Calling All Stations (1997) was the last studio album released by Genesis. It is the only Genesis album to feature the ill-fated Ray Wilson on lead vocals. One might say that Wilson was in a lose-lose situation. He was brought in to fill the shoes of the multifaceted and ever popular Phil Collins. Fair or not, some fans were not up to accepting anyone other than Phil Collins as the singer. Wilson may have been a talented vocalist with a unique voice, however he lacked in other areas. To be fair, what one man could have come in and adequately replaced Phil Collins? A veteran of the music scene, Collins was an extremely gifted singer, songwriter, drummer and front man. Give Wilson credit, he was up for the challenge. If given more opportunity perhaps he would have grown into the role and won over the fans.
Genesis has nothing to be ashamed of with Calling All Stations, it is a good album. The band played well, Wilson sang with passion and conviction and the production is crisp. However, something was missing musically. The biggest thing for me is the drums. Phil Collins’ drum groove is absent. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford brought in two highly talented drummers, (Nir Zidkahu and Nick D’Virgillio), for the album. The two played quite well, but they could not fill the void left by Phil Collins’ absence.
The songwriting, handled mostly by Banks and Rutherford, is good throughout. Perhaps the album’s biggest issue is the timing of the songwriting. Most of the songs were written prior to Ray Wilson’s arrival. This means that they were not written with his voice and vocal inflections in mind. I feel that Wilson gave his absolute best efforts. However these songs would have worked out better had he been involved from the onset.
The song Uncertain Weather is one of the highlights of Calling All Stations. The songwriting credit is given to Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Overall Uncertain Weather sounds like a Tony Banks composition. This slow rocker, powered by Tony Banks’ atmospheric keyboards, is full of mystery. Like a good deal of Tony Banks’ songs it has a night-time feel to it.
This track really highlights Tony Banks’ keyboards and Ray Wilson’s vocals. Mike Rutherford’s wonderfully understated guitar riffs and Nick D’Virgillio’s tasteful drumming are the song’s foundation. Tony Banks’ keyboards, at the forefront of the mix, set the song’s dark and mysterious mood. There is no flashy keyboard work throughout the song’s duration. Tony Banks opts for more melodic keyboard lines to set the mood and atmosphere.
More so than most of the albums tracks, Uncertain Weather is right in Wilson’s wheelhouse vocally. Listening to this song one gets the sense as to why Banks and Rutherford chose Wilson. It perfectly showcases his heavy and slightly raspy vocals. Those qualities are somewhat similar to those of Peter Gabriel.
Overall the album Calling All Stations works well. Unfortunately when you consider all of the classic Genesis albums that preceded, it does come up a bit short. Add to this the crushing weight of fan expectation. There were many assumptions made by fans prior to the album’s release. The prevailing thought was that the band would return to the sound of their progressive rock heyday. Overall Calling All Stations is a darker Genesis album compared to the prior three with Phil Collins. But it was not the return to progressive rock that some fans desired.
With one album and a tour under his belt Ray Wilson is forever a part of Genesis history. We will never know what a second album with Wilson would have sounded like. Perhaps it would have been filled with more songs like Uncertain Weather. I am sure that the band would have written songs better suited for his vocal strengths. Unfortunately we will never know. It will go down as one of the great what ifs in recent music history.