Genesis: Sum of the Parts on Blu-ray

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Genesis: Sum of the Parts

SUM OF THE PARTS is a 90-minute documentary of the band and artists that are the group Genesis. It chronicles the band’s music from its inception up to their 2007 reunion concert, as well as detailing each member’s solo career with added interviews into present day.

Genesis is almost unique in the music world in that their popularity has stood the test of time. Despite lineup changes, butting heads, changes in musical styles and never really being known as a “rock” band, they have achieved lasting worldwide fame both as a group and as solo artists.

The DVD consists of interviews with past and present band members that include Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel and Anthony Phillips, mixed in with rare concert behind-the-scenes and everyday life film footage and stills of the band as it progressed through the years. Commentary is also given by several writers, DJ’s and music industry experts discussing the band and band member’s influence on music, and on each other through the years.

Now let me say right off, having grown up in the later 70’s and 80’s, I was never, and am still not, a big fan of the music of the band nor individual band members (save Peter Gabriel) of Genesis. As a teen whose penchant for music leaned more towards the harder side of the rock music genre, Genesis was never my cup of tea.

So why then did I opt to review this DVD you might ask? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. Another group that I never cared much for growing up was the Bee Gees. I detested and still do detest all things disco. But it was sometime in the  80’s when I heard some songs on “Cousin Brucie’s” oldies show on WCBS FM in New York that were quite good, and when I found it was the Bee Gees I was shocked. I thought I needed to look into this further, as I thought they only sang disco songs. That’s when I came to discover the pre-disco Bee Gees, who played a totally different kind of music in the beginning, and I liked it very, very much (and still do).

So I thought, since I’d known that Genesis was around longer than the time I’d known their music, perhaps history would repeat itself.

Lo and behold, I was right.

The documentary does a wonderful job of exploring the early years, and the band members paint a very detailed portrait of those times. I had never known that they were actually a prog-rock band back in those early days. I love prog-rock, and hearing those samples off of their earliest albums was enlightening to say the least. I had never heard Genesis play that kind of music I was hearing now. Why, they even wore costumes (at least I know Peter Gabriel did) that were so surreal in nature that I was blown away by this. (This segment of the DVD is actually called “The Peter Gabriel Years.”)

I was hoping as the DVD played that they would stay in the era. Alas, they did not and when they got to the parting of ways when Gabriel left, it went downhill for me, musically.

The band’s members were usually shot individually during the interviews, and sometimes as a group. Occasionally I could see some awkwardness when one member would talk about another member leaving or doing something solo, but they were still Genesis sitting there, and were always cordial and friendly, joking amongst each other. They all took time to go into detail as to the whys and wherefores of why some members left or followed solo careers, while still being a part of the band, and it tied everything together in a nice flowing chronological order.

“The Phil Collins Years” was my least favorite part of this DVD. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the man at all. He is a consummate musician, and accomplished songsmith. I just don’t like those songs. Even Phil admits in the DVD that he realized he was one of the reasons people hated the 80’s. But he also humbly said he won’t take the credit or the blame for them becoming more and more popular.

It is unfair for me to group them into the same genre as other more traditional rock bands, because as one of the band members states, “They are not Country, they’re not Rock, they’re not Jazz; they’re Genesis”. Personally, I blame MTV for trying to portray them as something else to make themselves more relevant to everyone, and I think they did the band an injustice because it just put a bigger wall up between the rockers who wanted metal and those who wanted the lighter pop music that the band and the musicians did in the middle 70’s on out. “That aint rock music!” we’d say -- and that’s right, it’s not, and the band never said it was. Oh, and those horrid MTV pabulum videos; it made me shudder and want to wretch just to watch snippets of them even for just a short time here.

Another thing that is done very well in this documentary is that, with a band with such a long history as Genesis, there is also a large catalog of music (not to mentions the solo stuff), and they do a fine job here of touching on almost everything to give a flavor of what the albums were like, what was on them, what comprised them, and some trivia tidbits about the production of them without dwelling too long on one and short changing another.

The DVD starts out with footage of their 2007 reunion concert in Helsinki, which was the first time they played together in 15 years, and then went back to the beginning of the band’s formation, coming back full circle to the reunion shows at the end of the DVD.

The interviews are shot very well, and it’s interesting to see how these musicians have aged through the years. Phil Collins now looks like a heavier set Jackie Wright from the old Benny Hill Show. It’s very odd for me to see these “old timers” -- once pop music icons of almost mythical proportions who could do no wrong in writing and performing hit music -- now sitting before me grayed and wrinkled. But hey, it happens to us all. That they could all still come together despite the things that happened through the years is a testament to them and the band’s longevity.

I can remember back in the late 70’s at a rock club called “Hammerheads” seeing a cover band called “Heresy” that played one set of Jethro Tull songs and another set of Genesis songs. When they changed over to play the Genesis songs, the lead singer said they were going to play the new stuff because the old stuff was “just too good.” I must think now he must have been talking about their prog-rock music. I’d like to think so anyway.

So did this old rocker get what he was hoping to out of watching this DVD? Yes, yes I most certainly did. The DVD is very enjoyable and flows very nicely from one interviewer to another, and I am now on a quest to find copies of those early Genesis albums (they have to be on vinyl) so I can listen to them from start to finish, to hear what they were all about then. No, I still won’t listen to anything the band did after 1975, nor their solo stuff other than Peter Gabriel’s, but hey not everybody likes everything everyone does, and if I can find a few albums that will give me new insight into the band’s original sound, regardless how they sound now, it’s a huge win in my book -- and I have this documentary to thank for it.

If you’re a fan of the total Genesis “package” then you will really love this DVD; if you’re a music fan, you’ll really like this DVD. Even if you’re not a fan, if you watch it with an open mind, you’ll like this DVD and, like me, come away with a newfound respect for the band and the musicians that make up Genesis.

The DVD also has an extra 28 minutes or so of extra interview footage, including:

Bonus Interviews:

Phil Collins on Costumes

Phil Collins on the Future

Mike Rutherford on America and “The Lamb”

Mike Rutherford on the Double Neck Guitar

Mike Rutherford on Phil the Writer

Tony Banks on the Loss of Anthony Phillips

Tony Banks on Peter and Phil

Tony Banks on His Classical Works

Peter Gabriel on His Teenage Years

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0