Invisible Touch is the thirteenth studio album by the English rock band Genesis, released on 6 June 1986 by Atlantic Records in the United States and 9 June 1986 by Charisma and Virgin Records in the United Kingdom. After taking a break in group activity for each member to continue with their solo projects in 1984, the band reconvened in October 1985 to write and record Invisible Touch with engineer and producer Hugh Padgham. As with their previous album, it was written entirely through group improvisations and no material developed prior to recording was used.
|Studio album by|
|Released||6 June 1986|
|Recorded||October 1985 – February 1986|
|Singles from Invisible Touch|
Invisible Touch was a worldwide success and reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. It remains the band's highest selling album after it was certified multi-platinum for over 1.2 million copies sold in the UK and 6 million sold in the US. Genesis became the first band and foreign act to have five top five singles on the US Billboard Hot 100, with "Invisible Touch" being their first and only song to reach No. 1 on the charts. The album received mixed reviews upon its release and retrospectively, with several reviews, both positive and negative, observing its similarity to Collins's solo records and their commercial pop-oriented sound. In 2007, the album was re-released with new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes.
After wrapping up the Mama Tour in February 1984 to support Genesis, the band took a break in activity to allow each member to continue with their respective solo careers. Mike Rutherford formed his group Mike + The Mechanics, Tony Banks worked on his second album of soundtrack material titled Soundtracks, and Phil Collins released his third solo album No Jacket Required which achieved significant worldwide success. In a June 1985 interview, Collins spoke of the band's intention to start work on the next Genesis album that October. This put an end to a false announcement that aired on BBC Radio 1 suggesting the three had split. To Rutherford, the break in group activity had an effect on Genesis's musical style: "We had done so much work outside the band, it seemed we had gone through a lot more musical changes, although the development is largely unconscious".
Writing and recordingEdit
The album was written, recorded, and mixed at the band's own recording studio named The Farm in Chiddingfold, Surrey, from October 1985 to February 1986. The group were joined by engineer and co-producer Hugh Padgham, who had worked with the band since Abacab (1981). Earlier in 1985, the studio was upgraded to a plan supervised by Masami "Sam" Toyishima.
Having achieved their greatest commercial success with Genesis, Banks said that the group approached the writing sessions for Invisible Touch with a greater sense of confidence as they had become a big live act in the US, and reached a new level of commercial success worldwide. As with their previous album the band entered the studio with no preconceived ideas, leaving them to develop songs through jamming and improvisations recorded onto cassette tape, a process Collins compared to as "close to jazz". The group had considered their strongest songs were those written collectively, so they repeated this process for Invisible Touch. Collins said: "You never quite know what's going to happen. It's just the three of us chopping away, fine-tuning and honing down all these ideas." A typical writing session would start with Collins setting up a drum pattern on their drum machine, leaving Banks and Rutherford to play any idea and Collins singing vocal ideas, which quickly creates an atmosphere to a song. Collins recalled his impetuous attitude during the writing sessions and suggested to piece bits of songs together early, towards which Banks and Rutherford expressed reluctance. The group were left with many ideas to work with as a result, with many potentially strong ideas thrown out. Many of the songs on the album evolved from Banks using the Emu-Emulator II to record sounds in the room and listen back for ideas that could be used for a song. Its recording function allowed just 17 seconds to be recorded.
After some jam sessions had been put to tape the band listened back to them, picking out the strongest moments and tried to arrange them into a song. They might discuss its potential length or whether to write lyrics for it or leave it as an instrumental. The lyrics for a track were written after it had been recorded; the band felt that having one member responsible for a song's lyrics was ideal as they had a strong enough direction to carry the message through. Collins wrote the words for "Invisible Touch", "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight", and "In Too Deep"; Rutherford wrote "Land of Confusion" and "Throwing It All Away". Banks wrote for "Domino" and "Anything She Does".
The group came up with a greater number of songs for Invisible Touch which required time to select a final track listing. This was not the case with Genesis, as Banks said that "if a song was around, we put it on". Rutherford noted that Genesis had a dark mood to it, yet Invisible Touch had a bigger energy. During the writing sessions Collins realised the band were coming up with fresh and unique material that it had not done before, "which is not easy after 15 albums", and considered them stronger than those on Genesis. Banks maintained this view, thinking the shorter tracks on Invisible Touch were stronger than the previous album. Collins later revealed that at no time did the band record their parts together as a playing unit. Initially, he would sing a guide vocal with Banks and Rutherford playing guide piano and guitar parts respectively, but each instrumental part would be re-recorded, with his drums put down last.
