ALBUM REVIEWS

Tributes To Genesis, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Beyond... 

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ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!

 

Paul D'Adamo - Tell Me Something

WOG RATING: ***

Paul D'Adamo's solo debut is difficult to classify. Admittedly, the album is not entirely a "tribute" album in the classic sense, but since Tell Me Something does feature D'Adamo's take on many Genesis/Phil Collins classics, it seems appropriate to categorize it in this way. That being said, whether you choose to call it a tribute record or not, this album is not your garden variety homage project.  In many respects, this is an album that more Genesis/Collins fans may take notice to than any other tribute ever released.
 

Nestled among Tell Me Something's 10-tracks are a band of musicians that most Genesis/Collins fans will certainly recognize: Daryl Stuermer on guitar, Brad Cole on keyboards (and producing in this case), Chester Thompson on drums, Luis Conte on percussion, Leeland Sklar on bass, Gerald Albright on saxophone, Amy Keys and Arnold McCuller on backing vocals, and several other notable musicians - many of whom are or were card-carrying members of Phil Collins' actual band! Phil Collins and Genesis fans will relish hearing some of the great musicianship on Tell Me Something, including things like Daryl Stuermer playing the lead guitar part of Genesis' 1976 classic "Entangled." Of course, the interesting thing about one artist doing another artist's material, particularly when the songs are loved by millions of fans, is that reactions will be highly mixed. There will be those who genuinely appreciate hearing an alternate version of a beloved favorite and then there will be those who are completely unwilling to accept another person's interpretation of a song as if its intent is to replace the original forever.

To me, when I listen to a cover tune, I generally like to hear a distinctly different yet reasonably faithful interpretation. I want something different, but it has to be true enough that I can identify the track. In the case of Tell Me Something, many of the songs share arrangements that are fairly close to the original versions by Phil Collins and Genesis. I will tell you that in some instances, I would have liked to hear D'Adamo take a few more artistic risks on his interpretations, but its indisputable that the recording itself is very good and extremely professional. Where Paul interjects in a little more of a jazz influence, it actually works really well... which frankly is a nice surprise. Of the cover tunes, my favorites are probably "Please Don't Ask" which offers a slightly jazzier version than the original and "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore" which also takes a slight liberty with the arrangement that makes it a bit more unique. Now, before you Genesis/Collins fans out there scream complete and utter blasphemy, understand that I am not saying its better than the originals - just a different take on a familiar favorite. Of course, Phil Collins' version of "Please Don't Ask" (as featured on Genesis' Duke album) is untouchable in its relentless passion and stirring sensitivity, but there's no reason why both can't exist harmoniously. Among the original recordings included, I particularly enjoyed the title track, which kind of has a retro late '70s jazz fusion feel which really makes the track. In fact, I would have preferred D'Adamo include a few more original songs to balance the album a little more. In D'Adamo's next offering, I hope to see more originals than are included here and perhaps a few slightly more daring, bolder arrangements if he continues to feature some additional cover tunes by Phil Collins or Genesis. I think that will separate his own artistry a bit more from the popular renditions of these songs we all know, and allow him to make them more "his own." I have to credit D'Adamo with the pulling together of this incredible group of musicians. As a Phil Collins fan, I would buy this album on the strength of the musicianship alone!
 

 

Leon Alvarado - Plays Genesis and Other Original Stuff

WOG RATING: ***

This largely instrumental and heavily keyboard/synth driven tribute project features a mixture of Genesis songs and Genesis 'inspired' tracks by Alvarado. I really enjoyed his interpretation on keyboards of "Hairless Heart" although on occasion the guitar part on the song is a little too overly simplified for my tastes. His take on "Cinema Show Part II" Its undeniably good and has a dramatic Genesis "live" feel to it. Actually, most of Plays Genesis and Other Stuff was excellent, although I did find his opening vocals on "Fly on a Windshield" a bit off for an otherwise all-around professional release.

Alvarado shows that he is certainly strong keyboard player, and I thought his original pieces were creative and well done. He does an excellent job of integrating a little of the Genesis sound in many of those original pieces. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the design of this tribute album. Also created by Alvarado, its packaged in almost a mini-LP CD style sleeve with great artwork which in itself pays homage to the Genesis albums of days past. As you can see from the image provided above, the cover has an And Then There Were Three feel to it. If there was an award for best packaging of a Genesis tribute CD, I would certainly award it to Leon. The entire package is incredibly professional - inside and out.

