"The musicianship just isn't on display, which is astonishing - bordering on criminal - given the talent involved": Calling All Stations by Genesis fails to improve with age

Facing a future without Phil Collins, the remaining men of Genesis turned to that fella from Stiltskin

Genesis - Calling All Stations cover art
(Image: © Virgin)

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Genesis - Calling All Stations

Genesis - Calling All Stations cover art

(Image credit: Virgin)

Calling All Stations
Alien Afternoon
Not About Us
If That's What You Need
The Dividing Line
Uncertain Weather
Small Talk
There Must Be Some Other Way
One Man's Fool

Ray Wilson succeeded Phil Collins and fronted Genesis from 1996 until 1998. He recorded vocals on their last album, 1998’s Calling All Stations, before parting ways with them after the tour later that year. 

Wilson's position may have been a thankless one, and the reaction to Calling All Stations reinforced that. Critics described the album as uninspired and lacklustre, with performances from the musicians that were workmanlike and songs that were mediocre at best. But it sold well in Europe, as did the supporting tour. In the US it was a different story: The album tanked, and the tour was cancelled amid reports of poor ticket sales.  

With the benefit of hindsight, some might disagree with the original reviews. Tony Banks certainly does, and expressed irritation that the album was ignored by 2014's Sum Of The Parts documentary. As for Wilson, he thinks the band's legacy may have been better served if a mooted second album had been recorded.

“When I signed my contract to join the band, it was for two albums," he said in 2016. "It was always the idea to do the first and then go from there, but Mike Rutherford changed his mind.

“I think he felt he didn’t have the stamina to do another one. All of a sudden you’re faced with going from 15 million albums sales to two and a half, and I think he couldn’t find it in himself to do the next one."

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Other albums released in September 1997

  • Indoor Living - Superchunk
  • Abrasive - Puddle of Mudd
  • S.C.I.E.N.C.E. - Incubus
  • Troublizing - Ric Ocasek
  • Marchin' Already - Ocean Colour Scene
  • Marigold Sky - Hall & Oate
  • Barely Legal - The Hives
  • The Big Picture - Elton John
  • Falling into Infinity - Dream Theater
  • Gone From Danger - Joan Baez
  • The Hangover - Gilby Clarke
  • Bridges To Babylon - The Rolling Stones
  • Levitate - The Fall
  • Urban Hymns - The Verve
  • With a Twist - Todd Rundgren
  • Peace and Noise - Patti Smith
  • Time Out of Mind - Bob Dylan


What they said...

"The ultimate problem here is the usual one: the dearth of decent material beyond a few pleasant if generic FM-rock tunes like Shipwrecked and Not About Us. Call any station you want, gentlemen, the world doesn't need a Mike and the Mechanics artrock album." (Rolling Stone)

"The problem with Genesis' first album since Phil Collins' departure isn't new frontman Ray Wilson. Indeed, Wilson's anonymous efficiency is well matched to charter members Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford's idea-starved new compositions and uneventful instrumental tracks. At best, Calling All Stations offers pale echoes of Genesis' more distinctive prior work; at worst, it's an uncomfortable reminder of the passionless complacency that killed prog rock back in the '70s." (Entertainment Weekly)

"Trademark turns into travesty. With Collins gone, Banks and Rutherford signed on a chesty new singer, Ray Wilson, picked up a studio drummer and remade Genesis as a muscle-headed bar-band imitation of its cheesiest self. The title song wonders: 'Can anybody tell me, tell me exactly where I am/I’ve lost all sense of direction.' Ain’t it the truth." (Blender)


What you said...

John Davidson: The dying breath from a once great band.

I was never a fan of their pop era, but they still produced a fair number of decent tunes even if I fell out of love with their albums after Hackett bowed out.

Sadly there's really nothing to say about this album that isn't critical.

The songwriting is sub-par. Even the stronger songs like Calling All Stations and There Must Be Some Other Way seem less than fully formed.

Ray Wilson was a poor fit for the music. Not that he isn't a decent singer, but Genesis have always benefited from the charisma of their frontman more than their vocal performances. Wilson can belt out the rockers but he sounds restrained and muted on most of the songs without managing to find any nuance or emotional connection.

