Genesis – Turn It On: The Hits (vinyl edition)

Genesis – Turn it On Again: The Hits (Rhino)

Double-album compilation makes its vinyl debut 

Phil Collins and Genesis were hit-making machines during their heyday, from the late-Seventies to the mid-Nineties.  The drummer-turned reluctant frontman took the reins after mercurial leader Peter Gabriel left for a solo career in 1975. After a few albums that tried to mimic the progressive rock the band had originally pursued, they began adding more pop-friendly material and the results landed positively with a wide audience.

Turn it On Again chronicles most (but not all) the high points of Genesis’ career.  It originally came out on CD in 1999. This marks the first time the collection is available on vinyl.

The set leads off with the infectious “Turn it On Again,” from 1980’s Duke album, which is in a very odd time signature (13/4).  That’s a followed by the ebullient, “Invisible Touch.”  

One of the selling points of this compilation is the inclusion of single mixes and edits.  The lengthy “Mama,” off the 1984 Genesis album, benefits from the truncated, radio edit.  Rounding out side one is the politically-charged rocker, “Land of Confusion,” and the completely ridiculous “I Can’t Dance,” which really doesn’t stand up now.

Side two opens with “Follow You, Follow Me,” the band’s 1978 breakout single (peaking at #23 in the US). I’m surprised they did not use the single mix here.  That’s followed by another ballad, “Hold on My Heart,” one of the few redeeming qualities of the goofy, 1991 We Can’t Dance album.  The excellent, “ABACAB,” gets things rocking again.  This is a radio edit, that omits the lengthy jam at the end.  “In Your Wardrobe (I Know What I Like)” is one of the most-commercial of the Peter Gabriel- era (but does it really qualify as a “hit”? More on that later).  

Side three starts with “No Son of Mine.”  It had been a long time since I’d heard this one, and it sounded good.  That’s followed by a heavily-edited (thankfully), “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” (originally a 9-minute piece from Invisible Touch, shortened to a more palatable 4:30)  Next, is one of their best ballads, “In Too Deep.”  “Congo,” from 1997, was an ill-fated attempt to carry on without Collins with new vocalist Ray Wilson.  It’s a weak song, and it sounds out of place amongst all these much stronger tracks.

Side four begins with another throw away single, “Jesus He Knows Me” – it’s just not a terribly great song.  No Genesis video got more airplay on MTV than “That’s All”; the mid-tempo track still sounds fantastic.  “Misunderstanding” is one of Genesis’ best rockers – one of many songs Collins’ wrote about his deteriorating marriage.  Then comes  “Throwing It All Away,” another decent ballad off Invisible Touch.  

The real treat of the entire collection is an entirely new recording of “The Carpet Crawlers” (dubbed “The Carpet Crawlers 1999”) featuring all original members, including Gabriel.  He and Collins share lead vocals on this new version, which actually gives the song a fresh coat of paint.

Subtitling this collection “The Hits” is an odd decision. There’s so many “hits” not on here – the biggest one being the horn-driven, “No Reply at All.”  But, “Man on the Corner,” “Paperlate,” “Illegal Alien,” “Taking It All Too Hard,” and “Never a Time” are all curiously left off.

This new analog edition is pressed on clear, “Invisible Touch” vinyl.  The inner sleeves have the credits for each song on one side and a collage of fragments of many of their album covers on the other.

By choosing two of the most accessible Peter Gabriel tracks, and most of the Phil Collins highlights, the Hits is a good distillation of the entire career of Genesis, one of the most successful bands of the classic rock era.  It’s good to finally have it available on vinyl  —Tony Peters