Acoustic Sounds

Genesis

Selling England By The Pound

Music

Sound

Selling England by the Pound

Produced By: John Burns and Genesis

Engineered By: John Burns and Rhett Davis

Lacquers Cut By: Chris Bellman (Bernie Grundman Mastering)

By: Dylan Peggin

January 3rd, 2024

Format:

Vinyl

Genesis’ “Selling England By The Pound” Finally Breathes

The best-sounding pressing of their best album

By 1973, things were starting to come together for Genesis. The classic lineup of vocalist Peter Gabriel, guitarist Steve Hackett, bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, and drummer Phil Collins embarked on a string of albums, 1971’s Nursery Cryme and 1972’s Foxtrot, that would go down to define the ethos of progressive rock. These albums exemplify Genesis’ liberating drive to incorporate European classical elements into multi-segment compositions with Gabriel’s method of storytelling to create cinematic aural experiences. The songs would come to life on the live stage when Gabriel portrayed song characters in various costumes, such as fox heads, a floral headdress, and bat wings. This facet of Genesis’ artistry gave the group a firm identity that stood out amidst contemporaries who sat still on stage trying to get through a 9/8 musical segment without Moog synthesizers malfunctioning. 

Selling England By The Pound is an album packed with qualities to make an essential album in the Genesis canon. Still present are all the Genesis trademarks, but the jazz-fusion flair in “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” pushes the band’s musical boundaries. The band earned their first Top 30 hit with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” a Beatles-y jaunt. Steve Hackett’s guitar solo on “Firth of Firth” is hands down his signature musical moment in the group. “More Fool Me” is a tender acoustic ballad with Phil Collins taking the lead vocal, foreshadowing what was to come in the future. The tour-de-force that’s “The Battle of Epping Forest” fills in the tightly arranged segments with Gabriel’s “million-words-per-minute” vocal delivery. Considered the “filler” track of the record, “After The Ordeal” is a beautiful pseudo-classical instrumental. The instrumental trio section of “The Cinema Show” would become a standout moment in Genesis’ live show during the period where side-long epics swapped for accessible pop nuggets. The album’s closer, “Aisle of Plenty,” serves as a bookend with a reprise of the opening motif of “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.”

Music aside, Selling England By The Pound is an album lyrically rich with English culture. “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” contains references to Father Thames, citizens of (the Land of) Hope and Glory, and Green Shield Stamps. The title of “Firth of Fifth” is a pun on the Firth of Forth, an estuary in Scotland. “The Battle of Epping Forest” is based on a news story about rival gangs in the East End of London that fought in the ancient woodlands. There is also a nod to the titular characters of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet  in “The Cinema Show.” British supermarket chains play into the theme of consumerism in “Aisle of Plenty,” referencing Safeway, Fine Fare, and Tesco. 

Selling England By The Pound had mixed opinions between critics and band members upon its release. In retrospect, the album has aged like a fine wine, considered one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock genre. Genesis got their affirmal stamp of approval from one of the rock intelligentsia’s most beloved members when John Lennon acknowledged to like the album in a radio interview. The timing of the album’s 50th anniversary is coincidental with the recently released 2LP 45rpm pressing by Analogue Productions in conjunction with Atlantic Records’ 75th anniversary. 

For the past 15 years, all vinyl pressings of Selling England By The Pound used the 2008 Nick Davis remix mastered at half speed by Miles Showell. While the remix on vinyl translates much superiorly to the brick-walled CD edition, the original mix will always be the blueprint of comparison. Revisiting the master tape, the last time being the Classic Records pressing in 2001, is beneficial for listeners to hear the album as originally intended. One of the critical aspects of Selling England By The Pound’s translation onto the grooves is its running time of 54 minutes. Between both pressings utilizing the original mix and remix, so many nuances get lost when grooves are working to get crammed. The 2LP 45rpm treatment fixes the issue and allows the album to breathe at its maximum capacity. 

The etchings in the deadwax of a record sometimes contain easter eggs worth digging deeper into. This pressing of Selling England By The Pound is NOT a fresh all-analog cut. In 2010, Classic Records produced a test pressing of a 4LP single-sided 45rpm edition of the album pressed on clarity vinyl. The deadwax of this 2023 pressing has “FC-6060” etched, which traces back to the Classic Records test press. Given Chad Kassem’s acquisition of Classic Records and recycling metal parts for releases (ala the UHQR for Jethro Tull's Aqualung), this practice isn’t surprising, but a fun discovery!

