'The other voice of Genesis': Ex-frontman Ray Wilson shines new light on classic songs

Ray Wilson, who fronted a Phil Collins-less edition of Genesis in the late 1990s, says his favorite era of the band was, in fact, the early Collins years.

Wilson is on tour these days performing as Genesis Classic, reinterpreting tracks from 1997’s Calling All Stations, his lone studio project with the prog rock legends, as well as select cuts from their earlier albums, tracks from Genesis’s individual members (notably Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”), as well as music from his own solo repertoire. Wilson is joined by members of the Berlin Symphony Ensemble and his band Stilskin for the concerts. A list of upcoming dates is below.

Calling All Stations appears to be Genesis’ studio finale, though the trio of Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford did reunite for a celebrated tour in the late 2000s. The group was anchored by Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Anthony Phillips from 1967-1970, before the addition of Collins and Steve Hackett (who replaced Phillips) in 1971 set the stage for the group’s earliest successes. Gabriel left in 1975; Hackett began his own solo career in 1977. Collins then departed in 1996.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: From Gabriel to Collins to Wilson, we’ve counted down the worst of Genesis – those times when they didn’t seem to have an invisible touch. Whatever that means.]

Wilson took over, and continued with the band until 1999. He has since also released Genesis Classic, a double CD/DVD package recorded in Poland on December 18, 2010; and Genesis Klassik, a 12-song set for Radio Berlin that included “Not About Us” from Calling All Stations, as well as familiar Genesis cuts like “Carpet Crawlers,” “That’s All,” and “No Son of Mine,” among others.

Rearranging the songs for a string quartet was Wilson’s first challenge, he tells Vos, an Argentine publication that refers to him as “the other voice of Genesis”: “We took some time, yes,” Wilson says. “I wanted to keep all the flavor of the original songs, but also have a different dimension, so it’s unique. It works great and my voice sounds better in that mix.”

Though he covers music from throughout Genesis’ lengthy history, Wilson says he has more difficulty with interpreting the vocals from the later Collins period than with the band’s original frontman, Peter Gabriel. “The songs of Phil, no doubt, (are more difficult),” Wilson says. “Peter and I have a similar voice type, so naturally I get more of his style.”

Still, Wilson’s favorite remains the Collins era — specifically when Genesis operated as a four-piece. “Yes, the mid-1970s, when Steve Hackett still played in the group,” Wilson tells Vos. “My favorite album is (1976’s) A Trick of the Tail, with Phil Collins in charge of the voices. I think the band was able to capture something very special during that time.”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Genesis. Click through the title for complete reviews …

GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE GENESIS, WELL, SUCKED: Here, we sort through the worst of the worst — and that’s all — from the Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Ray Wilson eras of this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. Certain things within Genesis’ established band narrative went by the wayside, though: We didn’t ding the early albums for their sometimes cloying sense of very-British whimsy, nor their later albums when they settled for by-the-numbers reproductions of Collins’ solo ballad style. We wanted to delve into things far more egregious than those run-of-the-mill annoyances … the times when they didn’t seem to have an invisible touch. Whatever that means.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GUITARIST STEVE HACKETT, FORMERLY OF GENESIS: Hackett, who still nurtures a lasting affinity for classical music, has leapt headlong back into prog rock — putting the finishing touches on a collaboration with Yes co-founder Chris Squire, even as he begins work on an album that will reexamine his celebrated tenure as guitarist with Genesis. Hackett went in depth on the new project with Squire, the guitarist’s celebrated tenure with Genesis, and the sweeping impact of J.S. Bach on his playing style.

PHIL COLLINS – LIVE AT MONTREUX (2012): If somebody told me, before a 1996 concert, that Phil Collins was going to be performing “Los Endos” (the closing track from 1976?s A Trick of the Tail, Genesis’ first project after Peter Gabriel’s departure) I would have been thrilled. Then, the lights go up — and Collins is behind a full big-band amalgam, featuring David Sanborn on saxophone and Quincy Jones gesticulating wildly as conductor. Wait, what? Collins appeared in 1996 at this legendary jazz festival, and played … jazz. I must say, though, that being forced to endure prog and pop songs reformulated into new ring-a-ding swingers can be weirdly transfixing.

PETER GABRIEL – SCRATCH MY BACK (2010): The guy who once performed on stage in a flower costume — as the original frontman with Genesis; he later tackled neo-pro rock, synthesizer punk, African time signatures, MTV, Jesus, World Music beats and heartbreak, among many other things — can’t just do a cover song. It’s going to be an event. Albeit one with piano and orchestra, this time. No guitars, or drums. There are moments, surely, when it works. But, more often, the record seems to fall into something approaching a Shakespearean soliloquy. There is an eerie moodiness throughout; even the romantic asides feel like a lonely late-night phone call.

Upcoming tour dates for Genesis Classic: Ray Wilson and Berlin Symphony Ensemble …

11 August, 2012: Greifswald, Germany – Klosterruine Eldena
17 August: Mönchengladbach, Germany – Festival Sommermusik Schloss Rheydt
18 August: Nienburg, Germany – RENDEZVOUS AM WALL, Wallanlagen, near Potpourri
19 August: Krasnystaw, Poland- Amfiteatr Miejski, ul. Zau?ek Nadrzeczny
25 August: Boles?awiec, Poland – Centrum Miasta
26 August: Czechowice-Dziedzice, Poland – Stadion Miejskiego O?rodka Kultury I Rekreacji w Czechowicach – Dziedzicach, ul. Legionów 145

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.