Rock Docs: Genesis - Sum of the Parts

From prog rock to pop trio, Sum of the Parts chronicles the history of Genesis....and Phil Collins.

"Yup. That's right, folks.
I'm the real Batman!"
This week sees the long awaited release of the career spanning documentary about the band, Genesis. It's a less than revealing look at the seventies prog rock band that became one of the leading pop powerhouses of the eighties. While it's an interesting piece of rock and roll history, this documentary only skims the surface and isn't quite the intimate look inside that most fans might be expecting. At a shortened length of ninety minutes, Sum of the Parts or Together and Apart, as it's called in the UK, the film doesn't spend enough time on the Gabriel era, basically glosses over Steve Hackett's involvement and solo work, and gloats on Phil Collins for way too long.

As a history lesson, Sum of the Parts is interesting but never gives an in depth calculation of character or the creative dynamic that ultimately led to Gabriel's departure. However, we are told time and time again that both Collins and Gabriel are both geniuses of their craft, solo or otherwise. Meanwhile. poor Steve Hackett is still just a side note in the decades long story of a band that's been through numerous line up changes and lead man swaps. And singer Ray Wilson (1997-1998) is never mentioned in this mostly flat documentary that picks and chooses what and who it wants to breeze over. Another half hour would have been much appreciated by music enthusiasts like myself. We want details, inside information, and as much history as possible. After all, this is supposed to be a career retrospective, right?

"This album is going to be called
The Strangest Family Photo Ever."
Walking away from Sum of the Parts, its easy to see that this was more of a pat on the shoulder for a band that went from being semi-successful as a progressive rock band to becoming a chart topping, multi-platinum pop-centric trio. It also gives us a distinct sense of the friendship that still exists between these chaps and shows its audience how former band mates can still create music together. There are stories of Collins helping Gabriel on his solo releases and commentary on how supportive Banks and Rutherford were of Collins solo work (if not a bit envious).

Still, something with this documentary feels amiss. It never digs in deep and beats around the bush, hesitating in its astuteness of real music history. The timeline gets boggled and confused at times and focus is abundantly clear that the most important member is Phil Collins, which some will take issue with. Don't get me wrong. Collins is a great songwriter and has most definitely proven himself time and time again. Sum of the Parts just seems to revel in Collins' successes while not giving due respect to Gabriel or Hackett and makes Banks and Rutherford appear minutely self aware.

"Ok guys. As soon as this photo shoot
is over, I say we write 10-12 hooky
Fans of Genesis will enjoy this movie while other interested parties might walk away wanting to know more. Sum of the Parts is not a tell all but more so a celebration of the band's achievements and continuing legacy. See it, but don't expect excellence.