Song of the Week – In the Cage, Genesis

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Almost 50 years ago, in mid-November 1974, Genesis released their ambitions double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.  I remember very clearly, listening to the album over the Thanksgiving break of my freshman year in college.  Is The Lamb the band’s shining moment or its final calamity with Peter Gabriel in the group?

In MOJO 316, writer Michael Putland summed it up saying today it “sounds sporadically brilliant, impenetrable, over-reaching and inspired.”

The back story is that Genesis began working on their sixth and final album with Gabriel in mid-1974.  The band decided to work at Headley Grange, the rural stone cottage made famous by Led Zeppelin for being the “recording studio” for parts of Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti.  The building was run-down, rat-infested, and some say haunted.  Making matters worse, personal/family turmoil surrounded the group – divorce, and pregnancy issues among them.

While there, Gabriel decided to take leave from (quit?) the band to work on a project with film director William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame.  While he was gone, the remaining group members continued to write and record music without lyrics.  When the Friedkin project went south, Gabriel rejoined the band to a mixed reception.  He lobbied to be the sole lyric writer for a concept he created, and prevailed.

A character named Rael, a Puerto Rican street denizen would be the protagonist in a semi-autobiographical rock opera that reflects Gabriel’s state of mind at the time.  Rael prowls the streets of New York looking for his missing brother.

Today’s SotW is “In the Cage”, one of the album’s highlights.

A review of The Lamb on the Classic Rock Review website says:

… the intro to “In the Cage” contains an exception link as it builds towards driving rhythms. The song itself builds tension with odd timings and beats, as all the instruments seem to be doing their own independent thing but yet somehow all jive together. There are exception rhythms by Rutherford and Collins and fantastic, multi-part leads by Banks in the long mid section. Noticing he is trapped in one of several linked cages, Rael sees his brother John for the first of several encounters that add metaphor to the deeper story.

When recording was finished Genesis went on tour to promote the album, playing it in its entirety.  After 102 performances, Gabriel quit the band – this time for good.

Guitarist Steve Hackett has said, “For some The Lamb… is absolute magic, for others an absolute tragedy.”  So what do you think?  Magic or tragedy?  I vote magic!

Enjoy… until next week.

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