David Longdon (sadly now deceased) was in the frame for this album at one point before he went on to join Big Big Train (and along with Nick D'Virgilio, was the catalyst for their late-career renaissance). But given how poor the songwriting is I fear even his talents would have been wasted.

Hell, even Nick D'Virgilo who played played drums on a few tracks on (and later sang for Spock's Beard when Neal Morse left) would have been a better choice.

The production is muddied and overwhelmed by a soft synth noise that puts a distance between the song and the audience. Maybe it was a subconscious desire to hide the fact that the songs just aren't good enough.

The musicianship, particularly the drumming, just isn't on display, which is astonishing - bordering on criminal - given the talent involved.

As I type this review I'm listening to We Can't Dance (an album I don't particularly like tbh) and it is night and day better than Calling All Stations.

For all the pop sensibilities displayed during the Banks/Collins/Rutherford period they still made interesting music.

As a fan of the 1970s Genesis I can't even see the through line that gets us from Wind And Wuthering to Calling All Stations.


T.C. Grantham: Following Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel would’ve been a challenge for any singer. But Ray Wilson does a commendable job. Rather smartly, the band decided not to copy what they had done with Collins on the previous 3-4 albums. Instead, they decide to go more towards their prog rock roots with lengthier songs and a darker sound. 

The reason people put this album down is because they were expecting another pop masterpiece. If you were a fan of Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance, you’ll hate this album. But if you’re a fan of their earlier progressive albums, you’ll feel right at home. Overall, it’s not a bad album. It’s just not what people were expecting.

Highlights: Calling All Stations, Congo, Shipwrecked, Not About Us, The Dividing Line, Uncertain Weather, If That’s What You Need.

Gary Claydon: The biggest problem with Calling All Stations is the unimaginative, mundane songwriting. Even when a chink of light appears, such as the title track or the beginning of Alien Afternoon (a track desperately crying out for a half-decent guitar solo) it soon disappears into repetitive monotony.

If you're a fan of the Collins-era Genesis you'll probably be disappointed with Calling All Stations. Say what you will about their 80s pop-rock but they did come up with some memorably hooky gems. Nothing here comes close to capturing that.

If you're a fan of the classic '70s Genesis, you'll probably be disappointed with Calling All Stations. There is no discernable link between the two. The only, remotely prog-like element to this album is the length of the tracks – which simply makes them overly long, sub-standard pop-rock.

At a push, you could attribute a melancholic vibe to the proceedings but, even then, the dull, uninspired lyrics come across more like a couple of middle-aged blokes moaning about their lives with a distinct air of self-pity rather than anything meaningful or emotive.

I feel sorry for Ray Wilson. He's a fairly capable vocalist but is given little to work with here.

The blurb introducing this week's album claims it has moments that are comparable to Genesis's "greatest moments". Musical appreciation is a highly subjective thing and as such, there is no right or wrong. However, I will state with absolute certainty that nothing on Calling All Station comes within a million miles of the band's "greatest moments". Nothing. What a waste of 67 minutes.

Dale Munday: First time listen for me, and the last. If this had been released under a pseudonym, or as a Mike and the Mechanics album, it would have completely disappeared long ago. I genuinely can't find a redeeming feature in this boring, plodding dreck. A complete travesty of the Genesis name, even considering the Phil Collins pap. Clearly they were a spent force by this time with little or at best, few ideas as this incarnation .

Alejandro Bravo: It has some good moments, but some filler tunes too.

Derek Baker: The last remaster with all the bonus cuts wasn't too bad actually. Anything Now and The Dividing Line are strong tunes.

Bill Griffin: My problem with this album isn't Phil's absence, it's the absence of a complete song. Almost every single one fades out when it is obvious the band kept playing. They thus sound incomplete.

I do have an issue with Wilson though; Peter and Phil were obviously British. That was a huge part of the appeal for me. I wouldn't know Ray was Scottish if I hadn't been told. He sings with no discernable accent at all. He might as well be an American.

I don't hate this album, I'm just unsatisfied with it and haven't played it since it was new.

I do hate the cover. It's just bad, easily the worst of their career.

I also think Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer should have been made full members of the band at this point. I believe that would have been the right thing to do, made the recordings better and given the album more credibility.

