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Peter Gabriel - So CD (album) cover

SO

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

3.84 | 681 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars SO superior.finally.

And then there was So. With many artists, fans and music lovers can point to albums in their career where one feels they "sold out" and the artist will be justifiably ravaged for it. They will also point to the underdog or fringe albums as some of their favorites. While the critics hail Harvest or Rust Never Sleeps as the essential Neil Young albums, his real fans know that Zuma, TtN, and On the Beach are the great stuff. It didn't work that way for Peter Gabriel. His underdogs (1/2/4) really are..dogs.for the most part. And his "sell-out" album is probably the album of his career. And then there's the issue of the term sell-out. So is not a sell-out. I call it that because a lot of people think it is, but in my opinion selling out means lowering the quality considerably (think 90125) for calculated commercial reasons. Perhaps Gabriel's So was a calculated release but it sure as hell was not lower quality. Compared to the torture of sitting through his previous album Security, So is like a revelation of the sublime. "So" is, quite simply, Peter's "Hounds of Love."

On about every front measurable, So raises the bar considerably and crushes his previous efforts. The songs perfectly achieve the balance of great artistry while being engaging, musically interesting, and fun. They flow, they sound confident and comfortable with each other. The quality of the songwriting has skyrocketed from the silliness of early material to the sheer boredom of some Security tracks. He has harnessed great energy and passion from the performances of his guests and backing musicians. His vocals have never sounded better: strong, confident, and clear. Even the presentation scores. The simple black and white cover with a photograph that finally allows the listener some emotional connection while projecting maturity. Some will say they prefer the looseness and anything goes attitude of the early albums, and while I understand the point, I will take the new controlled Gabriel in a heartbeat.

The album is bookended by two of PG's most successful songs to date in "Red Rain" and "In Your Eyes." Lovely art rock tracks that are instantly likable and yet very classy. Like many Gabriel hits, were they not ruined by the nasty over exposure of radio play they would likely be much more highly regarded by critics of this album. "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" are understandably going to add to the critics arguments that So is a pop sell-out, they are very radio friendly. But set those two songs aside and look at the rest of the album. "Don't Give Up" is one of his finest moments and one of the most memorable duets ever. Simply astonishing. "Mercy Street" is another favorite of mine, as beautiful as a dream, floating along like the camera pan in a European art flick. "We Do What We're Told" is quite atmospheric with its bubbly samples and electronica, it sounds like the kind of music that Bjork would be singing over about 10 years later. Beautiful stuff that is sadly too short. "That Voice Again" and "This is the Picture" are less known but still decent songs as well. It's true that this album is a more mainstream release that is miles from his progressive Genesis roots. But in its own way of merging progressive tendencies with popular music it was at the very top of its game, and like Hounds of Love, has aged much better than many other projects from the mid 1980s.

"So" suffers from overexposure to be sure but I can't hold that against such an accomplished and stylish piece of music. Bold and classy, with rich, thoughtful playing by Levin and Rhodes. Superb effort. 3 stars.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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