Book Review – Mario Giammetti – Genesis: 1975 to 2021 – The Phil Collins Years

Genesis has been through numerous iterations over the decades, from progressive rock stalwarts to pop-rock mega-stars and now, as this is written, a nostalgia act. But both the music and the musicians involved have always been interesting, and there is a definite tale to tell. Here, Mario follows up last year’s Genesis: 1967 to 1975 – The Peter Gabriel Years with an equally fascinating book on the Phil Collins years.

Mario’s great advantage over other Genesis commentators is that he has had access to all the band’s members, past and present, all of whom are prepared to be frank and open with him. They obviously have confidence in Mario, both individually and collectively. He is an Italian music journalist with some thirty years’ experience, having written for numerous Italian music magazines, including Classic Rock, Rockstar and Jam. In 1991, he founded Dusk, the only printed magazine in the world dedicated to Genesis. He has now written fifteen books related to Genesis, but only these two mentioned have been published in English, so far.

Mario follows the same approach for this book as for The Gabriel years. He has interviewed various of the band’s members over time, and was allowed more recent follow on interviews while preparing this book.  He has also drawn on work carried out by the English journalist Michael Kaufman, who performed extensive interviews around the time Genesis reissued its albums in 2008. There are many interviews exclusive to this book. Each chapter is dedicated to a single album, starting in this book with Trick Of The Tail and ending with the reunion in 2007 with Phil Collins including the most recent Genesis activity in 2021. His text includes background relating to the band at the point the various albums were being planned and made, which might of course be considerable considering the comings and goings of personnel over the years. There is a brief breakdown of each album’s songs, and comments about the subsequent tour, with all dates included. Mario is pointedly very balanced in what he writes, allowing each member of the band to have their fair say. Nor does he always hide his own feelings on the music, for example he believes Invisible Touch album to be “the weakest in the history of Genesis. There isn’t a single song that is exceptional…”.

Keen Genesis fans will recognise much of the substance of the band interactions, if not the detail. Messrs Banks and Rutherford are emotionally detached and Ray Wilson seems to believe that this bleeds into their business practises. He is aggrieved that he seems to be being written out of Genesis history and his contribution is side lined. Steve Hackett too is clear with his grievances and aspects of the band’s behaviour, although both men are keen to recognise the qualities of the music and the musicians involved. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford do appear thoughtful and obviously care a very great deal about the band.

The reader’s engagement with the book will probably vary with the interest or otherwise with particular albums. But there is much of interest here, showing how a band with a large cult following in 1975 developed into world mega-stars, breaking records for concert attendance and product sales along the way. The narrative is crisp and moves at a cracking pace, not settling to over analyse a particular point. It is a very attractive looking book too, full of great photographs and other good-looking graphics, many of them previously unpublished.

Mario has written an admirable and thoroughly engaging book. It is detailed, well researched and thankfully avoids delving into fights, spats or what could be considered improprieties that often mars other rock biographies. It is well balanced and provides a considered history of Genesis. The music it created is the key element. There are plenty of insights both from the commentary and the interviews, and revelations on songs meanings. For a band such as Genesis, it is doubtful if any book could be classed as unarguably definitive, but this release, along with its companion book on the Peter Gabriel Years, is as close as you’re going to get.

Release date: 10th September, 2021

Publisher: Kingmaker Publishing

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