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Peter Gabriel - So So,
This review is from: So [25th Anniversary 3CD Special Edition] (Audio CD)
Let us begin accentuating the positives since having "So" all polished and spruced up in a remaster after 25 years is like seeing an old friend in a new light and a smart suit. It is the case that the album has something quintessentially eighties about it and if you examine the "visual look" of the band in the accompanying live concerts its all high turned up collars, rolled up sleeves and those ridiculous long coats that passed for high fashion at the time. And yet unlike much of the music of that period it does transcend the decades and is a five star product. Everyone of course remembers "Sledgehammer" and its ubiquitous music video not least Gabriel' s "plastic" face distortions and two oven-ready chickens, headless and featherless, dancing along to the synthesized flute solo in the middle of the song. It was one of the most played videos on MTV of all time and the song remains a pop classic. Equally the cynicism of "Big Time" with its allusions to the eighties greed and corporations perfectly captured a cultural mood of avarice not least the great verse "my parties all have big names/and I greet them with the widest smile/tell them how my life is one big adventure/and always they're amazed". Opener "Red Rain" is packed full of drama and a brilliant husky Gabriel vocal which has made it such a staple of his live shows. While you can still see John Cusack holding that huge beat box above his head in the Cameron Crowe film "Say Anything" outside of Iona Skye's bedroom and blaring out the stirring "In your eyes". It was completely soppy but very endearing all the same. There is not much more to say about the duet with Kate Bush "Dont give up" which now seems to soundtrack every heroes video although with the passage of time it is the slightly less popular songs on the album like the superb "Mercy Street" possibly his finest moment and wonderfully quirky "This is the picture" with Laurie Anderson which probably stand up best for a new audience. Add to that the supporting cast list of premier musicians including bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, and drummer Manu Katche, an A-list of collaborators Kate Bush, Nile Rodgers, Stewart Copeland, Youssou N'Dour, Laurie Anderson and others. In addition "So" sees the some of the early work of rocks greatest and most innovative producers Daniel Lanois who later added the mixing desk gold dust to artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris and the Neville Brothers. As for the sound its an album that because of its great production values sounded pristine, crisp and well ahead of its time in 1986. Today it sounds even better. But, and its a very large BUT, this is now the fourth remaster of "So" that this reviewer is aware of and do you really want to fork out more money if you already have a previous iteration? Indeed Gabriel's engineer Richard Chappell admits on his website that "In planning the 25th anniversary release of `So' Peter was very keen to go back to original sonic `vision' for the album".....(the) 2012 version is as true to the original as possible, but with the use of improved technology of today's converters, it is a genuinely superior sound". Who are we as mere non studio mortals to question this yet one would hope that "So" which has been subject to so much tinkering over the years is now the finished product?
The 3 discs set out here are good value for money in download terms including an unreleased live album taken from a 1997 stadium performance in Athens, Greece, at the conclusion of the "So" tour. If you don't own a live Gabriel set its all fine and dandy, but if you already own 1994's glorious double concert album "Secret World Live" then what you get are different takes on songs such as "Solsbury Hill", "Dont give up" etc". Again nothing wrong with this but aren't there some hidden gems unreleased in the "So" vaults to be unearthed, some re-mixes to be constructed or alternate takes hanging around on dusty tapes which can highlight the evolution of these great songs? In the last analysis with this 25th anniversary edition of "So" we can but hope that Gabriel has finally reached a conclusion in the endless reinventing of his back catalogue which has tended to dominate his recording output over recent years. Frankly it would be very nice to hear some new material. Let us remember that his last album was 2011's "New Blood" which gave some of the songs on "So" a lush and stirring orchestral re-rub which was followed by a live version of many of the same songs in this years "Live Blood". Prior to that was "Scratch my back" an album of cover versions. Peter Gabriel is one of the most intriguing and heavyweight British musicians of the past decades but he needs to turn his gaze firmly to the future and re-examine the meaning of the word "original". If you don't own "So" then get this since its essential, the concert alternatively is a luxury.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Oct 2012 22:39:43 BDT
The Wolf says:
It has a big place in my heart too RoB.
An elegant and informative review.
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2012 19:55:33 BDT
Paul M says:
Rather than this reissue I'd love one of the fantastic 1980 tour shows [ the 1984 tour!], where Gabriel 3 had not been released, meaning the live material was raw and very interesting [ playing Milgrams 37, and I Go Swimming, as I recall].
Great review, and spot on.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Oct 2012 13:09:47 BDT
S. Baxendale says:
There are only two re-masters of 'So' - the 2002 re-master and this new 2012 master. Not sure where the reviewer is getting 4 from...
In reply to an earlier post on 29 Oct 2012 09:14:12 GMT
Mike the Fish says:
It was also released on SACD and there was also a reissue a couple of years or so back (don't know if that was a remaster or straight reissue.)
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