"Invisible Touch" originated as the band were working on "The Last Domino", the second part of "Domino". During the session Rutherford began to play an improvised guitar riff with an added echo effect, to which Collins replied with the off-the-cuff lyric, "She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah". This led to Collins writing the lyrics to the song, with his improvised line becoming its chorus hook. He wrote the lyrics based around a person who gets under one's skin which he had "Known a few. You know they’re going to mess you up, but you can't resist". The group wanted to keep the song simple in structure, but thought an eight-bar bridge with a key change and using a sequenced keyboard part complimented the arrangement. Banks produced eight different versions in step time, some ideas for which he had thought of ahead of time while others were a rough improvisation. The chosen version was the "most random" one. As the band performed "Invisible Touch" in a lower key on tour, Banks had to produce a new sequenced section which was "a real drag" as he was unable to make one as strong as the one on the album. Rutherford expressed a desire for the band to explore different musical themes for the song, but later felt the lyric had "always felt so comfortable" to him and saw no reason not to. Collins rates the track highly and picked it as his favourite Genesis song. He added: "It's a great pop song. It encapsulated the whole record and it pushed Genesis into a bit of an R&B area, a little like a Prince thing", and also compared his drumming on the track to American singer Sheila E, of whom he is a fan.
The basis for "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" came about from Banks, who spent some time improvising with different sounds from his keyboards over a rhythm Collins and Rutherford were playing. Similar to that of "Invisible Touch", Collins then came out with the word "monkey" and explored it vocally which led to the song's working title to be "Monkey/Zulu". The rest of the songs' lyrics were then written around the word. Rutherford thought the track resembled the "old-style Genesis" as it covers more ground musically with a "fairly involved" instrumental section in the middle. Banks agreed with Rutherford's view on the song, pointing out its comparison in terms of its complexity.
The lyrics to "Land of Confusion" were written by Rutherford, and they were the last set of words written for the album. Rutherford was behind schedule to get the lyrics to the song finished, but thought the "time was right" for him to write a protest song. He was struck with the flu when it was time for Collins to record the song's vocals. He recalled Collins "came over to my house ... he sat on my bed like a secretary ... I was in a kind of delirious state with a very high temperature and I dictated it to him and I remember thinking, 'I think I told him the right thing ... Was it all rubbish or was it any good?'".
"Domino" is a track split into two sections—"In the Glow of the Night" and "The Last Domino". Banks wrote the lyrics on the idea that often politicians fail to think through what they have started off, and the consequences of their actions. Rutherford thinks "Domino" is "one of the best things" the band has done. He was aware that due to the popularity of MTV and the increased pressure to deliver hit singles, people would often forget about their longer songs like "Domino" which would be dwarfed by the shorter, more commercial hits.
"Throwing It All Away" developed from a guitar riff from Rutherford, who also wrote the lyrics. Collins described it as like a "one-note samba". It was a heavy guitar song in its original form, with Collins "drumming in a John Bonham style". However, as the chorus developed, its mood changed to that of a softer one "matched by the single love-song lyric".
"The Brazilian" is an instrumental track. Collins recalled it was put together when the group were "fooling around" in the studio, and he had been experimenting what sounds that could be programmed into one electronic Simmons drum kit. Among the sounds in the studio that Banks had captured on his E-mu Emulator II runs through the entire track, after which the band improvised on top of it.
Three additional songs—"Feeding the Fire", "I'd Rather Be You", and "Do the Neurotic"—were recorded during the album's sessions but were cut from the album's final track selection. They were subsequently released as B-sides across the five singles released from the album. The tracks were included in the 2007 box set Genesis 1983–1998 as well as the 2000 box set Genesis Archive 2: 1976–1992.
Invisible Touch was first released on 6 June 1986 in the US by Atlantic Records; its release in the United Kingdom followed on 9 June 1986 by Charisma and Virgin Records. The album reached number one on the UK Albums Chart for three weeks from 21 June 1986 during a 96-week stay on the chart, and peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard 200 during an 85-week stay.
Genesis released five singles from Invisible Touch from 1986 to 1987—"Invisible Touch", "Throwing It All Away", "Land of Confusion", "In Too Deep", and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight". Each one reached the top five on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Genesis the first group and foreign act to achieve this feat, equalling the five singles record set by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Madonna.
