After the success of the “Abacab” album, the band (consisting of lead singer Phil Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist Mike Rutherford) felt a new live album was warranted. Their last one, “Seconds Out”, was a modest success, very popular amongst fans, and there was a great deal of new material to pick from. The name of the album refers to the original release as a double record: three sides of the album contained the live material, the fourth had song that had not been used from the previous two albums. These songs, minus “Me & Virgil”, are included in the second “Archive” boxed set, and are no longer included in the release of this album. They have been replaced with more live material, originally included in only the British release.
The material largely comes from the “Duke” and “Abacab” albums, which had been progressively more commercially successful than their previous albums, yet still had a foot in their progressive beginnings.
If your taste leans more towards their hits, included are performances of ballad “Follow You, Follow Me”, “Duchess” and “Misunderstanding”, as well as the lead track to “Abacab”, performed here not as the truncated single version, but in the full album track that features an extended instrumental section.
Fans of the older material are truly served by the second half of the album, particularly the “fourth” side. A cornerstone of Genesis concerts has been their “In The Cage” medley, which features the full song from “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” album leading into instrumental pieces from Genesis classics “Cinema Show” and “Colony of Slippermen”, an energetic and intense section leading into the softer ballad “Afterglow”. This piece has had several incarnations over the years, but to me, this has always been the best, as they mold pieces of several songs into one big piece that features a number of transitions that are all done masterfully.
Finally, the album concludes with “One For The Vine”, a musical tale written by Banks for the Duke album, which leads into one of their oldest songs, “The Fountain of Salmacis” and concludes with bits from “It” (the final song from “The Lamb”), and “Watch of the Skies”, their first-ever single. The track listing is a bit wrong on the album; for whatever reason, “Vine” is split into two parts, and the second part leads into “Fountain”, so while it sounds fine listening to the whole performance, individual tracks will be a bit incomplete.
As far as live albums go, this is one of their best. There is something here for fans of all facets of their work, be it their singles or their longer, progressive-based music. This is the album that really made me a fan, I got it because of those hits, and it led me to discover that they were much more than that. I highly recommend giving this a try if you are a casual fan, or are curious about the band, it’s a great starting place for a band that has had many phases.