The Musical Box-Selling England by The Pound in Toronto

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

‘Selling England By the Pound’ was the fifth studio album from prog rock pioneers Genesis. It was released on 12 October 1973 to an England in the grip of a recession with widespread unemployment and street gangs nightly brawling in violent turf wars. (‘The Battle Of Epping Forest’).

Forty years later, as England struggles with a sagging economy and ongoing social unrest, this Genesis classic remains as relevant as ever.

Now hailed as a masterpiece of prog rock, it followed the Foxtrot album and reached a new commercial high for the band, peaking at #3 in the UK, where it remained on the charts for 21 weeks. It also marked a major breakthrough in critical acceptance on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2012, the album ranked seventh in Rolling Stone's "Readers' Poll: Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time". It was also included in IGN’s list of "10 Classic Prog Rock Albums" in 2008. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was Genesis' first single to receive any sort of chart action, hitting No.21 in the UK in April 1974.

Thematically it was the band’s most ambitious reach, charting nothing less than the beginning of the end of a ‘traditional’ way of British life, as symbolised by the rise of the Supermarket. As happened elsewhere, the arrival of the Supermarket and the corporate mindset it embodies spelled the beginning of the end for the mom and pop stores that populated the main drag of UK cities and anchored their communities. As well, the 1970's were also the first time in about 50 years that the UK economy was seriously hurting and having to deal with the needs a gradually aging population. This is the stuff Gabriel and Co. made gorgeous, soaring music out of.

Fast forward to the summer of 1993 and a group of Montreal prog-rockin’ musos cook up a Genesis tribute band called The Musical Box, It wasn’t meant to last, coming together primarily to celebrate the 20th anniversary of seminal Genesis album 'Selling England By The Pound', with two shows at The Spectrum.

Instead, it morphed into the longest one-of in rock history, becoming their ticket on a ride that has seen The Musical Box play to hundreds of thousands of  people around the world.
The original lineup was a seven-piece with a strong theatrical outlook, and it plunged into using visual effects and costumes that were in the original Genesis shows of the 1970s. This kind of intimate meta connection to the original is a large part of what has placed The Musical Box apart from pretenders in the genre ever since.

Named for a 1971 Genesis song about an old man reclaiming his youth, the Montreal outfit has since become one of rock music’s least likely success stories: a French-Canadian cover band playing progressive-rock epics to raving crowds across the globe.

Says (frontman/band leader) Sebastian, “In the beginning it was just a group of musician friends who were very into the music of Genesis. At that time we never imagined it would lead to anything long term.”

At some point, the show seems to have taken on a life of its own, dragging the band along with it. A Musical Box show is no mere tribute; it is a revival. The band evokes the experience of a Genesis concert from the blazing glory of their past. The lighting, the sets, even the musician’s gestures are choreographed from painstaking study of archival footage. Though its lineup has varied through the years, The Musical Box has guarded the authenticity of the act with great care.

“We keep that music alive, in a way,” says Serge Morissette, who serves as the band’s artistic director. “I’m sure we’ve sold a lot of Genesis albums, no doubt. Each time we’re in a new city, in a new arena, there’s new interest.”

Fans of Genesis will know the score but for those who may have never had the experience, The Musical Box presentations offers more than vintage prog rock revisited. It’s about the recreation of a cultural phenomena from a specific time when three-chord rock, in collusion with light shows, broke free of the form in the spirit of  "progression.”

Adding to the value of The Musical Box appearance is the knowledge that Genesis has been on hiatus since 1997, when the comeback album ‘Calling All Stations’ and accompanying  tour tanked.

Even if a reunion should eventually come to pass, the players, all closing in on 60, would be unable to recreate the excitement, energy and dazzling musicianship of their youthful selves. Which is what people go to The Musical Box show to see, the forever young ‘Genesis’.

The Musical Box will now return to Toronto to recreate a potent piece of Genesis history. ‘Selling England By The Pound’ was first performed by Genesis at the historic Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada on November 7th, 1973. November 9th, 2013 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the return of this famous concert – don’t miss this legendary concert at a legendary venue.

Massey Hall
178 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1T7
Concert Date:  Saturday, November 9, 2013 8:00 pm
Tickets : Available at Ticketmaster and Massey Hall – on-line, phone or in person at the box office.  $ 65.50 - $ 90
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