Sound — 10
Rarely has the debut album of a major group received this much of a slagging from both fans and critics alike. And on the surface, the flaws of the album are huge and very numerous, seemingly leaving criticism fully justified. In case you're unaware, here's the general rundown: first, the band was in its formative stages, without either of its instrumental virtuosos (Hackett and Collins, both of whom would join in '71). Hence, the playing on this album is a bit unimpressive, apart from nice Tony Banks piano lines. Next, the band had not yet found its own distinct style, choosing to emulate the Beatles, Bee Gees and Zombies. And worst of all, producer Jonathan King, in an attempt to make the band seem "sophisticated," forced the band to write around the concept of the creation of the world through the death of Adam (yes, I know the title implies the whole Bible, but trust me, it's fairly apparent that the story is all told from the point of view of God or Adam, and no other characters). Oh, and when they were done, he threw a lot of orchestration over the songs, except that King seemingly had no idea how to properly use string and brass arrangements in rock (unlike, say, George Martin).
Lyrics — 10
Beneath all of the superficial weaknesses lie two of Genesis' strengths, in just as full of force now as they would be later - incredible songwriting and incredible vocals from Peter. Almost a dozen of the songs on here (and yes, I'm counting the singles on the reissue, more on those later) are, at least in one aspect in each of them, absolute pop perfection. "Am I Very Wrong?," for instance, may have a slightly awkward and Disney-sounding chorus, but how about that vocal melody in the verses?! And the rest... Man. Man. Where "The Sour Turns to Sweet" (I know it's technically a bonus track, but it's impossible for me to think of this album and not consider this a prelude to the rest) is beautiful, "In the Beginning" has one of the most awesome vocal hooks I've ever heard, and "Fireside Song" is EVEN BETTER. Are you going to tell me that the chorus of that song isn't one of the most perfectly constructed tunes you've ever heard?! And don't forget "In Hiding" or "Window," no sirree, the former with another perfect sing-songey melody and the latter yet another beautiful ballad. And that sure as heck isn't all. "In the Wilderness" is a whee bit flacid in the verses, but that chorus... "Music, all I hear is music, guaranteed to please..." Guaranteed to please is right, dang it. And neither "The Conqueror" nor "One Day" fall short of the standard, the former a great energetic rocker and the latter one of the most perfect love songs I've ever heard.
Oh, and don't forget the bonus tracks. The single version of "The Silent Sun" is only slightly better than the album one (and that one's really dull, actually), but the other three are all highly recommendable. "That's Me" is, as usual, catchy as all get out, a great anthem of misogyny, while "A Winter's Tale" has yet another incredible chorus melody, while "One Eyed Hound" has great interaction between the piano melody and Peter's vocals. The lyrics are youthful and naive in their feel, but naive does not necessarily mean bad or sloppy) and vocals on this album combine in such a way as to perfectly convey the 'story behind the story' with Adam.
Overall Impression — 10
In case you haven't been able to tell, I really like this album. If you dislike it, well, it's your own choice, but dismissing it so easily just based on the lack of competent instrumentation and stupid orchestration seems no less than a fatal mistake to me. It's mellow and soothing with some nice proto prog rock, quite lovely melodies and even some hard rock psychedelic tracks like "That's Me" and "In the Beginning," I think this is actually a nice concept album, and I don't think it's necessarily religious, in fact it's clearly not a Christian album. Peter Gabriel actually can sing quite lovely and his vocals aren't exactly how they would be later but quite close and still energetic with the right emotions conveyed at the right time. I feel that overall even as a band performing amidst their transition they still sound great and they do have their act together, the rock and psychedelic bits that just burst out here are incredible with a very intense feel. I would have to say that the album is definitely underrated and may not be as good as later Genesis to come but almost as good I say, they just don't really full go all out progressive-rock yet until they hear King Crimson, which I think definitely helped propel them into their later direction.
They still retain a lot of good qualities and although there is some slight amateur musicianship on here, it is quite impressive for a debut by a bunch of teenagers who just barely became adults! I feel it is more of a masterpiece with lovely piano compositions throughout, it just goes in a free form style of its own that isn't necessarily bad but more against a mainstream flow, I think that's why it is a bit of a seemingly monotonous listen to someone who isn't ready for it. Even though it may appear to be in that category it really isn't a hard listen, you just have to be open minded and adjust to some really new and fresh creative work by some great young musicians with lovely guitar and symphonic parts backed with strong group work. Definitely a terribly underrated album of its time that has so much emotion and beauty to give if you would just take the time to hear it, I am not disappointing at all hearing it, it has an inspirational mood of glory to it and a great set of skills here that are overlooked.