Genesis had not yet formed an identity at the time of this album. While most of their early albums feature longer songs with extended instrumental sections, this has 17 shorter songs. The personnel had not quite stabilized either. Three of the main band members are here in Peter Gabriel (vocals and flute), Tony Banks (various keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitars). But Phil Collins and Steve Hackett had yet to be recruited, and would not arrive until the third album. In their stead here are Anthony Phillips (guitars) and John Silver (drums). All the musicians here are young and still developing their abilities, but very talented.
Included on the album is the very first single the band released, “The Silent Sun”. The song was intended as a pop-friendly Bee Gees-style song, intended to impress King. It’s a fluffy love song backed orchestral strings…not very strong, but good enough to get King to release it and eventually get them a deal to release “From Genesis To Revelation”. The album saw the band use a lot of varied instrumental bits like this. The strings make a return as the lead-in to “One Day”, which also used a horn section for the chorus and the ending of the song. These are pleasant enough, but straight-up pop love songs are clearly not their strong suit.
Other songs come closer to the themes the band would eventually turn to for their music. “The Conqueror” could be seen as a building block for “The Knife” from their second album “Trespass”, with it’s more fantasy-based setting used as a possible metaphor for current events. The short form of the songs doesn’t really give them enough time to develop anything particularly interesting, however.
Progressive rock fans might look to songs like “The Serpent”, “In Limbo” and “One Eyed Hound” for hints of what was to come with the band. Again, themes of the fantastic are established, and the musicians are clearly showing their talent. But it’s also clear that they are in an area they are not quite comfortable with. This is not a top 40 band, but the record label desperately wants them to be…these themes combined with the lack of experience of the band just do not make for a good mix.
This album has been rereleased dozens of times in dozens of ways, as the original label desperately wanted to make something off the band after they rose to popularity. But the album just is not very interesting, at least from a musical standpoint. Historically, it shows the very beginnings of one of the biggest bands of all time, and the musical debut of future solo star Peter Gabriel. The band tries desperately to make something out of it as well, each member uses a ton of different instruments over the course of the album, but nothing really cohesive comes out of it. Combined with the poor recording quality…an unproven young band in the late 60’s didn’t exactly get the best equipment to record their music…this basically comes off as a garage demo. It’s telling that the band quickly discarded most of the songs here from their live act as soon as “Trespass” was completed, and for the most part never included anything here on any of their many live albums or anthologies. This is strictly a historical artifact, nothing here will generate multiple listenings.