Thursday, 25 October 2012

Peter Gabriel's "So" turns 25.

Peter Gabriel - So

Coming up shortly is the re-release of one of many landmark albums of the 1980s, the fifth album from Peter Gabriel - "So".

Most people older than me will cite "Solisbury Hill" as the song that they instantly think of when they think Peter Gabriel, if they don't think of something from his time in Genesis. The radio always bashes out "Shock The Monkey" and "Games Without Frontiers". For me, "So" was my first introduction to the man and his music and it remains a powerful statement of intent.

This is an album that was at the vaguard of its time in terms of its use of technology. Peter was never one to shy away from new innovations. (He even used a novel invention on this album for the first time in his solo career: an album title!)

The album is at once a product of it's time, and yet it sounds timeless. Sure it possesses some of the hallmarks of the production techniques of the time, such as huge gated-reverb drum sounds and swathes of synth-washes, but they are tastefully applied by producer Daniel Lanois. Tasteful inasmuch as they don't overpower the strength of the songs...

...and what songs they are. I first heard this album when it came out, around age 9 or so (now I'm showing my age!) and it was as powerful to me then as it is now. The record kicks off with "Red Rain" which is as impassioned as any song he ever wrote. Far from being a straight pop song, its layers continue to reveal themselves the more you listen to it. It's a kaleidoscopic view of the artist's soul.

We then take side-trips through neo-soul and funk ("Sledgehammer", "Big Time"), balladry ("Don't Give Up", "Mercy Street"), charging rockers ("That Voice Again"), world music ("In Your Eyes"), and arty-wierdness ("This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)") all across the album's 9 tracks, although only 8 if you own the vinyl. The Laurie Anderson collaboration "Excellent Birds" has been dropped off on the LP, which is a shame, as it is a real highlight. It is a quirky experiment, but it is compelling to listen to.

Like some of the bigger albums of the day, it could have used a little judicious editing ("Don't Give Up" could use that extended ending being lopped off) but that's nothing major. Hell, even Mark Knopfler would have trimmed down most of the tracks on "Brothers In Arms" to remove the superfluous playouts!

Still, it is a record that is at once mature but with moments of child-like fun; intellectual, but never to the point of being exclusive; clever but not smart-arsed.

Here then is the album for you to check out, on Spotify. The reissue should be out next week. Enjoy.

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