Five absent friends, from 1975 (clockwise, top right): Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel. (Photo: Peter Mazel/Sunshine/Retna)
After that, it's a tall order for Davis to impress with Selling England. But he does, as Gabriel returns to front-and-center prominence - and, for the first time, receives some long-away ambience in the rear. In fact, the 5.1 mix of this entire album brings the box to a new sense of space. And the best example of that is, fittingly enough, "Firth of Fifth," whose stately verses and grand instrumental passages are now expansive enough to suggest the great Scottish estuary on whose name the title puns.
Which brings us to The Lamb. When I took it to my listening room and cued it to lie down, all I could think of was: letdown. The title track may tantalize with its surrounding keyboards and buzzing fly, but the rest of the song lacks vivid separation. "Back in N.Y.C." may kick off with its killer riff, but when the track reaches the chorus, the mix seems both blunted and cluttered - as is the case for the album as a whole. I kept switching between the DTS and Dolby Digital versions, looking for help, to little avail. In the end, it may be Real, it may be Rael, but it surely is disappointing.
Nevertheless, The Lamb can't detract from the overall excellence of Davis's work. And as for the liner notes - entirely silly except for the Trespass essay by road manager and sound man Richard Macphail - they can't detract from the best bonuses. On the audio side, the Extras CD+DVD includes the rediscovered demo for an aborted 1969 BBC film project, which has early incarnations of Cryme and Lamb themes. And on the video side - oh, baby - four of the DVDs serve up vintage live footage, including the two Holy Grails that we've been waiting for since 1991, when they were teased on the History VHS tape: the 30-minute Belgian TV gig from 1972 (with Gabriel in slender dark outfit) and the hour-long Italian TV showing of the Shepperton Studios concert from 1973 (with Gabriel in full multi-costumed regalia). Occasionally bad picture and (mono) sound quality be damned; the performances are mesmerizing. It's as if Armando Gallo's book I Know What I Like had come to life. "You are there," indeed.
Also, there are 3 hours of new video interviews with all band members, who are analytical and honest. Still, what may be the most eloquent quote in this box comes from Macphail's essay: "All my life, music has meant a great deal to me." If it means the same to you, and if the prospect of early Genesis in surround means even more, then this eminently musical box is for you.
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