As the career of Genesis at last appears to be in the decline with the departure of Phil Collins, after 30 years of increasing success, Atlantic Records has gone back to the beginning to put together this four-CD box set. There have been few bands in rock's history that have created music of the scope and grandeur of Genesis' early '70s recordings. Before the band evolved into a pop song hit machine in the '80s under the tutelage of Phil Collins, Genesis was a formidable "progressive rock" vehicle, which created rich tapestries of keyboard and guitar layers, royally supporting Peter Gabriel's dramatic song-tales. This box set  is a treasure trove for fans of that "arty" Genesis period; none of the tracks on these discs have been previously released on a Genesis album.

The first two CDs contain the first official live release of the band's 1975 double album-opera, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, recorded in its entirety on April 24, 1975.
The third disc offers live tracks, early singles and single B-sides, including live versions of "Firth of Fifth," "Suppers Ready," and "I Know What I Like" as well as an unreleased single version of the band's early hit "Watcher in the Skies."

Disc four includes demos, rough mixes and BBC recordings of the earliest versions of Genesis. A dozen of the songs on this CD have never been released in any format.
The box also includes an 84-page booklet, which, while it doesn't include the lyrics of the songs, is packed with pictures, articles and memorabilia from the earliest phase of Genesis before Phil Collins signed on as drummer. This is a must-have for fans of the Peter Gabriel-led Genesis years.


At The BBC

A bit after the fact, but Elektra has released a collection of some live recordings of Pixes from 1988-1991. The tracks sound well recorded, leaving Black Francis' voice almost too clear in spots. It's easy to hear how Kim Deal's chiming background vocals became the "sound" of her next project, The Breeders. Included are readings of "Manta Ray," "Wave of Mutilation," "Caribou" and "Monkey Gone To Heaven."


Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson
VH1 Storytellers

The album that originated with a televised acoustic guitar pairing of two of country music's living legends includes a couple songs not featured on the VH1 TV show, and misses a couple as well. Cash's "Ring of Fire" doesn't appear here, but "Folsom Prison Blues" and the beautifully simple "I Still Miss Someone" do. (The latter song is covered by Nanci Griffith on her new album.)

Willie Nelson offers "On The Road Again," "Crazy" and "Always On My Mind," among others. The two do a campfire-warm rendering of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" and offer folky, historically and humourously rich stories in between numbers. The album follows Cash and Nelson as they trade the lead vocals (and for a while, Cash's guitar) back and forth and play their classic material like cards from a grizzled but grinning dealer's deck. Stripped of the backing fuzz of a band, this album takes the focus back to the songs and songwriters on the purest level  - two strumming acoustic guitars and voices, nothing more.

This is a document of pure Americana, a snapshot of how things were and where they are. They don't make "storytellers" like these any more.