than I always understand Gabriel’s Christian references. “Looking For Someone” alludes to Damascus (the famous scene of Paul’s conversion), “Visions of Angels” makes the grim pronouncement that “God gave up the world its people long ago,” while the gentle “Dusk” references Jesus by name. Maybe the cutlery and religious imagery are lyrical crutches. Then again, didn’t Gabriel heal every lame line with the brilliant “Supper’s Ready?”

On their first record, I found it difficult to tell who wrote what, or couldn’t be much bothered to think about it. On Trespass, you can hear the songwriting of Anthony Phillips, Michael Rutherford and Anthony Banks at work in the music. “Stagnation,” for example, sounds very much like the later work of Phillips (e.g., The Geese And The Ghost), while “Dusk” recalls the arpeggiated styles of both Banks and Rutherford (a quick glance at Wikipedia seems to confirm that—glad to know my Genesis taste buds are still working despite the cold).

All praises aside, you’ll probably want to start your adventures with Genesis elsewhere; say, Foxtrot or (better still) Selling England By The Pound. Then I’d go forward through Wind and Wuthering (do not stop on Genesis Live) and slip Nursery Cryme somewhere into that mix. At that point, with a colorful array of Genesis tunes dancing in your head, I would make the trip to Trespass. It is essential Genesis not because it is a brilliant album (it really isn’t), but because it is the first to showcase what would become the essence of Genesis: dramatic tales where heaven and hell hang in the balance.

Original LP Version

A1. Looking For Someone (7:00)
A2. White Mountain (7:00)
A3. Visions of Angels (7:00)
B1. Stagnation (8:45)
B2. Dusk (4:15)
B3. The Knife (8:55)

All titles composed and arranged by Genesis.

The Players

Anthony Banks (organ, piano, mellotron, guitar, voices), Peter Gabriel (lead voice, flute, accordion, tambourine and bass drum), John Mayhew (drums, percussion, voices), Anthony Phillips (acoustic 12-string, lead electric, dulcimer, voices), Michael Rutherford (acoustic 12-string, electric bass, nylon, cello, voices). Produced by John Anthony; engineered by Robin Cable.

The Pictures

Artwork by Paul Whitehead/Cleen Machine Studio.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on October 23, 1970 in the UK (Charisma, CAS 1020), the US (ABC Impulse!, AS 9025), France (Charisma, 9103 102), Germany (Charisma, 6369 905) and Italy (Philips, 6369 905 L) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve; reached #68 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1972 in Italy (Charisma, 6369 905 L) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-packaged with Nursery Cryme on 2-for-1 2LP in May 1974 in the UK.
  3. Re-issued on elpee and 8-track in 1974 in the US (ABC, ABCX-816/8022-816 M) and Japan (Charisma, RJ-6020) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in Brazil (Charisma, 6369 905).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Greece (Charisma, 6369 905).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Argentina (Philips, 6369905), Canada (MCA, MAB-816) and Japan (Charisma, RJ-7301). Argentinian elpee features gatefold cover.
  7. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1980 in the US (MCA, MCAC-1653).
  8. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in the US (MCA, MCA-37151) as budget-priced reissue.
  9. Re-issued on elpee in March 1983 in the UK (Charisma, CHC 12) and Japan (Charisma, 25VB-1105); re-charted to #98 in the UK (1984).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (Virgin/Charisma, CASCD 1020).
  11. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette on March 2, 1993 in the US (MCA, MCAD/MCAC-1653).
  12. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1994 in the UK (Virgin, CASCDX 1020) and Europe (Virgin, 839773).
  13. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on March 31, 1999 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-68091).
  14. Re-released on super high material compact disc on November 26, 2014 in Japan (Virgin, UICY-40094).

3 thoughts on “[Review] Genesis: Trespass (1970)

  1. Great read. Thank you! I have been listening to Genesis for over 45 years. My favourite album has always been Selling England. Firth of Fifth, my personal favourite piece of music. Trespass always intrigued me over the years. About five years, I was starting my run of a treadmill and looked through my Ipod library and chose Trespass as my inspiration. I had the most amazing ‘run’ (I’m in my 70s). Since then, I have grown to really appreciate this album and one of the best of Genesis. Thanks again!

    1. Selling England is near the top of my list too. Trespass is a pretty creative workout tape, although why shouldn’t the brain get a little exercise too? I’ll have the queue that one up the next time I decide to use the Nordictrack as something other than a coat hanger.

  2. It’s not surprising you thought Visions of Angels harked back to their first album. In fact it was written in the 1960s and, in its early form, was considered for inclusion on From Genesis To Revelation. Mostly an Anthony Phillips song, I believe.

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