For some people it’s like water’s on fire when they come to hear that Peter Gabriel is the first Genesis singer. For them Genesis is the funny walking behind each other trio with Phil Collins that was scoring hits like Mama, Land Of Confusion and I Can’t Dance in the eighties and nineties. The chance they know that Genesis existed for some time as a quartet after Gabriel left in 1975 is zero. Who do you say, Steve Hackett? For the average symfo lover this is crystal clear. Steve Hackett is of course the creative guitarist with whom Genesis blossomed until 1977.
“Wind & Wuthering” from 1976 is the eighth album and the last fully studio album with this virtuoso guitarist in the line-up. The usual arguments of whose compositions would be approved by the executive committee were the reason for his departure. Especially Tony Banks wasn’t to enthusiastic about the songs Hackett wrote and that was highly frustrated for the guitar player. The result was that “Wind & Wuthering” had relatively few guitar parts and a lot of keyboards.
“Wind & Wuthering” was recorded with a splendid sound in the Relight Studios in Hilvarenbeek. Just like its predecessor “A Trick Of The Tail” it was finished in the famous Trident Studio in London. Twelve songs ended up on tape, nine of them made it on the album and three ultimately were released as left-overs on the EP “Spot The Pigeon”.
The album has a fine variation of songs and that’s mainly due to contributions of all band members. The main similarities are the melancholic keyboards (you’ll stumble over mellotron chords) and the intense singing. However these are not only things that are making the record. Besides that our ears are often, if not constantly, pleased by cool drum rhythms, melodic and bombastic bass and a huge variety of guitars (electric, 12-string and classic). To complete the picture there is also kalimba en auto-harp though you’ll never exactly hear where those instruments are used. Not that this matters. It already takes a lifetime to absorb the immense beauty of this album.
The intro of opener Eleventh Earl Of Mar immediately draws you into the music. When the mellotron has swollen, the song bursts open with fine organ, pointy drums and intense vocals. There are also beautiful moments on electric guitar and before you know it you’re in the middle of a dreamy intersection. Bombastic chords brings you back to the actual song and if One For The Vine presents itself, it is obvious that Genesis really knows how to tie you. They constantly ask for attention. This 10 minute song cannot be written with anything else but tinsel. This mini-epic written by Banks is at the start very piano-orientated. These wonderful minutes are relieved by brilliant drum parts full of syncopation. Finally a rousing passage in which Banks touches his keyboards extremely beautiful. In the last part it is once again underlined how fantastic this song really is.
The Mike Rutherford-written Your Own Special Way is something very different. This graceful ballad is kinda song-orientated, it has been released as a single back then. Because of the wonderful arrangement this songs earns its place on the album. “Wind & Wuthering” is set up according to the LP structure. So Wot Gorilla ended up at the end of Side A. This song has a Brand X vibe with a surplus of keyboards.
The band goes on with All In A Mouse’s Night, the opening of Side B. It is a narrative song with only in the firm finally a musical expansion. But then, this is fingerlicking good. That’s okay, because it’s a harbinger of what the next years would bring. Blood On The Rooftops opens with classical guitar, not that unexpected, Steve Hackett is the composer here. Really beautiful are the ‘Let’s Skip The News Boy’-parts with nice mellotron and pounds of romance. The three following songs are melted together as a trilogy. The first two songs are instrumental. Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers sounds open, New-Age like and in In That Quiet Earth where the band is fully present, Hackett is at his very best. Many consider the closing Afterglow as the most beautiful love songs Phil Collins has ever sang. This bearing song relies on broken guitar chords and to be the mellotron themselves the guys are singing some wordless sounds. It is a massive end of a monumental album.
It is a real shame that this album is the last one in the old Genesis style. Maybe because of this “Wind & Wuthering” is even more beautiful then it already is.