In 1987, Genesis received an American Music Award nomination for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group. At the Brit Awards in 1987 co-producer Hugh Padgham was nominated for British Producer, while Phil Collins was nominated for British Male Artist for his contribution to the album. "The Brazilian" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The music video for "Land of Confusion", featuring the Spitting Image puppets, was nominated for MTV's Video of the Year Award, but lost to their former lead vocalist Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer".
|Los Angeles Times||(unfavourable)|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album received a mixed reaction from music critics upon release. J. D. Considine gave it a positive review for Rolling Stone, stating that "every tune is carefully pruned so that each flourish delivers not an instrumental epiphany but a solid hook. Much of the credit for this belongs to Tony Banks, whose synth style has never seemed more appropriate; it's his keyboards that set the mood for 'In the Glow of the Night' and maintain the tension in 'Tonight, Tonight, Tonight'." Daniel Brogan of the Chicago Tribune was not as impressed, claiming the album had "none of the inventiveness, illumination or power" of former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel's album So, released in the same month. He thought the contributions from Rutherford and Banks "seem far less apparent than usual", and that the first side of the album "could almost pass as outtakes from No Jacket Required". He concluded: "Will the Free World ever tire of Phil Collins?"
Several of Brogan's criticisms were mirrored in a review from Steve Hochman of the Los Angeles Times. Hochman asked "Was this record really necessary?" and stated the album "could easily pass as a Collins album. His thin voice and familiar MOR&B songwriting dominate, with only occasional evidence of input from Rutherford and Banks". He also suggested the record "was made to provide material for the next season of Miami Vice". Associated Press writer Larry Kilman disagreed, who opened his review with "Genesis have come up with an irresistible Invisible Touch ... This is far from a Collins solo effort. The band's material is more complex than Collins' pop sound". He complimented the album's "great variety", picking out "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" as a highlight which reminded him of "the spare, art-rock sound of the early Genesis".
In a retrospective review from Stephen Thomas Erlewine for AllMusic, the album received three stars out of five. He commented that "Invisible Touch was seen at the time as a bit of a Phil Collins solo album disguised as a Genesis album ... Genesis' poppiest album, a sleek, streamlined affair built on electronic percussion and dressed in synths" and he claimed "the heavy emphasis on pop tunes does serve the singer, not the band". However, he said that "[the] songs had big hooks that excused their coldness, and the arty moments sank to the bottom". Mark Putterford of Kerrang! remarked on how the album showed "new ideas, new sounds, but still very definitely Genesis". The Rough Guide to Rock describes Invisible Touch as "calculated and oddly emotionless AOR" and stated the hits were "by now barely distinguishable from Collins' songs as a solo artist". In 2014, Stevie Chick, writing for The Guardian, said the album's "bright, polished pop title track, the baby boomer agit-rock of 'Land of Confusion', the genuinely affecting ballad 'Throwing It All Away' – could have easily fitted on his [Collins's] solo albums". Chick reserved particular praise for "Domino", saying the track "proved a final gasp of brilliance before the blandness of 1991's We Can't Dance and 1997's inexplicable, Collins-less Calling All Stations".
Ultimate Classic Rock ranked Invisible Touch as the 13th best album by Genesis, stating "On the dark day in Genesis history when this record was released, the band fully transitioned from art-rock glory to radio-ready piffle, replete with all the worst that '80s overproduction had to offer. The fact that just the tiniest bit of the 'old' Genesis is discernible in a couple of tracks is the only thing that edges this album a notch ahead of We Can't Dance."
Genesis supported Invisible Touch with a 112-date world tour that ran from September 1986 to July 1987 with their usual touring musicians, drummer Chester Thompson and guitarist Daryl Stuermer. The tour concluded with a record four sold-out shows at London's Wembley Stadium. The live concert video Live at Wembley Stadium released on VHS in 1988 and on DVD in 2003.
|2.||"Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"||8:49|
|3.||"Land of Confusion"||4:45|
|4.||"In Too Deep"||4:59|
|1.||"Anything She Does"||4:06|
|3.||"Throwing It All Away"||3:51[a]|
Credits are adapted from the album's sleeve notes.
- Tony Banks – keyboards, synth bass
- Phil Collins – drums, lead vocals, percussion
- Mike Rutherford – guitars, bass guitar
|Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)||Gold||7,500*|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||4× Platinum||1,200,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||6× Platinum||6,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Notes and referencesEdit
- The original album sleeve lists "Throwing It All Away" with an incorrect running time of 4:41.
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- Hinkley, David (30 June 1985). "Rock's Little Drummer Boy Goes Pop". New York Daily News Magazine. p. 6.
- Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 198.
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- Reissues Interview 2007, 00:06–00:20.
- Reissues Interview 2007, 02:32–03:06.
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- Reissues Interview 2007, 08:46–09:47.
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