 

Yngve Guddal and Roger T. Matte - Genesis For Two Grand Pianos

WOG RATING: ***

While I have mixed feelings about tribute albums, it is always interesting to hear another artist's interpretation of someone else's music. When I first heard about this Genesis For Two Grand Pianos album, I was highly skeptical that anyone could successfully pull off tunes like "Fountain of Salmacis" or "Down and Out" in an instrumental format on simply two pianos. After listening to the project, for the most part, I can say that I was wrong. The material performed is filled with passion and precision. Pianists Guddal and Matter do an extraordinary job of rendering the music of Genesis into a classical format.
The beautiful melodies of Genesis For Two Grand Pianos really give the listener a greater appreciation for the majesty of Genesis' early music. One or two of the classical translations did not work very well in my opinion (reminding me of shopping mall muzak) but, overall, I found the project an interesting twist on the concept of a tribute album, and worthy of your consideration. Also of note, artist Paul Whitehead, who created the artwork for Genesis album such as Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot designed the album art for this collection. If you're a Genesis fan with a flair for classical music, you will definitely enjoy this album.

 

Various Artists - A Tribute To Genesis (a.k.a. In Too Deep: A Tribute To Genesis)

WOG RATING: *

I have a much greater appreciation for Genesis' musical and vocal abilities after listening to Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra Records wretched tribute collection, A Tribute To Genesis. Some of these tracks have surfaced previously on The Fox Lies Down Genesis tribute album and, to be honest, with the exception of maybe three tracks this entire compilation is without question one of the worst "tributes" I have ever had the discomfort of sitting through. Tribute records are a double edged sword. If it sounds too close to the original it lacks creativity and you might as well listen to the original version, but if it strays too far from the original, it ceases to be a remake and becomes an overly self-indulgent piece of music that is no more an homage to the original recording or the band they are honoring than any other tune that new musician may record. To me a great cover version takes enough cues from the original to be recognizable, but has just enough of the new artists' sound to make it uniquely different.

Probably most importantly, when doing a cover version, its got to be done well. Unfortunately for the listeners of this album, Most songs on this particular collection either are bad musically or vocally. In some cases, both! Among the worst offenders are Patrick Moraz and Ronnie Ciago's butchering of "Los Endos" which is almost unrecognizable at times, the terrible muzak version of "No Son of Mine" by Acoustic Moods, the completely passionless and sterile version of "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Roadhawk, and Inca God's pitiful "I Can't Dance" that sounds like it was played on a $50 Casio keyboard. Oh, and let's not forget the dreadful vocals by The Flower Kings on "Cinema Show" or John Wetton's surprisingly bad version of "Your Own Special Way!" There are so many 'stinkers' on this collection, I had difficulty forcing myself to get through the whole thing without hitting the advance button on my CD player! Without question, the best track on the set is Shaun Guerin's take on "Back In New York City." Other fairly good songs include G2enesis' "Squonk" and Silver Ensemble's "Tell Me Why." The Brand X II's "Can-Utility and The Coastliners" also had moments I enjoyed, but was weak overall.  I could write for hours on how bad this CD is, but I have to get to the used CD store before they close to get rid of this piss-poor disc! Hopefully, I get a buck for it!

 

Rewiring Genesis - A Tribute To The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (2008)

WOG RATING: ***

Rewiring Genesis is a pseudonym for ex-Calling All Stations drummer Nick D'Virgilio's 2008 tribute to Genesis. Instead of doing the traditional collection of assorted popular songs and deep cuts from the Genesis songbook, Nick opts instead for a more ambitious project - the reworking of the entire Lamb Lies Down on Broadway record, the band's 1974 epic double album. Considered by many to be one of, if not the, crowing moment of Genesis' early days, The Lamb's tale of Rael, the troubled teenaged punk from New York and the journey he undergoes, is an extremely complex piece of music. D'Virgilio valiantly interprets the original structure of the music in a fairly faithful way, but makes it distinctly original by adding strings and a horn section at appropriate sections of the project. He takes a few casual liberties, but aside from "The Waiting Room," which seemed a unrecognizable to me, he tends not to wander too far off of the original Genesis versions.

  

I honestly had fairly low expectations when I played the album for the first time (as I tend to do with most tributes), but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the fresh look at this classic album and surprisingly good vocal performance by D'Virgilio. Rewiring Genesis balances the fine line of staying close enough to the original to keep most die-hards happy, but takes just enough liberties to prevent it from being a dull attempt to clone it's predecessor. I've probably played this album a dozen times in the first week I had it. Not because it's better than the original, but because it was like getting new light through old windows, to steal a line from Chris Rea. It accomplishes just what a tribute should.

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