"INVISIBLE TOUCH." Genesis. Atlantic."GTR." GTR. Arista.
It used to be that progressive rock albums would raise big questions about the meaning of the universe and such. But the new releases from Genesis and GTR (which features former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and ex-Yes guitarist and Asia expatriate Steve Howe; see Faces, Page 78) bring to mind much more mundane matters.
With Genesis' "Invisible Touch," the question is, "Was this record really necessary?"
Phil Collins is now a bona-fide solo superstar and Mike Rutherford has had his own success with Mike + the Mechanics (who play Tuesday at the Universal Amphitheatre and Wednesday at Irvine Meadows), so you'd think that a Genesis album would serve to showcase some sort of group chemistry, or at least the talents of keyboardist Tony Banks, who hasn't established an identity outside the group.
"Touch," though, could easily pass as a Collins album. His thin voice and familiar MOR&B songwriting dominate, with only occasional evidence of input from Rutherford and Banks.
Maybe the record was made to provide material for the next season of "Miami Vice." For dreamy sequences of stalking bad guys, there's "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" (not too unlike Collins' own "In the Air Tonight"). For drug-addict freakouts, there's "Land of Confusion." For those occasional moments of introspection, there's "Throwing It All Away."
To make the album really "Vice"-right, though, Genesis should have made the closing instrumental more raucous and should have titled it "The Colombian" or "The Cuban" instead of "The Brazilian." Perfect for a high-speed boat chase!
With GTR, the question is, "Do former prog stars start groups like Asia and GTR just so the critics will say how good their old bands were by comparison?"
Actually, both the Steves were among the better reasons to listen to the old bands in the first place. So how come this group they front together sounds so boring?
This isn't even the guitar-freak's dream that the name implies. Only rarely does either guitarist assert his distinct style, and then the songs are so lame that it's hard to care. Even the instrumental showcases lack the spark and imagination these two have demonstrated in the past.
But even the Steves' peak efforts probably couldn't make up for the annoying wailing of vocalist Max Bacon and the high-gloss production of Geoffrey Downes, a mate of Howe in both latter-day Yes and Asia. Come to think of it, this album even makes Asia seem interesting.
You want the old progressive sound? Try Marillion. You want real progress? Try the new Peter Gabriel.