When the five members of Genesis passed through thedoors of the Decca recording studios in late 1968, they little dreamedthat nearly ten years on they would be one of the most popular cult/commercialbands of the 1970's. In fact, they didn't expect to be a band at all. Circa1966, teenagers Peter Gabriel, Anthony Philips, Anthony Banks and MichaelRutherford became mates at England's exclusive Charterhouse School (theAmerican grade equivalent is somewhere between high school and junior college.)The four thought they would make their living as a songwriting collectivecomposing songs for others to perform and record. After putting togethersome samples of their work, the aspiring writers began peddling their waresto the influential luminaries of the bustling British music scene. Oneof the people they saw and impressed was producer/artist Jonathan King,a graduate of the Charterhouse School himself. King agreed to produce theboys' music, but only if they would perform it too. Thus it came to passthat Gabriel, Rutherford, Philips and Banks, with the addition of drummerJohn Silver, became the band known as Genesis.
Under King's guiding hand and Arthur Greenslade's musicaldirection, an album titled FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION evolved from sheetmusic to vinyl reality. Released in March, 1969 (only in England, though),the thirteen melodic and beautiful compositions made miniscule rippleson a musical pond filled with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Moody Bluesand Kinks, for starters. In fact, the album went so unnoticed that it wasn'tuntil more than five years later, in August, 1974, that FROM GENESIS TOREVELATION saw light in America other than as an import album. This LP,IN THE BEGINNING, brings forth those very first Genesis works from dustytape cans to shiny vinyl once again.
What you hear on this album is not today's Genesis.The poems here are stories of love ("Silent Sun") and teenage confusion("In Limbo"); simply told ("Am I Very Wrong"), though brightly paintedwith images ("In The Beginning") and lightly splattered with the faintesttouches of allegory ("The Serpent" and "The Conqueror"). For the most part,the composers stick to the real world, leaving their songs of myths andlegends for future albums, such as
FOXTROT in 1972 or their most ambitious outpouringof surrealism, THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY from 1974. Germs of theselater classics do exist here like Gabriel's almost mechanical vocalizationon "In Hiding" which foreshadows the absurdist point of view he takes asthe lawnmower in "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" from SELLING ENGLANDBY THE POUND (1973). Such sophisticated statements, however, were far fromthe minds of the budding hit songwriters when IN THE BEGINNING took form.
Musically, Genesis was still seeking a distinctiveidentity. Though on the original liner notes the band says, "We hope youwill find no one to compare it with," they are overtly influenced by someof the top pop musicians of the day. Heavy strains of the Moody Blues permeateIN THE BEGINNING, from "Where the Sour Turns To Sweet" to "One Day" to"In The Wilderness." "Silent Sun," which so neatly segues into "A PlaceTo Call My Own" that upon first hearing they seem to be one song, carriesa Bee Gees vocal effort. Orchestration by real instruments, not by synthesizer,as on later efforts gives them some degree of individuality. An etherialand haunting French horn echoes Gabriel's plaintive call in "Window" whileviolins intertwine with Philips' ripe and mellow acoustic guitar on "FiresideSong." That same guitar gallops to the forefront of "One Day" to race alongsidea full-throated chorus in this poem of nature, fancy and flight. Such lightand pretty music would later take on a harder, electric edge, as the Iyricswould take bizarre twists, but Genesis' musicianship (including Banks'nimble keyboard fingerings and Rutherford's elegant but forceful bass)couldn't be faulted, even at so early a stage.
IN THE BEGINNING is interesting historically becauseit documents the initial Top 40 focus of a band that's come to be knownfor its satire, surrealism and rock-as-theater accomplishments. But morethan that, IN THE BEGINNING is an album of bright and beautiful songs thatare as pleasing to hear today as they were when Genesis surrendered themto tape in 1969. And that's a revelation.