Peter Gabriel’s acapella vocals in “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” are inviting, and Tony Banks’ grand piano is full of depth. The key instrument in any progressive rock group’s arsenal is the Mellotron. It swells with orchestral intensity throughout the record. If one has a subwoofer, the lawn mower drone in “I Know What I Like” or the Taurus pedals on “Firth of Fifth” will make your floor rumble. Phil Collins’ vocals in “More Fool Me” are so dry and intimate; it’s as if he’s singing in front of you. The unsung hero of this pressing is bassist Mike Rutherford, who provides a percussive tone that cuts through the mix on a track like “The Battle of Epping Forest.” One of Genesis’ musical advantages is the art of sound manipulation. It’s interesting to listen to “After The Ordeal” and hear the double-tracked harmonized nylon guitars sound like a harp. One of the original mix’s strengths lost on the remix is dynamics—the trio section of “The Cinema Show” crescendos with exciting intensity. After being acquainted with my remixed pressing for many years, hearing the original mix in this fashion was an absolute treat to the ears.

Between Chris Bellman’s mastering, QRP’s expertise in manufacturing high-quality records, and Stoughton’s tip-on glossy gatefold jacket printing, perfection is a word to describe this overall pressing. Chad Kassem knows what his clientele is seeking and proudly offers it, along with others in the Atlantic 75 Audiophile Series. 


Music Specifications

Label: Atlantic/Analogue Productions

Catalog No: APA 002-45

Pressing Plant: Quality Record Pressings (QRP)

SPARS Code: AAA

Speed/RPM: 45

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: Mastered and cut to lacquer from the original master tape

Presentation: Multi LP

Comments

  • 2024-01-04 05:09:37 AM

    Martin Straub wrote:

    There is a 2010, Classic Records produced test pressing of a 4LP single-sided 45rpm edition of Led Zeppelin IV, pressed on single sided clarity vinyl. Just like this one. Mastered by Bernie Grundman. With the same sonic benefits. Mine is No. 12 of 45. If Chad is reading, I hope you are pushing to get that one released. It is definitive.

  • 2024-01-04 11:40:44 AM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    It's "Firth of Fifth", not "Firth of Firth". I know, just a little typo.

  • 2024-01-04 04:01:18 PM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    Happy to see this review, and the confirmation of AAA status. I have it, and would have been stunned to learn of a digital step, as the sound is so stunning.

    One small request of the reviewers... there is no such thing as an "11". That is the stuff of satire. It also suggests an inflation of scoring that requires "one more than 10" for the great ones. It's a 10/10, please!

    • 2024-01-04 04:35:46 PM

      Silk Dome Mid wrote:

      Not a Spinal Tap fan, I see. After the movie came out, Mashall started making amps that go to 20. Any numerical score is intrinsically artificial.

      • 2024-01-04 04:36:09 PM

        Silk Dome Mid wrote:

        (Marshall)

  • 2024-01-04 08:52:35 PM

    Eskimo Chain wrote:

    Only half of this release is actually taken from the old Classic Records plates, side B and side D are actually new Chris Bellman mastering, as they dont not have FC-6060 in the run out groove, although it would seem some copies do use the CR for the D side as well. I would think that CB used his notes from the 2010 mastering as I can not hear any difference. None the less this is an exceptional release. I can not wait for the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway if this is the level to which these releases are being done.

  • 2024-01-10 11:25:41 AM

    Paul Robertson wrote:

    Thank you. What a thoroughly enjoyable, and exceptionally well written review. It even had some great humor to start things off, ala Michael Fremer. The band had "a firm identity that stood out amidst contemporaries who sat on stage trying to get through a 9/8 musical segment without Moog synthesizers malfunctioning". That was priceless hilarity, and I'm not offended given many of my favorite electronic bands from the early 70's relied very much on those said Moog synthesizers LOL!

    And yeah having this pressing myself 11/11 works for me juuuust fine thanks.

  • 2024-01-11 08:24:38 AM

    Doors32 wrote:

    "The 2LP 45rpm treatment fixes the issue and allows the album to breathe at its maximum capacity." Yes, this is a big advantage of this pressing. I like BG's work, but the B side with the initials CB is different from the other three. For me, the high tones are turned up too much. I don't have the Classic Records pressing and I don't know if it's the same there, but I would prefer all sides to be stamped FC-6060. I have the original British Porky version which I don't like, it sounds muddy. But I also have the Italian original, which sounds phenomenal (Matrix / Runout side A, variant 1: 6369944 1 2 520 06 280973; side B, variant 1: 6369944 2 2 520 06 290973). This pressing breathes, has clear high tones, a clean midrange and is quiet. Compared to the British press, it's alive! This Italian pressing is truly excellent, pleasant to listen to and natural, with lots of low frequencies. Plus, it's quieter than AP! AP is even more open than Italian pressing plants. It is more selective, detailed and "colorful", with a wider stage but a smaller lower range, the whole is more balanced and more dynamic (45rpm does its job). He would rate these three releases as follows: AP 10, Italian 9, British 7. ​However, I wouldn't call this pressing perfect. It's a pity that quality control is not the best and such renowned pressings have flaws. Wet cleaning does not remove them and vinyl is not straight. Sending back from Europe is not cost-effective. I definitely wouldn't give him an 11 ;)