Voyage of the Acolyte invites comparison to Genesis, of course, because the band's drummer, Phil Collins, and bassist/guitarist, Michael Rutherford, assist Hackett. The differences lie in Hackett's musty tenor vocals on "The Hermit," and Sally Oldfield's fluid soprano on "Star of Sirius."
Hackett's record is organized around Tarot themes. "Ace of Wands," for instance, opens in a frenzy of guitar reminiscent of King Crimson's Robert Fripp. Like Fripp, Hackett uses the guitar to create sound effects; unlike him, he stresses clarity and fluid note sequences to build instrumental drama. From that base, Hackett builds lithe textures of acoustic guitar and swarming beds of mellotron occasionally pierced by fuzzy electric riffs. Though his music tends to be more abrupt than the group's, he is for the most part equally resourceful.
On A Trick of the Tail, Hackett backs off from sound-effect guitar to blend with Banks's keyboards. They trade solos, but it's Banks's assortment of piano, synthesizer and mellotron that dominates instrumentally. The vocal problem has been easily solved. The twin harmonies of Genesis's early work suggested the similarity between drummer-turned-vocalist Phil Collins's and Peter Gabriel's voices. But on his own, Collins is unexpectedly adept at duplicating Gabriel's quality. Differences are hard to find, although he lacks a little in projection.
With the absence of Gabriel, however, Genesis now relies on subtlety and melodic continuity more than studio gimmickry. The title track, based on a choppy piano rhythm, is the closest they've come to a pop single. Although the familiar themes are always apparent, A Trick of the Tail is much more straightforward, possibly because it's more a joint effort than the Gabrieldominated albums. On their seventh attempt, Genesis has managed to turn the possible catastrophe of Gabriel's departure into their first broad-based American success.
(Posted: May 20, 1976)
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