Blu-ray Review: Genesis: Sum of the Parts

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The problem, more often than not, with authorized biographies and documentaries is that their subjects present a very carefully groomed image of themselves. Such is the case with Genesis: Sum of the Parts, a brand new documentary about the career of Genesis that features new interviews with Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Steve Hackett. The latter has spoken publicly about his displeasure with the final result, feeling that his contributions (as lead guitarist during the bulk of the band’s ‘70s prog rock prime) were under-emphasized. The truth is he’s right. Sum of the Parts is a passably acceptable overview of the band, squeezing a lot of info into less than two hours. But it works best as a primer for new or casual fans.

They highlights throughout the program are consistently the newly-filmed interview clips. All participants come across as quite congenial in their memories, though not digging all that deep. But their good-humored reflections on the band’s musical legacy, as well as its excesses (the increasingly over the top live presentations in the ‘70s, their increasing overexposure during the ‘80s) are uniformly interesting. The documentary, directed by John Edginton, takes on the rather limiting form of a VH-1 Behind the Music-style program. It’s a tried-and-true form that generally works when attempting to provide a superficial overview of a band’s career arc. It also usually ends up being rather superficial, which is the problem here.

Longtime Genesis aficionados aren’t likely to learn anything new from Sum of the Parts. Though Hackett’s solo career is left unaccounted for, both Collins and Gabriel’s solo work is explored in some depth. It’s interesting to hear some rather frank discussion about the generally “uncool” reputation of the band in the eyes of many music fans (and rock snobs, in some cases). Some music journalists are consulted for additional perspective on Genesis’ place in the rock pantheon. There’s no overall thesis however, just a doggedly chronological approach to covering the band’s key moments. Most of the new interview clips were filmed separately, featuring one member at a time. There’s a limited amount featuring the five together. I wonder what a lengthy, unedited roundtable discussion between them would’ve been like and what revelations it might’ve produced.

Genesis sum of the parts 2 (380x236).jpgEagle Rock’s Genesis: Sum of the Parts Blu-ray offers an understandably mixed visual bag. The brand new interview footage is sterling, while the archival material (even the relatively recent stuff shot during the 2000s) ranges from rough to pretty good. In other words, this isn’t the kind of film that begs for a high definition presentation. The audio is offered as a choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. Both are good options, with the surround mix proving (predictably) much more dynamic in terms of the music sequences.

There’s a generous selection of additional interview clips (nine segments totaling 27 minutes) included as a bonus feature. We hear further thoughts from Collins, Rutherford, Banks, and Gabriel. The booklet includes in-depth liner notes by Craig McLean. As with the majority of Eagle Rock’s music-based titles, Genesis: Sum of the Parts is budget-priced, with the cheaper DVD version a viable option given the emphasis throughout on talking head interviews and visually subpar archival footage.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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