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Peter Gabriel - So CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

3.84 | 710 ratings

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5 stars Peter GABRIEL sums up "So" in "Sledgehammer" -- "I've kicked the habit / Shed my skin / This is the new stuff / I go dancing in." So is almost a coming-out party, with signs of a newfound confidence evident everywhere, from the album cover (the first to feature his face unobscured) to the genuine pursuit of commercial success. Along with Steve Winwood's Back In The High Life, So grabbed radio listeners with its sophisticated merging of world music, dance rhythms and English pop. Much of So's success belongs to coproducer Daniel Lanois, who had honed his art at the foot of Mount Eno and had already worked with GABRIEL on the soundtrack to Birdy. Lanois adds exotic sounds at every turn, enabled by an exotic cast (Tony Levin, Manu Katche, Kate Bush, Youssou N'dour, David Rhodes).

But the real revelation here is GABRIEL as he assumes the mantle of the mature artist: unashamed to be celebratory, compelled to be cautionary, and self-assured in his skills as a poetic diviner of emotional essence. That GABRIEL's emergence from his own chrysalis occurs in tandem with Lanois' declaration of artistic independence gave "So" two rockets of propulsion, so no wonder it found itself leagues ahead of its contemporaries in the pop market. Equally important to the success of So, GABRIEL was again not pushing merely the musical envelope but the visual envelope as well, courtesy of music videos played on MTV. While videos for songs like "Shock the Monkey" were ambitious by the standards of their time, GABRIEL outdid himself on the videos for "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time", both of which managed to make the artist's visionary work seem accessible and friendly. It would be tempting to call GABRIEL's third album his best, since it was his first attempt to break free from the conventional confines of Western pop, but the tools at GABRIEL's disposal on "So" are so much more impressive that it outclasses his third album at every turn.

Every song on "So" is well crafted, a unique and self-sustaining musical world in miniature, balancing between the extroverted ("Big Time", "That Voice Again") and introverted ("Mercy Street," "Don't Give Up"). Fifteen years later, the music (and the music videos) from this effort are still vital and vigorous. Of interest, the compact disc of So included GABRIEL's duet with Laurie Anderson, "Excellent Birds", which could also be found on Anderson's own Mister Heartbreak. It was the second of several collaborations between the singer and the leading ladies of the '80s alternative scene.

daveconn | 5/5 |


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