Seconds Out (Charisma/Atlantic)
Always it is impossible to pick my favorite album — from any time period, let alone of all time — so instead I’ll focus on one that was very influential to me. Early Genesis (up to the point they started making top 40 hits) shaped so much of my musical taste, but one album in particular, the not-very-often cited live album Seconds Out, proved life-changing, not least because this was my introduction to their early music.
Long before I’d listened to Trespass [and] Selling England By the Pound, wrapped my head around The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or delved into the mysteries of Nursery Cryme, my parents were playing this live album on which the well-known radio voice of Phil Collins (a la “You Can’t Hurry Love”) sang; but all the songs he was singing were strange, unfamiliar, strikingly keyboard driven, and highlighted by some spectacular double-drum solos (meaning played by two drummers).
Seconds Out is very rarely a critic’s pick of an album. It doesn’t contain any singles, is never played on the radio, and it was an awkward in-between phase for the band, when Phil Collins had taken over lead-vocal duty, and yet in concert the band were still playing mostly Peter Gabriel-era songs, with a few selections from the bizarre post-Gabriel album A Trick of the Tail. It is immediately apparent, however, that not only is Phil able to handle Gabriel’s vocal lines, no problem, but he still has his drumming chops, where he occasionally steps up onto the drum platform to share the spotlight with ex-Weather Report drummer Chester Thompson.
Steve Hackett is also still in the band, playing his epically sonorous solos throughout, though it is clear that resting upon the solid foundation of Mike Rutherford’s bass the real behind-the-curtain band leader continues to be Tony Banks, for whom this album might be considered a massive synth-solo vehicle.
However, the real star of the show is Phil Collins, whom if you ever get a chance to watch live footage from this era, will astound you with his theatricality and youthful energy, despite sporting a massive beard which made him look far older than he would for the decades to come after he shaved it off. His ability to command their audience is really saying something because he had some massive shoes to fill. I mean come on, Peter Gabriel? We’re talking the Peter Gabriel with his outré costumes, wardrobe changes and inter-song poetry. That Peter Gabriel, who single-handedly defined prog-rock self-indulgence in his cross-dressing appearances as the goddess Britannia .
This was who Collins had to live up to, and he does this by leaning upon what must have been his childhood theater experience (he’d been a child actor in films like Hard Days Night), taking on the many personas of each song not with costumes, but with his voice and his body language (which one can only hear on the album through enthusiastic audience feedback).
I think as a teen, the juxtaposition between Banks’ virtuosity and Collin’s theatricality was what drew me to this cartoon-montage of an album at a time when my schoolmates were preoccupied with late-80’s glam metal. To me Seconds Out, strangely coupled with the punk music I was also listening to, made sense, and pointed the direction for my own unconventional musical experimentations to follow.
…and You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead plays with theStart and Art of Safecracking at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19 and Thursday, June 20 at Alex’s Bar; then with Death Valley Girls and Goon at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 20 at The Echo.