Wow. In just an overdone, cliched word, wow. Stunning.
I'm not even going to get into an argument regarding the sound quality. Either you're going to dig the in-your-face sound or you're not. Personally, I dig it. It's nice to have the quieter moments upgraded a bit so that you are not turning it up to hear them only to have your ears rudely blown out by the loud sections. I think it's a much better balance overall.
Having said that, be forewarned that the first two albums here, Genesis and Invisible Touch, are not the same albums sonically. Hugh Padgham was a major force in the eighties, steering bands like Genesis and The Police to a very slick radio-friendly sound. It certainly helped them compete with the eighties sound at the time, but there were sacrifices made to the arrangements to get them there. For those addicted to Hugh's production work, stick with the original CD releases. They don't sound horrible, and maintain the context in which the albums were originally released.
However, if you want to hear some revelations, snag this up.
First off, both Genesis and Invisible Touch are now missing Hugh's almost Phil Spectorish wall of sound. The heavy heavy reverb has been toned down a lot, allowing for a greater clarity of sound and much more delicacy than I thought existed in the material. Some will argue that this deprives the music of some of the power, but I don't think so. I would compare the new mixes to the Naked versions of The Beatles' Let It Be. Hugh was great at providing all sorts of tricks in the studio, but again, at the expense of the original sound. Here, Nick has remixed the tracks with what sounds to me to be a more faithful rendition of the Genesis sound. Some songs will sound different, and I'll admit that Hugh's bag of tricks really worked for Silver Rainbow amongst others, but I can't help but feel that the new mixes are more honest to the original concepts. The ONLY quibble I have is that the harmonic keyboard part at the end of The Brazilian seems to have been mixed out, which part used to send chills down my spine everytime it came up. No idea why it was done that way.
And, in fact, there are sections where Tony Banks' keyboards seem to have been mixed way down from the originals. Interesting, since Tony was the only member to be hands on in the studio during the remixes. This does have the added touch of increasing the presence of the other instruments, and makes them sound more balanced in terms of musical interplay. I was a bit put off the first few listens, as I'm a keyboard man myself and consider Tony Banks to be one of the few real rock keyboard gods, and miss hearing them mixed as powerfully as they were. But the end result is that the albums sound way more like real Genesis instead of being tinkered to compete with other MTV fare at the time.
Genesis was the album that broke them through to the other side, but certainly isn't representive to me as a definitive Genesis album. The entire first side, Mama, That's All and Home By The Sea are about as good as they gave during the last phase of their career, and it still stuns. The second side contains some real throwaways like Taking It All Too Hard and Just A Job To Do; they're fun, but there's no depth to them. And Illegal Alien still rubs me the wrong way. Part attempt to be sympathetic, whilst at the same time making fun of Mexicans in an offensive manner, just doesn't work for me. But the same can not be said for Silver Rainbow, one of the more inspired songs from this era, and woefully underappreciated both musically and lyrically, and It's Gonna Get Better is just a beautiful song and a perfect closer. The long version is not included here, one of the very few drawbacks to the set.
Invisible Touch is an even odder album, part slick pop arrangements and stunning musical suites. The title track, Anything She Does, In Too Deep and Throwing It All Away are the more disposable pieces, not much depth and seem to have been written with track charting in mind (although the band still denies this approach). But the difference between these four tracks and the rest of the album cannot be overstated. Tonight Tonight Tonight is a powerful track defining the mentality of an addict, which I did not get until hearing it in the context of a really bad breakup for me. It's one of the best things they did, and it's a shame that a full live version of this track is still not forthcoming (Phil singing the middle section live must be heard to be believed, it's so powerful). Land Of Confusion is a wonderfully jaunty "protest" song written by Mike. Domino is where they cut loose with ten minutes of progressive song writing and some truly bizarre lyrics. And The Brazilian is one of the best instrumentals done of all time by anyone. Perfect in its concept and execution, and another great album closer.
We Can't Dance, oddly, sounds a lot more present to me than the original release. I still hate Hold On My Heart, but there are gems on the album that were difficult to notice because of the generic bland original mix. The new mix has a lot more pop to it without interfering with the arrangements themselves. It just sounds more THERE than it has before. Most of the hits were placed near the beginning of the album (I Can't Dance, No Son Of Mine, Jesus He Knows Me), and they are what they are, they're okay. But they're no patch on Driving The Last Spike, Dreaming While You Sleep, The Way Of The World, Living Forever and the (again) perfect album closer Fading Lights. Again, there's a huge difference in attitude between these and other such dreck like Hold On My Heart. Since I Lost You is sincere, but is just bland, and Tell Me Why just doesn't work. But since the album was way overlong to begin with, you can remove the tracks that don't work and you still have a standard-length album that is filled with nothing but great stuff.
Calling All Stations was, and still is, woefully underappreciated. Ray Wilson did an admirable job coming in and interpreting the material already written, and while Nir Zidkyahu isn't Phil, his drumming is impressive and works really well with Tony's sense of syncopation in a lot of the same ways Phil's did. I will always ache at the thought of a second album done with these guys; no doubt it would have been a far more integrated sound than what we get here, but the album is still very very good; I like it far better than We Can't Dance. The sound went back to epic riffs and thought-provoking lyrics instead of Dance's bland keyboard wash and Phil's constant obsession with romantic lyrics (i.e. the next hit). Calling All Stations, Congo, Alien Afternoon, Not About Us, The Dividing Line, There Must Be Some Other Way and One Man's Fool are all superb pieces, and if you're going to focus on Phil's absence, you are doing so at the expense of enjoying one of the better Genesis albums. Take it for what it's worth, and it IS worth quite a lot.
The B-Sides disc is not complete, another flaw, but honestly, the B-sides not included from the Calling All Stations album are not anywhere as good as the rest of this stuff (with the possible exception of Papa He Said). On The Shoreline is a ripper, and this and Hearts On Fire could easily have replaced some of the sappier unnecessary tracks on We Can't Dance. Do The Neurotic is the real leftover gem from Invisible Touch (Tony said that this was sacrificed in favor of The Brazilian, but I would have loved to have had both on the album). I'd Rather Be You and Feeding The Fire are also both strong songs that could have provided a stronger impression than In Too Deep and Throwing It All Away (which sound more like solo Phil than Genesis). And finally, you get three tracks leftover from Calling All Stations that just reiterate how strong the last studio sessions were.
The extras are a kick in the pants; the interviews are great insights into the albums and the musicians' state of mind in retrospect, as is the lengthy in-the-studio reveal for We Can't Dance, done at the time the album was being produced. The added concert footage is not complete, but very good nonetheless. The 5.1 remixes are also done reverentially and with great skill, and help open up the sound if you've got the time and focus to just immerse yourself in hearing the albums this way.
Nice job all around. And, as time goes by, I find myself more drawn towards the new interpretations of Genesis and Invisible Touch than the originals. It does take some getting used to, but it's worth it to hear them play the albums as a band.