Gabriel, Peter - 1986 So

EricEric USA
edited August 2 in year-1986


ARTIST: Gabriel, Peter
LABEL: Charisma
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 2012, Real World, PGCDRRUS5


LINEUP: Peter Gabriel - lead & backing vocals, keyboards, piano, percussion * Kate Bush, Youssou N'Dour, Laurie Anderson - vocals * Tony Levin - bass, drumstick bass * David Rhodes - guitar, backing vocals * Jerry Marotta - drums, drumstick bass * Manu Katche - drums, percussion, talking drums * Chris Hughes - linndrum programming * Stewart Copeland - drums, percussion * Daniel Lanois - guitar, 12-string guitar, tambourine * Wayne Jackson- trumpet, cornet * Mark Rivera - sax * Don Mikkelsen - trombone * Richard Tee - piano * Simon Clark - keyboards, bass * L. Shankar - violin * Nile Rogers - guitar * Djalma Correa - surdu, congas, triangle * Jimmy Bralower - linndrum * P.P. Arnold, Coral Gordon, Dee Lewis, Michael Been, Jim Kerr, Ronnie Bright - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Red Rain * 02 Sledgehammer * 03 Don't Give Up * 04 That Voice Again * 05 Mercy Street * 06 Big Time * 07 We Do What We We're Told (Milgram's 37) * 08 This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds) * 09 In Your Eyes


As a solo artist Peter Gabriel, like Peter Hammill, David Bowie and Prince has always been something of a square peg.

The former Genesis front man and ethnic music maven has never repeated himself and at times has consciously sabotaged his own career trajectory.

In 1986 and after 4 exceptional solo albums as well as the soundtrack to the film 'Birdy', Gabriel found himself to be an honest goodness superstar with 'So', buoyed by the massive single 'Sledgehammer' and its groundbreaking video.

The Songs

But that hit is only a part of this records huge appeal. 'So' has a much lighter feel than his previous, often dark themed releases right down to the fresh-face photograph on the sleeve.

Produced by Daniel Lanois fresh off his fertile partnership with Brian Eno and U2's panoramic 'The Unforgettable Fire'; the set is a fantastic blending of artful pop and world music influences, still very much Peter Gabriel but less fussy and experimental.

The powerful and tension filled 'Red Rain' sets the tone. The drumming from former Orleans man Jerry Marotta is incredible and while Gabriel's beloved Fairlight is still employed heavily, it works.

I have to admit when I first heard the pop R&B of 'Sledgehammer' I was a bit put off. Reminding me of the Steve Winwood's 'Higher Love', a song released the same year which I disliked intensely (and still do), 'Sledgehammer' has grown on me over the years but it's one of my least favourite Gabriel singles, cool video aside.

Much better is his embracing duet with Kate Bush 'Don't Give Up' and the wonderful 'Mercy Street' which was brilliantly covered by Elbow on Gabriel's 2014 cover compilation 'And I'll Scratch Yours'.

'Big Time' and it's big 80's beat is deserved of the worldwide hit it became and its possibly my favourite track here along with the richly atmospheric 'In Your Eyes' which features unpronounceable Senegal singer Youssou N'Dour sharing vocal chores with Peter and it's a perfect end to what is truly an art rock masterpiece.

In Summary

Pop stardom was never something Peter Gabriel was comfortable with and after 'So' and as he had done many times in his career, he moved into a completely new direction while confounding both record executives and fans alike.

Releasing the soundtrack to the controversial film 'The Last Temptation Of Christ' in 1989; the record is often considered his finest hour, but pop it was not.

He would return to commercial sounds with 1992 'Us' but true to form, the album was darker than 'So' and didn't do as well and while Peter continues to innovate despite nagging Genesis reunion rumours, one wonders - where will he go next?

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