Tracking Surround: Genesis Page 5

Genesis: 1976–1982

Right now, I should say I'm a fan of isolating vocals in the center as part of an across-the-front-channels strategy. It gives needed definition to singers, and it also allows vocal students (and just plain fans) to get up-close-and-personal with them - to hear exactly how they do that thing they do. Not all singers like being "exposed" in this way; I'm glad Collins didn't mind. (Then again, Collins has admitted that he offered no input on the surround mixes, leaving them for Davis to do and for Banks and Rutherford to check - with Banks doing the lion's share of the track-by-track advising. So I guess we should be glad that Davis didn't mind putting Collins in the center.) Thanks, Nick! (Don't anyone tell Phil, though, lest he demand a revision for the next box. On the other hand, maybe we should tell him how powerful and persuasive his vocals are now.) Sounds great, Phil! (But I digress ... )

There's much more to admire in the surround mix of this album, and none of it is mere trickery. "Entangled" is beautiful, with the central lead vocals backed by guitars and choral harmonies in the four corners. "Squonk" has a great sense of live space, with fully resonant drums and, on the chorus, thoroughly rumbling bass in the subwoofer. In "Ripples," the effect of Collins expanding into the room for the chorus of "Sail away, away ..." is both literal and magical. And the bass-and-drum interplay on "Los Endos" is thrilling, with the former instrument coming across as the epitome of firm but deep. Throughout this album, the surround channels don't just faintly echo the front but stake their own territory, brimming with keyboards and percussion. My only disappointment with Trick is that the center channel rarely makes room for highlighted instruments.

Comes Wind & Wuthering, and "Eleventh Earl of Mar," and we get a strong, seemingly three-dimensional guitar solo . . . in the center channel! And with Collins's whispered asides in the rear and Rutherford's sub-terranean bass notes after the midsection - yum, this is even better than "Dance on a Volcano." Next up: "One for the Vine," with its own midsection appropriately crisscrossing the circus-like sounds between the four corners, before the majesty of the song's climax proves to be, well, as majestic as we could've hoped for. At the album's end, if you're looking to bathe in the "Afterglow," then the enveloping guitars, keyboards, and vocals will immerse you in sound.

For both Wind and Trick, the surround mix emphasizes how Genesis was a band - still bursting with ideas and able to realize them on recordings with layers so multileveled that, until now, they couldn't be fully appreciated. You may like the stereo mixes, too - either the original ones or the spiffy-but-faithful new ones here - but once you hear these albums in surround, there's no going back.