Some bands do not survive the upheaval that "Genesis" went through after the release of their second album "Trespass".
After recording the albumת guitarist Anthony Phillips, who was one of the pillars of the band, left due to health reasons and what is defined as "stage fright". In addition, drummer John Mayhew was fired from the band living it with only three members. losing 2/5 of the lineup is surely not easy for any band, especially in case you lose one of your main writers. But "Genesis" has proven that not only they can recover from such a shock, but that they are even capable of surpassing themselves and producing their best album to date. Reinforced by drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett, "Genesis" entered its "Golden Age" and on November 12, 1971, released its third album "Nursery Cryme".
This is the first album of the four masterpieces from the classic lineup of "Genesis". The album in which the band completed the transition to progressive rock, the album in which the sound that so characterizes this band in its classical era is finally designed. An album that is a "progressive" milestone that greatly influenced the development of the genre. But all of this probably would not have happened had it not been for the shock the band had experienced shortly before.
After the release of "Trespass," Anthony Phillips left the band. His last appearance with "Genesis" was on July 18, 1970. He felt the increasing pressure of live performances affecting him. At the same time, he contracted pneumonia and isolated himself from the rest of the band, until he decided to retire. Keyboardist Tony Banks, singer Peter Gabriel and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford saw Anthony Phillips as an essential member of the band. He was one of the main writers and also an important and motivating factor in encouraging them to become professionals. They saw his retirement as the biggest threat to the band's fate and thought it would be very difficult to overcome it. Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford were very interested in continuing. Tony Banks agreed but on the condition that the band finds a new drummer with an equal level of playing to the rest of the band, and this led to the dismissal of John Mayhew.
In August 1970 Phil Collins joins the band, after responding to a newspaper ad. He auditioned successfully at Peter Gabriel's parents' home and joined the band. At the same time, Steve Hackett published an ad in the Melody Maker newspaper, in which he stated that he was looking for a band. The ad was answered by Peter Gabriel who invited him to audition, not before advising him to listen to "Trespass" before auditioning. The act of course passed the audition and his first appearance with Genesis was held on January 24, 1971.
Recruiting Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, breathed new life into the band. The two brought with them a wealth of new musical ideas and contributed both to the creative process in the studio and to the renewed energies on stage. Collins brought the diverse and versatile drumming that he, among others, drew from the world of jazz and of course the vocal harmonies that complemented Peter Gabriel. Hackett on the other hand helped change and shape the sound of "Genesis", thanks in part to his very unique playing style and new playing techniques such as "Tapping" and "Sweep Picking" that he brought with him to the band. In addition, Hackett was also the one that pushed Tony Banks to make more significant use of the Mellotron, an instrument that became an integral part of the band's DNA.
In terms of the musical line, this album starts right where "Trespass" ended. You can hear the musical connecting thread between them. The masterpiece "The Knife" that finished the previous album is not much different from what we get in this album and it certainly does not fall short of the great works in it. The musical connection between the two albums also exists thanks to the fact that even before leaving the band, Anthony Phillips contributed to writing some of the material for the album, including the amazing work that opens it "The Musical Box". This piece was even played on a show when Phillips was still part of the band. Despite that, Steve Hackett managed to bring "added value" into the song in his clever guitar playing, in the little guitar sentences, in the amazing solo starting at 4:10, and in the harmonic solo at the end of the song, which Brian May admitted he was influenced by it. Listen to it starting at 9:55 onwards and you will immediately understand.
The somewhat weird lyrics are based on a Victorian fairy tale written by Gabriel, about two children in a country house. The girl, Cynthia, kills the boy, Henry, by cleaving his head off with a croquet mallet (this part is also shown on the album cover). She later discovers Henry's music box. When she opens it, "Old King Cole" plays, and Henry returns as a ghost, but begins to age very quickly. It causes him to experience a lifetime's sexual desire in a few moments, and he tries to convince Cynthia to have a relationship with him. However, the noise causes the nurse to arrive, and she throws the music box at him, destroying both.
It can be said that "The Musical Box" is a purposeful display of Genesis' sound and style on this album as well as on subsequent albums. Long musical pieces, complex compositions, strong and even extreme dynamics, smart and melodic playing of Hackett, pleasant vocal harmonies of Collins and Gabriel, virtuoso playing of Tony Banks, and more.
This album has shaped the sound and style of "Genesis" so no wonder it is one of the more influential in the prog-rock genre, but not only. Brian May was not the only one to be affected by it. Geddy Lee bassist of "Rush" noted that it is one of his favorite and most influential albums. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen has taken from this album a musical technique that will accompany him throughout his entire career, and we have not yet begun to mention the plethora of prog and pro-metal bands that have been inspired by it. This playing technique can be heard, among other things, in "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" based on the book "The Day of the Triffids" by the writer John Windham from 1951. The song warns against the spread of the poisonous plant "Heracleum Mantegazzianum" after being brought From Russia to England by a Victorian scholar. Although the real plant is extremely poisonous and dangerous, the lyrics of the song are in the best of the masculine tradition with a humorous exaggeration that implies that the plant is trying to take over the human race. Steve Hackett's "Tapping" technique was born when he tried to impress his friends and suddenly discovered the unlimited possibilities of playing with both hands on the guitar fret. A few years later, this playing technique will be perfected by guitarist Eddie Van Halen who said that he attended a Genesis performance in the early 1970s, where he learned the technique from Hackett.
It's also the album where you can hear the voice of one of the best-selling singers in the world - Phil Collins singing his first solo. "For Absent Friends" is a short acoustic ballad that shows us the talent of Phil Collins who will later become the band's lead singer and later will have a wonderful solo career. This is also Steve Hackett's first significant composition in the band and the two really remember how embarrassed they were when they presented the piece to Peter Gabriel.