Keith Jenkin: The biggest issue for me is that this is branded as a Genesis album. It's admittedly a mildly interesting adult rock album, but really it should have been marketed as a Rutherford / Banks affair as to my ears the music bears little resemblance to either the stuff Genesis made with Peter Gabriel on vocals or indeed their more recent stuff with Phil Collins fronting the band. 

Let's be honest here, most Genesis fans would never have gone near this one based on hearing the music in advance without knowing who it was by. I've tried several times to get something more from the record, but ultimately I know I only have it in the collection because I am a Genesis completist. Had this record not been labelled as such it would long since have gone to the charity shop.

Nick Thompson: Love this album. Title track is one of my favourite tunes.

Ovidiu Virgil Draganescu: A very Good album. Better than those pop albums influenced by Phil Collins. More profound, more prog, darker.

Adriano Gazza: I do love this album and it has some great songs. The title track, If That’s What You Need, Congo, Not About Us and There Must Be Some Other Way are all excellent. I’ve always been drawn to overlooked albums and I would recommend this, as it’s great playing and Ray’s vocals are really good too.

Tony Rockall: It gets unfairly slated. I didn't own a copy until a few years ago. I was in a second-hand music shop in Reading doing a bit of crate diving when I found it. As it was only a couple of quid I thought I'd give it a go. Bloody glad I did. I think it's very good indeed.

Leo Trimming: If this album didn’t have the ‘Genesis’ name on, it would have long been forgotten. It’s OK, but nowhere near the best albums by this band.

Philip Qvist: I am not a huge fan of the Genesis 70s Prog era, but I did enjoy Duke and Abacab, while the final three albums from the so-called Phil Collins era had their moments - unfortunately both good and bad. In short, Genesis are one of those bands where a Greatest Hits album, and maybe a live record of their earlier songs, will suffice for me.

So with all of that in mind, how do I rate Calling All Stations? I see many critics gave it 1 or 2 stars when it was released, which I thought was harsh, to put it mildly. The title track is my standout song, while Congo sounds so much better now than when it was released as the lead single in the mid-90s. So it is nowhere near the bad album that conventional wisdom would have us to believe it to be.

That all said, it isn't a great album either - far from it. It sounds like Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from the "Phil Era" - and created an inconsistent record. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a Mike + The Mechanics album.

Singer Ray Wilson does a decent enough job, but Calling All Stations just has blandness written all over it. If they had culled at least four songs from it and kept it shorter, the album may have stood a better chance - but alas, it wasn't to be.

The third track is called Shipwrecked, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate song to describe this album. It's not a total disaster but it isn't great either - 5/10.

Mark Herrington: I’d never heard this before and was anticipating good things .

However, for the most part this just drifted along in a fairly mundane tempo, and was quite boring. Two tracks were worth the effort: Calling All Stations and The Dividing Line, which were harder and more menacing to listen to. I liked the vocalist, Ray Wilson ], who did his best to inject some energy into the proceedings.

Apart from the aforementioned tracks nothing was memorable or contained decent hooks. I didn’t notice much in the way of prog leanings here either, even though some tracks were overlong for the material. Not great - 5/10 from me.

Nigel Mawdsley: I consider myself as a 'greatest hits' Genesis fan and very rarely listen to a full album all the way through from the Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins eras.

In 1997 a friend taped me a copy of Calling All Stations and I have to admit that I thought that the album was excellent.

Possibly the title track is the weakest song on it, it's still good, but the UK singles Congo, Shipwrecked and Not About Us all deserved to chart (albeit minor hits).

It is a shame that a second album wasn't done with Ray Wilson, although that comment may dismay some hardcore fans. Having said that, two of my friends who are mega Genesis fans, who sat in opposite camps (Gabriel v Collins), loved this album.

Evan Sanders: Ugh. I had somehow blocked this album out of my memory, and I was hoping that I would find a hidden gem by listening to it again this week. The problem is that there isn't anything memorable on it, and it doesn't come close the solo work that the Genesis members had released in the years before. Ray Wilson's singing is serviceable, and he is hampered by the material. I'm curious how he sounded when they took the album on tour, with a set list of classic Genesis songs alongside the new ones. Sadly, this album sees Genesis go out with a whimper, not a bang. 3/10.

