Genesis: Supper’s Ready

From their album Foxtrot (1972); Supper’s Ready.

This is considered by many of the best prog connoisseurs to be the greatest of all prog songs. The reason why I do not agree really has little to do with the qualities of the song itself, in its own category, and almost only with the very special factors that place Yes in a category of their own. That category is such that comparison with Genesis, beyond noting the general categorial differences, is seldom meaningful.

On my analysis, i.e., primarily in terms of the direction in which Yes were moving, nothing comes even close to what the philosopher and critic Bill Martin, the author of the best book on Yes, calls their “main sequence” of albums in the 1970s. Yes must simply be left out of most comparative discussions. But Genesis, in their corresponding main sequence, are very clearly the second greatest prog band. There is some considerable distance to the rest of the great prog bands, which, among themselves, are not quite as easily ranked. And it must be said that Supper’s Ready does have the structure of a major Yes song, in fact even the hymnic quality in the concluding section. If, despite what I just said, anything does come close to Yes, it is this.

Ranking of this kind does have a place in criticism, if done in a careful and serious way, but must never be exaggerated, never downplay uniqueness and a plurality that makes hierarchization irrelevant, and it must also avoid undue generalization of the kind that obscures the fact that individual songs of these last mentioned bands are sometimes on the same level as Genesis.

It seems to me we still await the further development of the genre of progressive rock, beyond what was achieved by these bands in the 70s – the further development, the further progression, which is what I am primarily interested in, because of the enormous artistic potential that has, in principle, already been revealed. Prog has of course developed, in a sense, but not, in my view, in the direction I always hoped for, i.e. further beyond rock, away from rock. Instead, there have in some cases been admixtures with the new problematic form of rock called “metal”. But I am not familiar with everything that has happened in prog in recent decades, and it is possible that I have missed things that match the criteria I have suggested.

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