Thursday, May 19, 2011


Peter Gabriel hit the big time with this confident, catchy, mature, and moody multi-layered masterwork utilizing "creation as therapy" and recorded in a barn on his estate in Bath. 'So' was born out of a family crisis that resulted from his obsessive working habits. He took several trips to Senegal and Brazil and immersed himself in joyous polyrhythmic world music that fueled his recovery. "I always thing that the rhythm is the spine of the music and if you change the shape of the spine then the body that forms around it also changes."

"When I completed the 'Birdy' soundtrack, I wanted my focus to shift to songs rather than to remain on rhythm and texture." He had worked with producer Daniel Lanois on that project and invited him to his Ashcombe House estate to work on these new sessions. "About halfway through the album we started to realize that some of the songs would get through." Although the album was a huge commercial success, it is first and foremost a deep and often challenging artistic statement of the healing power of creativity. "I think as a listener that you know when someone's going for your heart and when they're going for your pocket; there's a different feeling that comes across in the music."

Stewart Copeland's pitter-pattering high-hat starts off 'Red Rain' which was inspired by a recurring dream Gabriel had of swimming in a sea of red water. "If feelings of pain do not get brought out, not only do they fester and grow stronger but they manifest themselves in the external world."

"Putting the pressure on much harder now
To return again and again
Just let the red rain splash you
Let the rain fall on your skin
I come to you defences down
With the trust of a child "

The sleek and soulful innuendo of 'Sledgehammer' was the first single and gave him his biggest hit.  The song features a synthesized shakuhachi flute and brass section from the Stax house band The Memphis Horns.  

'Don't Give Up' is a stirring duet with Kate Bush in which she tries to bring Peter back from the edge of despair. It was a top ten hit in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. Two different videos were made for the song.

"Got to walk out of here
I can't take anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below
Whatever may come
And whatever may go
That river's flowing"

Gabriel reached out from the inside and seized his pop culture moment with 'In Your Eyes' . He wrote this transcendent love song about his love affair with Rosanna Arquette. The version recorded for 'So' featured an African-influenced rhythm and vocals by Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, plus backing vocals from Michael Been, Jim Kerr, Ronnie Bright, and Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

"There in the midst of it so alive and alone

'Big Time' parodies the ambition, materialism, and endless growth of the eighties. It was a top ten hit in the US. Tony Levin did the fingerings on his fretless bass while Jerry Marotta hit the strings with drumsticks. This inspired Levin to invent Funk Fingers, little drumstick ends that attach to the fingers to bring about this percussive sound. Stewart Copeland played drums for this track.

"I'm on my way, I'm making it
I've got to make it show, yeah
So much larger than life
I'm going to watch it growing"

'This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)' is a collaboration with Laurie Anderson. It is a new arrangement of a song that originally appeared on her album 'Mister Heartbreak'.

"I'm sitting by the window
Watching the snow fall
I'm looking out
And I'm moving, turning in time
Catching up. moving in
Jump up! I can land on my feet.
Look out!"

full album:

All songs written by Peter Gabriel, except where indicated.

Side one
1. "Red Rain" 5:39
2. "Sledgehammer" 5:12
3. "Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush) 6:33
4. "That Voice Again"  Gabriel, David Rhodes  4:53
Side two
1. "In Your Eyes" 5:27
2. "Mercy Street" 6:22
3. "Big Time" 4:28
4. "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" 3:22
5. "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (featuring Laurie Anderson)
Laurie Anderson Gabriel  4:25

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