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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Genesis - In The Beginning (1968 us, sensational psych rock, 2012 edition)

In The Beginning is a decent enough acid rock album very clearly born from LA in the late '60s. Much more fascinating than the music on the album is the list of acts in which members of Genesis had previously performed. In The Beginning comes at the end of a garage-psych tradition, but is entirely in keeping with the latter-day sound of the '60s. The album doesn't quite hold up as well as some of its more raw and aggro antecedents.

Tracing the genesis of Genesis starts to feel like a stateside equivalent of trying to figure out the band genealogy of Hawkwind. That is to say, the deeper you, the more you wonder if there was a band on the West Coast which they weren't somehow connected with. Genesis frontman Jack Ttana played in Sons of Adam, another biblically named act, most famous for performing the Arthur Lee-written and oft' compiled nugget "Feathered Fish." "Feathered Fish" is a classic slice of garage-psych; cryptic, synaesthetic lyrics, hugely soaring vocal harmonies, and a Paul Revere-with-the-fuzz-cranked-way-up riff, this track would be considered "freakbeat" if it came from Europe (in fact, people probably call it freakbeat anyway). 

The other guitarist of Sons of Adam, Randy Holden, went on to play in The Other Half (of "Mr. Pharmacist" fame) before finally landing in the 1968 lineup of Blue Cheer. Post-Genesis, second guitarist Kent Henry went on play in Steppenwolf. There are doubtlessly plenty of other highly interesting ties to the LA garage and incipient hippie-metal scenes to be found in Genesis' past, too. Music-wise, In The Beginning hints at a proto-metallic bent with some heavier-edged riffs, but opts for melody rather than the sloppy ferocity of its heavier contemporaries.

In The Beginning opens with "Angeline," one of the album's heavier tracks, which features churning riffs and wailing solos as a backdrop for male-female harmonies. Less aggressive songs like "Suzanne" recall the softly sung, sometimes spooky and sentimental harmonies of The Mamas and The Papas, and the lyrics pretty much run the gamut of standard flower child imagery. 

The blues-tinged "What's It All About?" and the 16-minute "Girl Who Never Was" are where the album hits its stride, resembling Cream, or pretty much any band doing a heavy take on the blues. It wouldn't be out of place to draw a musical comparison to a more jam-centric Led Zeppelin at points. This makes perfect sense; if you doubt the influence of the West Coast psych scene on really early British metal, listen to Spirit's “Taurus,” then the intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” and watch your classic rockin', Jimmy Page-idolizin' world unravel.

In The Beginning is an unearthed gem, but it's an unearthed gem of baroque classic rock, subject to some of the trappings that era. Genesis doesn't quite live up to some of its more idiosyncratic contemporaries (the blaring Blue Cheer, the jazz and pop tinged Spirit,) nor does it touch the mind-boggling moddish psych of its forbears Sons of Adam. That said, there's something to the pretty female leads (especially on the cover of original suicide rock anthem "Gloomy Sunday”) and dueling vocals in the context of the music. Not to mention, it's hard to deny the twinge of entertainment derived from the band having such a prominent nominative doppelganger. Imagine the smug satisfaction you’ll feel as someone poses you the question,
by Matthew A. Stern

1. Angeline (Bob 'Crusher' Metke, Jack Ttanna) - 2:54
2. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) - 3:01
3. Gloomy Sunday (Rezső Seress, Samuel M. Lewis) - 4:07
4. What's It All About? - 2:48
5. Mary, Mary (Bennett) - 2:42
6. Ten Second Song (Kent Henry) - 2:58
7. Girl Who Never Was - 4:02
8. World Without You - 16:16
9. The Long Road - 4:54
All songs by Jack Ttanna except where stated

*Kent Henry - Lead Guitar
*Bob "Crusher" Metke - Drums, Percussion
*Fred "Foxey" Rivera - Bass (Replaced Mike Port)
*Jack Ttanna (Aka Joe Koohen) - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Sue Richman - Vocals

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