Peter Gabriel

Geffen Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


If an artist wants their fifth album to be a breakout hit, all they need to do is call on master producer Daniel Lanois. A year before helping U2 to achieve the same goal with The Joshua Tree, Lanois joined forces with Peter Gabriel for the wildly successful album simply called So. Time and again, Daniel Lanois has proved that he has a magic touch, so it’s no surprise that he has always been in such high demand. On So, he really outdid himself in putting the name of Peter Gabriel on everyone’s lips. Already a video pioneer by the time this album was released, Peter Gabriel really became a darling of the MTV network in 1986, as the clips for both “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” would go on to rank among the best made music videos of all time.

Featuring a nicely balanced mix of slow songs and upbeat tracks, So is bound to please almost anyone of any age who comes across it. Peter Gabriel certainly had a lot of additional help from his friends in crafting a solid, cohesive package. Big names like Stewart Copeland and Nile Rodgers would offer their services to the legendary genius who has had many incarnations ever since starting his music career in the progressive rock unit Genesis. Distinctive female vocalists Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson also brought their unique talents to the pair of duets that were recorded, “Don’t Give Up” and “This Is The Picture,” respectively. I’ve always struggled to like “Don’t Give Up” because I feel that the grim, murky tone just doesn’t seem to match the inspirational lyrics. The ballad tries hard to be uplifting, but it doesn’t quite succeed; the gospel-tinged piano section is the best part, so certainly the song would have been much stronger had it had more of the same.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As much as I like “Sledgehammer,” the album’s #1 single that was way ahead of its time, and its funkified follow-up “Big Time,” there are a few tracks I like even more. For starters, there’s “That Voice Again,” which could have been a single in its own right, but ended up becoming a B-side. Secondly, there’s the retro-sounding “We Do What We're Told,” which is the kind of intriguing, experimental fare that Gabriel had previously been known for. And lastly, though certainly not least, is the best song on the entire album, “In Your Eyes,” which was also included in a pivotal scene for the John Cusack film Say Anything. It’s the one Peter Gabriel single that seems to be aging quite gracefully, even if it didn’t register that high on the music charts when it was first released.

Yes, So is indeed the first of many Peter Gabriel releases to feature its share of long, drawn out songs. Testing our patience here are “Red Rain” and “Mercy Street,” two atmospheric pieces that are bound to have their share of detractors. High-brow intellectual types will undoubtedly find these songs especially appealing, though I would have preferred them to be much shorter in duration. Perhaps the older I get, the more I will come to appreciate them. I must say, if there ever was an album to take to one’s grave, it has to be Peter Gabriel’s So. Admittedly, a statement like that may seem morbid to some folks, but something tells me that Peter Gabriel would consider it to be a most gracious compliment.

Rating: A

User Rating: B



© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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.