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Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel 1 [Aka: Car] CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

3.55 | 607 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Excellent, Exploratory Debut Screams Freedom

As most know, Peter Gabriel is perhaps my single favorite musician over time, and as I approached my 100th review here on ProgArchives, it seemed amiss that I had not completed my series of reviews of his solo work. I've been listening to his first four albums continuously in the car over the last days, and been greatly rewarded. I'd never quite listened to this work with an ear for criticism, and I've discovered some new detail in his work that I've missed even over 20 years of being a huge fan. I've also had to focus on weaker work that I'd glossed over. So here begins a bit of a detailed series of opinions from yet another PG nerd.

Peter Gabriel I (Car) was released in 1977, three years after Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and two years after his public exit from the band. It shows the artist full of energy, celebrating his freedom, and exploring a wide range of possible sounds. Some are quite progressive and some standard, but all are full of energy, well played, and thoughtfully constructed.

1. Moribund The Burgermeister (4:18) - This track virtually takes off where Gabriel left off with the sound of the Lamb. Though distinct from the core Genesis sound, it is quirky, experimental, and definitely progressive. As was his habit in Genesis, he adopted different voices to sound various characters in a strange story song. Well executed, I can imagine fans licking their lips with glee when greeted with this when they first listened to the album

2. Solsbury Hill (4:21) - Along with Pink Floyd's "Money" and the Beatles' "All You Need is Love," perhaps the most famous rock song ever written in 7. Driven by a folky acoustic line, this song sounds almost nothing like anything else Gabriel ever did. At the same time, it may be the best crossover prog song ever written. Beautifully poetic lyrics talk about emancipation and freedom in a way that far transcends the artist's exit from the band. Despite the complex time signature, the song is danceable, positive, a true pop masterpiece. The song continues to highlight the live show over 20 years later.

3. Modern Love (3:38) - This song could have been named "Modern Rock" for it was a very straightforward venture into the current rock sound of the time. The chorus riff is not unlike the Baby's 70's hit "Back on My Feet Again." It's well written and Gabriel gives a good performance, but it's probably the most straightforward cut Gabriel had done on record since the first Genesis hippy pop album. Here it works as a single track on an eclectic album. Unfortunately it became the template for the entire second album, Peter Gabriel's worst.

4. Excuse Me (3:20) - Now this is a fun little romp where Gabriel explicitly just says "I want to be alone." Starting with barbershop choir vocals and then transforming into a Randy Newman-esque satire, the song is playful and entertaining. Gabriel comes off as gleeful rather than angry or defensive, which this song easily could have been.

5. Humdrum (3:26) - This is one of the first glimpses of the dark, immediate intensity that was to become a Gabriel trademark.

6. Slowburn (4:37) - A strange mishmash of styles that actually works, this song centers on the rock sound found on "Modern Love" but varies things a bit more. Along with track 8, this song is a little overwrought, sounding a bit like a big stage production number. Aggressive bursts of harmony "Yeaaaah," seem comical now, but this style of music was certainly in style at the time. Again, this song is a little more varied in style than "Modern Love" and probably a little more enjoyable

7. Waiting For The Big One (7:14) - This song is a straight blues number dealing with the classic blues topic of hoping to move up in life. Gabriel's voice is not made for blues, but for this one song he pulls it off well enough. More importantly, the band really performs the style quite well, nailing the behind-the-beat execution while retaining plenty of energy. I feel the song works in the context of this album, again as a single try at a genre.

8. Down The Dolce Vita (4:42) - Upping the dramatic ante from "Slowburn," this rocker starts with the London Symphony and drops into a disco beat. As awful as that premise sounds, the song is actually listenable. Peter is just having fun, and that allows him to sound playful rather than pretentious. Though not a track I'd choose to listen to, it holds its place on the album.

9. Here Comes The Flood (5:56) - This song was dressed up by producer Bob Ezrin, but had always been intended by PG to be a simple piano and voice song. A powerful lyric with great dynamics, the song was re-recorded many times and appeared on Robert Fripp's Exposure album and then on Gabriel's greatest hits album in 1990. I personally like both versions and the contrast in styles, but there is no doubt that the later version is better. The song is so strong it overcomes the production and is a great finish to a very strong debut album.

Overall, Gabriel and fans had to be quite happy with this debut. While certainly not holding on to pure symphonic prog as fellow Genesis member Steve Hackett did, there are plenty of progressive moments here. More importantly, this is simply a very solid collection of well- written, well-performed songs that showcase the artist well. Along with two PG classics are two very strong progressive tracks, two fun novelty pieces, and three quirky rockers. Not bad for an artist stretching out his wings, exploring a new wide open realm of musical possibility. The masterpiece albums are yet to come, but this is certainly an excellent addition to any prog fan's library.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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