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The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Atco 401
Released: November 1974
Chart Peak: #41
Weeks Charted: 16

Steve HackettPhil CollinsMike RutherfordTony BanksPeter GabrielOne of rock's more theatrical bands comes up with its most musical LP to date, showing they can come over just as well on record as on stage with this semi-concept LP. Highlights are the recognizable Peter Gabriel lead vocals and the strong organ instrumental backup. Band sometimes sounds like some of the "electronic" British groups, but on this double package they show themselves more as a skilled rock group whose instrumental trickery is a means to the good music end. Several possible singles here, but expect strongest play to come from the FM markets.

- Billboard, 1974.

Bonus Reviews!

I wanted to call this the most readable album since Quadrophenia, but it's only the wordiest -- two inner sleeves covered with lyrics and a double-fold that's all small-type libretto. The apparent subject is the symbolic quest of a Puerto Rican hood/street kid/graffiti artist named Rael, but the songs neither shine by themselves nor suggest any thematic insight I'm eager to pursue. For art-rock, though, it's listenable, from Eno treatments to a hook that goes (I'm humming) "on Braw-aw-aw-aw-aw-aw-dway." B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
The most successful album for Genesis was, whisper it, a concept album; a loose concept though, more a fantasy of adolescent preoccupations put to music. The trouble with fantasy, except in the hands of an exceptional story teller, is that the images and allusions are private, understood and of real significance to the author alone. Effort taken to delve into the meaning of The Lamb Lies Down... could well be time wasted but both Gabriel's essay/story and lyrics are printed in full in the booklet making them amenable to further study.

The complicated staging for The Lamb Lies Down... was taken to America and broke the band there in a big way. It came as a major surprise therefore that this was the last album recorded by Gabriel.

Compact Disc certainly makes far more of the scene-setting sonic interludes produced for the album by Brian Eno than vinyl ever did. The recording however was not the most technically advanced for its time.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

This, the last Genesis album with Peter Gabriel, is a sprawling two-disc thematic album concerning a character named Rael. Keeping with that theme, it includes pastiches of Broadway show music, plus the group's typical mixture of folk, rock, and classical influences. If this is not the first Gabriel Genesis album to buy, it ultimately may prove the most satisfying. * * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Because its narrative is fairly oblique, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway works as a flowing, almost formless concept piece, a musical journey rather than a dogmatic treatise. * * * * 1/2

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

In its prime, this English prog band set the standard for concept albums with this weird, wild but incredibly coherent tour de force. An art-rock classic among theatrical, story-driven efforts, if a trifle bloated and pretentious, this intense double record was an epic swan song for charismatic singer Peter Gabriel before, some disgruntled fans say, "Phil Collins turned the group into a shallow hit machine." * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Although 1974 can be seen as the apogee of progressive rock excess, this album is dark and brittle with spare instrumentation. Recorded in rural Wales at a difficult time for Genesis, with Peter Gabriel's vocals captured separately in London's Island Studios, the album actually displays the group at their most bite-sized.

Gabriel was, at that time, being courted as a serious writer and took it upon himself to write a modern-day Pilgrim's Progress, which begins with Rael, a leather-clad Puerto Rican street punk, seeing a lamb -- wait for it -- lying down on Broadway. Whether anyone, Gabriel included, really understood what it was about is open to conjecture, but the double album features some of his most consistent writing and the band's pithiest playing.

"Back in NYC," covered by Jeff Buckley on his final recordings, signposts punk; "In The Cage" is as readily climactic as "Supper's Ready," but in just eight minutes; "Carpet Crawlers" gave the group another anthem; and "The Chamber Of 32 Doors" allows the soul music that Gabriel was steeped in as a teenager to spill over.

With its clean, modern, Hipgnosis cover, the album was finally released to general acclaim at the end of 1974. It is a vocalist's record, which is why the musicians hated it, and Gabriel loved it. Clear that he would never again be allowed quite so much leeway on a Genesis album, at the end of the grueling world tour to support the album, he was gone.

- Daryl Easlea, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

From back when Peter Gabriel was their singer and Phil Collins merely the drummer, this double-LP concept album follows a street urchin's misadventures in the New York underworld. An essential classic-prog album.

- David Browne, Entertainment Weekly, 5/13/05.

This sometimes talky art-rock epic is more than two hours long. That's a significant time investment, considering the primary lyricist, Peter Gabriel, intended audiences to follow his tale of a half-Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent on the loose in New York from start to finish. Inevitably, you lose something by parachuting in somewhere in the middle.

Still, by parachuting in, you can quickly determine whether you're tempermentally disposed toward Lamb, one of the towering peaks of progressive rock. Cue up the eight-minute "In the Cage," on disc 1. Listen to its mad-hatter keyboard arpeggios and thrashing tilt-a-whirl rhythms. Check out the music edge in Gabriel's voice. If the fitful, sometimes suffocating, trapped-in-a-psychodrama feeling of the tune makes you curious about what happens next, go back to the beginning and settle in for a rare treat. If, however, you're not completely enthralled, stay away. (Instead seek out the less demanding Genesis album Trick of the Tail.)

While Lamb's lyrics overflow with visions of majestic grandeur (practically a prerequisite for British art-rock), the music exhibits a grind-it-out grittiness, with muscular, at times even funky, polyrhythms. It's possible to love Lamb and not care at all about the story: The band's cohesive attack is intriguing enough to atone for any stray moments of overblown pageantry.

When Lamb was released in 1974, drummer Phil Collins told an interviewer that "It's about a schizophrenic." Gabriel called his primary character, Rael, a "split personality." Attempting to rescue his brother John, Rael finds himself swept underground, where he encounters grisly video game-style fantasy figures that impede his progress. As the work goes on, the real and subterranean worlds interconnect in odd, hallucinatory ways. By the end, it seems that Rael is on a youth's quest to discover himself, not his sibling. Cosmic? Yes. Go down that rabbit hole. All will become clear.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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