Rod Smith: Gone back to this so many times with an open mind and it never fails to disappoint. My understanding is they tried to get Fish to join the band when Phil left. That would have been a far better choice.

Gus Schultz: Not an album I would listen to, but it’s not terrible. It’s better than most of their mid 80s and onward stuff. There was too much Phil Collins going on back then for my tastes. I can hear a little of the earlier Genesis on it as well as some of the later stuff as well. There is a lack of decent drumming due to Phil’s absence but overall I don’t know if I would say it is their worst. I’m just not a big enough Genesis fan to make that call but that being said it’s likely something I’ll never listen to again.

Mike Canoe: Calling All Stations isn't the best Peter Gabriel album but at a time his recorded output was slowing down, it was great to...

Wait, what? Peter Gabriel had nothing to do with this album?

OK, Calling All Stations sounds like a Peter Gabriel album that could be slotted between 1992' Us and 2002's Up.

A lot of the similarity, of course, comes from new singer, Ray Gillen, who sounds like a gruffer Gabriel to me. However, even the music and themes seem to mirror what Gabriel was doing in his solo career - but not with his time with Genesis. Alien Afternoon has bits that remind me of Digging In The Dirt and Shipwrecked and Small Talk resemble Gabriel's more personal ballads. The booming percussion of The Dividing Line brings to mind the full power percussion of Peter Gabriel's third album, Melt.

For what it is, it's not bad - which, admittedly, is a pretty backhanded compliment. My main complaint is that the album plays it very safe. I don't know that any version of Genesis would have made a dent in the teen pop/nu metal/slick country of the late '90s so Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford should have gone for broke and let their prog flag fly. Jazz Odyssey, anyone?

It also seems like maybe they could have addressed the proverbial elephant in the room with a little humour - maybe name the album And Then There Were Two (and a New Guy). Some acknowledgement on their part that this was a Genesis lineup like no other.

But it's easy to do armchair analysis in hindsight. Genesis were a hugely successful band (and brand with high commercial expectations) essentially launching a comeback after being gone for more than half the decade - and with a new singer no less. The following year, the once mighty Van Halen would discover what a challenge that could be. Sometimes the third time is not the charm.

Greg Schwepe: As a big Genesis fan, I did not scream or cry out in agony when they released “Calling All Stations” with a new vocalist (Ray Wilson) after Phil Collins left. I simply thought, “Gee Genesis, why bother at this point?” Once again you had an established band replacing a longtime lead vocalist (Collins), who took over from the original vocalist (Gabriel) and the first replacement (Collins) made the band even more popular. I never bothered to listen to the album; just wasn’t interested. For the record, I did the same thing with Van Halen and Van Halen III. Same scenario!

So, while I had never listened to the Calling All Stations album prior to this week’s review, I had heard Congo, which was included on a Genesis compilation album released in conjunction with their first reunion tour. And well, I liked it. But again, no interest in checking out the entire album.

But after listening to the album finally for the first time… not a bad album! But hey, they should’ve just called the band something else. Like “No Phil/Fill” or something. If I’d have done a blind listening test and played the album in its entirety, I would’ve said “wow, I like this album…who is it by the way?” I like Ray Wilson’s vocals, like the songs, basically the kind of music I gravitate to. Just didn’t need to call it Genesis! Not sure what they were trying to do here. It’s not like Wilson is a clone of Phil Collins’s voice. Actually, at times he sounds a little like Paul Carrack, which makes this sound like Mike + The Mechanics.

To be honest, had this been a brand-new band and I bought this, this would’ve been on a steady rotation among my CDs. I will say towards the tail end of the album the songs starting sounding a little alike in their structure, they didn’t seem to stand out to me as much as the first three tracks, Calling All Stations, Congo and Shipwrecked.

I do think it’s kind of funny hearing the drum sound, in that the drummers used on the album had paid attention to Phil Collins' drumming style. Also wonder if Mike and Tony told them; “yeah, go ahead and sound like Phil if you want!”

7 out of 10 on this one for me on this “Genesis In Name Only” album.


Final score: 5.03 (102 votes cast, total score 514)

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