WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
Think for a minute about all the rock bands over the years that have switched singers due to death, internal strife or some hokey public relations reason that no one believed in the first place.
Van Halen. AC/DC. Deep Purple. Motley Crue. Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden. Judas Priest.
Now imagine that those bands sat down, together with their most-famous frontmen, and talked about how it all played out. Would be pretty riveting to have the Van Halen brothers along with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar in the same room, right? How about the late Ronnie James Dio chilling out with bat-crazy Ozzy Osbourne? The mind boggles at the fascinating possibilities, but only one band has actually done it, and that band is Genesis.
Last month, the band dropped the career-spanning documentary “Sum of the Parts,” which features contributions from key members past and present. Keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist Mike Rutherford, and drummer-turned-singer Phil Collins were joined by former guitarist Steve Hackett and initial frontman Peter Gabriel in a completely-open session in which the musicians sat together for what turned out to be a jovial yet honest meeting of the past.
Starting as an art-rock band in the late ’60s, Genesis ended up with one of the most storied histories in music. There were the early, prog-rock days with Gabriel at the helm, which turned into the somewhat edgy but eventually sugar-coated pop of the Collins-led era.
“Sum of the Parts” contains a wealth of archive performances and footage of the band’s biggest tracks and fan favorites, making it the first official study of the group’s history, beginning with their formation at Charterhouse in 1967 and reuniting all the members for the first time in many years.
The film recounts an extraordinary musical story, exploring the band’s songwriting as well as emotional highs and lows, alongside previously unseen archive material and rare performance footage from across the group’s entire career. The dynamic between the band members that has enabled them to survive numerous lineup changes alongside solo careers outside of the band is particularly engaging to watch.
“We’re the only band, I think, that have managed the solo thing and the band thing for quite a few years side-by-side, and made it a plus rather than a problem,” said Rutherford in the doc.
That falls in line with Collins’ ridiculously successful solo career that included hits like “In the Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds,” Gabriel’s post-Genesis high points, “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time,” and Rutherford’s Mike + The Mechanics “The Living Years.” In retrospect, it’s hard to find another outfit that ended up so prolific as a unified group and then solo. Even Banks has had recent success with orchestral leanings.
“I think when we got it right, we had something that none of us could do on our own,” said Gabriel. “And there were different musical histories merging together in a powerful way.”
“Sum of the Parts” encompasses the visionary influence of Genesis as the leading lights of progressive rock with landmark albums such as “Foxtrot,” “Selling England By The Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.” Then there is the huge crossover success of the ’80s and ’90s, which saw them hit the upper reaches of the singles charts with era-defining hits such as “Turn It On Again,” “Invisible Touch,” “No Son of Mine,” and “I Can’t Dance.”
Despite persistent rumors of another reconvening, Genesis has not been together in a musical light since the 2007 “Turn It On Again” tour, which included a show in front of 500,000 people at Rome’s Circo Massimo. The dates also had a three-night stand — the longest in one city along with Chicago — at Philadelphia’s then-Wachovia Center.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out his blog at our sister publication www.delcotimes.com