Peter Gabriel

Geffen Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Most of the time, when I write music reviews, I try to remain impersonal, unbiased, and clinical in how I approach the music, at least at the beginning. I'm going to utterly fail on this one; because for anyone who grew up in the rock era and listened to popular music, there are certain albums that become personal icons. I can't be unbiased about Peter Gabriel's landmark 1986 release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 So, any more than I can be unbiased about Alan Parsons' Eye In The Sky, October Project's October Project, Marillion's Misplaced Childhood, or Eric Clapton's Rush. They are so tied into portions of my life that they transcend music and become history for me.

In 1986, I was a senior in high school -- somewhat of a miserable misfit, trying to get by. I don't know how many times I listened to So, but I can tell you it was a lot. I wore out two cassettes; this was long before I switched to CD. I was stuck in a house I hated with a stepfather and mother who seemed a million miles from where I was; in short, I was eighteen. I won't be so histrionic as to say that Peter Gabriel saved my life, but So sure as heck made it easier.

It doesn't hurt that it's a great album. Impeccably produced by Daniel Lanois and Gabriel, this was the album where Gabriel came full circle, bringing his interest in African soul and pop music together with his art rock roots. So is alternately brooding, jubilant, crisp, gentle, rhythmic, mysterious, complex, simple, and in the end more than all these things.

Everyone who was around back then knows the singles: "Sledgehammer", "Big Time", and "In Your Eyes" -- the latter of which gets my vote for best love song of all time. However, there's some gems on here you might not remember. The portentous "Red Rain", the wistful and mist-shrouded "Mercy Street", and the brilliant duet with Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up". There's not a bad track on So, and a whole lot of excellent ones.

Perhaps So won't become history for you; we all have our own internal soundtracks and memories, and we all have our own emotions when we hear music we love. But for me, So is one of a very few CDs that is an integral part of who I am.

Rating: A

User Rating: B


I was in my 2nd year of college when So came out, and though Sledgehammer was inescapable, either on the radio or MTV, there remained a buzz that Gabriel had basically sold out.

Twenty years on, and the CD remains a classic. He didn't sell out, he just worked with Lanois to make a more mainstream CD without compromising his message.

And while everyone speaks of the beauty of In Your Eyes, I think Don't Give Up with Kate Bush is the stronger song. When I have been down or stuck in a rut, that song helps restore my strength more than almost any other. The video is gorgeous as well.

© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.