On March 31, 1978, "Genesis" released its ninth album "... And Then There Were Three ...", which began their "journey" from the heart of the consensus of Progressive Rock to the bear hug of Pop and mainstream.
Very symbolically this "journey" of "Genesis" from Progressive Rock to Pop, is well reflected in the sequence of songs on the album. It begins with "Down and Out" - a complex prog-rock section composed of asymmetrical time signatures and frequent rhythm changes and ends with the big hit "Follow You Follow Me". These two pieces, co-written by all three members of the band, symbolize the two ends of the musical spectrum of "Genesis". The first is the complex progressive from which the band comes from and the last is the simple and catchy pop to which it aims.
This is the album that gave the band their first big hit "Follow You Follow Me". After that, there was no way back. The band members tasted the sweet taste of success and realized that to reach a larger audience they needed to change. They enjoyed the hug they received from the audience following the release of the song and it felt like an addictive drug, that was slowly leading the band away from its Progressive roots. This process also fits well with the spirit of the musical period, which was completely unforgiving towards complex and long songs. Punk raised its head in Britain, Disco and Pop dominated the charts, so this journey "from Genesis" to mainstream" was necessary to survive the progressive "Ice Age" that befell the musical world.
The name of the album refers to the number of band members who were reduced in this album to only three, after the departure of guitarist Steve Hackett. In July 1977, "Genesis" completed the tour to promote the album "Wind & Wuthering" and the band turned to the studio to work on their second live album "Seconds Out". While producing the final mixing for the album, Hackett left the band with the goal of continuing his solo career. He enjoyed working on his first solo album "Voyage of the Acolyte" and especially the result. He felt that "Genesis" did not allow him to reach his full potential and that the musical direction in which it was going is forcing him to musically compromise, so he decided to leave.
In the absence of Steve Hackett, the band considered adding a guitarist to their shoes, but Mike Rutherford felt confident enough in his skills to take on the lead guitar parts beyond playing the bass, feeling he would even enjoy the challenge. Indeed, in the end, the trio decided not to add more musicians. They had the necessary experience in writing and performing some of the great pieces of the band in the past and they felt they could do everything themselves in the studio. The fact that they managed to survive the departure of the charismatic leader Peter Gabriel, only contributed to their confidence that they could do it again. Later the band members will describe the recordings of the album as a pleasant experience. As a band of three, each had a clear and defined role, which reduced friction and clashes and contributed to the creative process.
As mentioned, the album marked a change in the band's style, moving from the Progressive roots towards shorter and simpler songs, that suited the period. In addition, the change in the band's sound is noticeable on this album. In the absence of Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford wanted to formulate his style of playing. He did not try to follow Hackett's unique guitar style. Rutherford was also not a lead guitar player, so naturally, the guitar parts became thinner and simpler on this album, leaving a large space for Tony Banks' keyboards, which became more thick and heavy and dominated the album's sound.
"... And Then There Were Three ..." does not rank highly among heavy prog fans. To be honest, this album is not even really loved by the band members themselves, especially not by Phil Collins. It may not be one of the band's perfect albums, but we certainly do not understand what the fuss is about, we love it very much.
(Photo: Graham Wood)
The album features some great tracks, also in terms of the more "Progressive" "Genesis". One of them is the mighty opening track "Down and Out". A complex track that begins quietly with Tony Banks' keyboards "carpet", but very quickly evolves with Mike Rutherford's catchy guitar riff at 0:30 and Phil Collins' brutal drum attack that lands on us after four bars and gives the signal for the ensuing onslaught. A section with asymmetrical time signatures, rhythm changes, syncopations, and breaks led by Tony Banks' heavy keyboard riff and Phil Collins' powerful drumming, which also manages to match his singing to the absolute madness that takes place in this song.
Immediately after that comes the quiet "Undertow" written by Tony Banks. This is the first song on the album written solely by Banks and the "Genesis" first which was written by a single band member. The band originally planned to develop the song even further, but the basic track of guitar, drums, and piano, along with the simple chorus, was strong enough to leave it as it is. Banks plays a Yamaha electric grand piano. Interestingly, he wrote a two-minute introduction to the song, but encountered disagreement from his friends, who thought there were enough keyboards on the album. Banks did not give up and reworked the track as part of "From the Undertow", taken from his first solo album "A Curious Feeling".
We increase the tempo with "Ballad Of Big" originally called "Ballad Of Big Jim". The one who wrote the lyrics is Phil Collins who followed the humorous writing of "Genesis" from the days of Peter Gabriel, telling of a giant named Jim who is scared of everyone.
The swing continues with the next quiet song "Snowbound". Originally the song was more rhythmic and Phil Collins even recorded his drum roles at a much faster pace, before the band decided to slow them down to suit the style of the song. Collins and Rutherford described the song as "romantic", with lyrics about a man wearing a "snowman" outfit to hide from people, but while inside the costume, he becomes paranoid and discovers he can not get out.
"The Burning Rope" ends the first side of the vinyl. This is one of the most beautiful and more Progressive tracks on the album. While Tony Banks was writing the song, he decided to shorten it instead of stretching his arrangements to an extended piece, as he wanted to avoid being compared to the "One for the Vine" from the previous album. The song features a guitar solo by Mike Rutherford, which he claims was a challenge for him, though he was pleased with the result, which he thinks is his best on the album.
The other side of the vinyl opens up in a storm with "Deep in the Motherlode" and Tony Banks' great keyboard work. How much beauty in one song? The melodic and catchy keyboard line, the monotonous and mesmerizing rhythm, the quiet transition section, the eruption that followed, and Collins' amazing singing - just a musical charm. The song was written by Mike Rutherford and tells the story of a man's journey through the gold rush in America. Interestingly, the words "Go West young man" refer to the sentence of Horace Greeley, who, on July 13, 1865, published the article: "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country."
The swing continues with the next soft track "Many Too Many" released as the second single from the album. This song marks the departure of "Genesis" from the progressive rock style, as it features the band's last use of a Mellotron ever.
"Scenes from a Night's Dream" brings us back to a faster and happier rhythm. It is based on a childhood dream inspired by the cartoon character "Little Nemo", which Collins bought the book about for his brother. The song evolved from a musical idea by Tony Banks who wrote the first draft of the lyrics, but he gave up in the middle because he felt they did not fit. Instead, the band settled for the lyrics that Collins suggested, which also influenced the different melodies which included more harmonies.
"Say It's Alright Joe" was among the last written for the album. Mike Rutherford started writing it but at one point got stuck until Tony Banks added the keyboards and thus they all hit back to work on the song.
"The Lady Lies" shows how talented Mike Rutherford is as a bassist. Listen to his wonderful work in this song under all the keyboards carpets and you will understand what an excellent and underrated bassist he is. The music and lyrics written by Tony Banks tell the story of a man who saves a woman from the mouth of a monster, but later the woman seduces him and leads him to an unknown fate.
The album ends up with the hit "Follow You Follow Me" led by a guitar riff written by Mike Rutherford adorned with the flanger effect. Rutherford testified that his wife was the inspiration for the song, following the longing and distance from her on the band's tours. The song became the band's first hit which entered the top ten in the UK and its first hit in the top 40 in the US.