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This review is from: So (Audio CD)
As someone who liked early Genesis, I didn't need any persuading to follow Peter Gabriel's solo career and bought all four 'magazine' albums soon after they were released. The gap from the third to the fourth was quite long, however, and longer still to 'So' (admittedly there was the 'Birdy' soundtrack and 'Live' in between). By the time 'So' appeared, digital recording techniques had long supplanted analogue, making this a radically different experience. And that is where I guess I differ most from the many who rate this album highly. I avoided it when it was originally released, partly because of the hype, partly because the hit singles didn't overly impress me, and partly because of what the recording culture did to it. 'Sledgehammer' is decent and contains some of Gabriel's old lyrical panache, but the video sold it. 'Don't Give Up' is tired and depressing, but record buyers were suckers for superstar duets. So many people have recommended this to me, however, that I thought it was worth a try. Oh dear.
When I listen to the much-maligned early albums, which when released received deservedly high acclaim, I feel as if I'm listening to a band of musicians rather than an exercise in multi-tracking. In addition, Gabriel had so many different ideas then, musically and lyrically. He could evoke every shade of emotion. 'So', by contrast, is a flatliner. It is machine music with the kind of ambience a band could not recreate on stage (if any band did, I'd walk out), one which blighted so many recordings in the late 1980s. It is the kind of album you would have bought to show off your hi-fi system. As such, it is a very dated album. The percussion is overdone and intrusive while the other instruments seem to exist in their own vacuum. The whole thing sounds so sterile that Gabriel sounds as if he's had the stuffing knocked out of him. Even the lyrics are not what they're cracked up to be. 'Red Rain' consists of little more than 'Red rain is coming down'. If he'd said it was coming up, it would have at least sounded vaguely interesting.
'So' is therefore little more than a product of its time alongside other hideous, similar-sounding products of the late 1980s, such as the albums being knocked out by the likes of The Cars and INXS. In Gabriel's case, this is no disgrace. Almost every recording artist's best work comes in youth and early maturity, followed by decline, and though 'So' was huge by comparison with Gabriel's earlier work, it is no coincidence that it was his first album to be subjected to a major promotional campaign. As much as I love his earlier albums, however, I would not recommend them to anyone who liked 'So', as I cannot imagine anyone who liked this liking those.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Nov 2010 19:12:51 GMT
A. Kennedy says:
Posted on 29 Mar 2012 03:39:22 BDT
Mr. M. A. West says:
So right , every album until this one was brilliant, saw him about 5 times in 1982, including the womad concert (Genesis).
He definatly lost the magic here, everything is formulated so therefore sterile and stale, and as said very eighties,never mind.
Posted on 25 Sep 2012 22:52:40 BDT
I like "SO".
I also like PG's earlier albums.
Posted on 15 Nov 2012 17:14:35 GMT
Finbar the looney says:
Posted on 23 Apr 2014 08:34:31 BDT
AK 1957-05 says:
Good review - this is where Peter and I parted company (I had been a fan since early Genesis). The low point is the Bush duet (and I'm still a huge Kate fan, but this was MOR in excelsis). It's the epitome of that "sophisticated" Eigthies music that salesmen would play in their BMWs in order to feel "edgy" - see also Dire Straits, Simply Red).
In Peter's defence, I will say that I have seen him perform some of these songs live and they were amazing. But as the reviewer says, that airless, Eighties studio sheen totally does for this album.
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