While not as strong as Genesis later releases, Nursery Cryme, marked a significant step forward from the band as the material was markedly superior to that which appeared on their first two albums. Collins who would later come into his own as the band’s vocalist, truly shines on the drums and while Phillips had been an exceptional guitarist in his own right, Hackett’s style better fit the more lush melodic style the band had started to take with this album.
Opening with The Musical Box, which was a staple of the live shows in the Peter Gabriel era of the band. Nursery Cryme makes a strong statement that Genesis was a band that people should take notice of and really showcased Genesis shift from more folk-oriented and influenced material to the more classically influenced material this incarnation of the band would become known for. The musicianship of Messrs. Gabriel, Rutherford, Banks, Collins, and Hackett is undeniable and clocking at nearly ten and a half minutes The Music Box allows the band to really stretch out and show what they’re capable of.
For Absent Friends marks Phil Collins first lead vocal performance with Genesis. It’s a rather light-segue between The Music Box and The Return of the Giant Hogweed. Collins falsetto on this song, while unremarkable when compared to his better-known vocal performances, does give a glimpse of things to come in the wake of Gabriel’s departure a few years later.
Where For Absent Friends served as an excellent introduction to the band for Phil Collins, The Return of the Giant Hogweed served as Steve Hackett’s introduction to the band. Where many early Genesis songs were largely keyboard driven, this track was instead driven by Hackett’s raw and fiery electric guitar work.
The album closes as strongly as it began. The Fountain of Salmacis and The Music Box are the two strongest songs on this album and make great bookends for an album that truly laid the foundation for the subsequent albums. Lyrically speaking, it’s one of the most interesting rock songs ever written, telling the story of Hermaphroditus who was seduced by Salmacis, becoming one with her and thus becoming just as much female as he had been male and giving birth to the term “hermaphrodite.” The Fountain of Salmacis features the trademark vocal role-playing that Peter Gabriel would become known for on subsequent albums and features some excellent Mellotron playing by Banks and guitar playing by Hackett.
If you were tracking the band’s evolution, Nursery Cryme, marks the beginning of the great things yet to come and the promising start of the careers for two exceptional musicians, Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, giving a mere glimpse into their talent and potential.