ALBUM REVIEWS

PETER GABRIEL 

To Hear Audio Snippets Or To Purchase The Albums Reviewed Below, Simply Click On The Album Cover.
For A Complete List of Titles Available For Sale, Go To The Shopping Section By Clicking Here.

ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!

 

Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (I)

WOG RATING: ****

Peter Gabriel has always been a bit of a musical chameleon, drawing from various influences and/or cultures and somehow developing a sound that is clearly his own. While his solo debut is the album that, at moments, most closely mirrors his past history with Genesis,  it is also an innovative and distinctive body of work. Although often overlooked, it is here that we first see Gabriel blossom outside of the confines of his former band. The diverse set features experimental numbers like "Moribund The Burgermeister" and "Excuse Me" amongst finely honed pop songs like "Solsbury Hill"; "Modern Love," an underrated, upbeat rocker; and the incredibly powerful, "Here Comes The Flood." The project was far more diverse than anything Gabriel had ever done with Genesis, and made a fantastic first offering as a songwriter. While the album's commercial success was limited to the song "Solsbury Hill," the album serves as a pivotal step in his evolvement as a solo artist.

 

Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (II)

WOG RATING: ***

Peter Gabriel's second effort shows off his continuing progress in creating captivating pop tunes with wit and integrity. By this time, Gabriel was clearly well on his way to developing his own unique style, and any past traces of Genesis' influence were starting to become almost non-existent with few exceptions.  Stand-outs like "On The Air", "DIY", and "Animal Magic" showcase Gabriel's ability to produce material that could appeal to the mainstream, while continuing to push the envelope artistically.  The sophomore album offers a little less in the way of experimentation, but it does include several memorable tracks.  Despite these moments; however, there are a couple of tunes that are less than stellar, to put it mildly.  The album is a study in amazing artistic highs and lows, making it far less cohesive than his first outing.

Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (III)

WOG RATING: *****

To call Peter Gabriel's third self-titled project a landmark album is a huge understatement, not only in terms of his career, but also in terms of modern pop music. Filled with amazing instrumentation and some of his best songwriting to date, Gabriel crafted an album with intensity, passion, and flare. Track after track offers up solid, infectiously catchy songs that consist of unforgettable rhythms and thought provoking lyrics.  From Phil Collins' pounding drums on the ominous "Intruder", to classic Gabriel tunes like "No Self-Control", "I Don't Remember", "Family Snapshot", and "Games Without Frontiers" to "Biko," one of the most inspiring political and social anthems of our time, this project is a true achievement. The album is significant not only for its impact on Gabriel's own career, but its impact on 'alternative' rock as we know it.
 

 

Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (IV - also known as Security)

WOG RATING: ****

Delving deeper into his exploration of unusual rhythms and sounds, Peter Gabriel emerged in 1982 with his fourth, and last, self-titled album (unless you live in North America where the album was called Security). Songs like "Rhythm of The Heat" and "San Jacinto" are a perfect example of Gabriel's avant-garde approach to creating multi-culturally influenced rock music. More so than other solo projects in the past, Gabriel's fourth outing has an incredibly stirring atmospheric quality. In fact, in many instances, it is as if the music completely overpowers the lyrics.  Sonically, the album is equally spectacular, recorded in pure digital sound. The album has more than its share of great music, including: "Lay Your Hands On Me", "I Have The Touch", "Kiss of Life", and, of course, "Shock The Monkey." To me, the album sounds almost like a soundtrack without a film. To get the complete experience, this is truly an album that should be listened to with headphones. Incredible!

 

Peter Gabriel - Plays Live

WOG RATING: ****

The first live album of Gabriel's career provides a fairly predictable collection of live material recorded in North America in 1982 and culled from his first four albums. The only addition being "I Go Swimming," which was also available on the soundtrack to the film Hard To Hold. What is surprising; however, is that the performance manages to maintain the energy from the original concert, something lost on most live albums, including some of Gabriel's second live album, 1994's Secret World Live.
Depending on where you live on the planet and when you bought this album, the track listing for Plays Live is different. The original edition was a double length album; however, a highlights (one disc) version was introduced when the project was issued on CD in Europe for the first time. To make matters more confusing, a European double disc and a U.S. double disc version were also introduced later. In 2002, when the newly remastered editions were issued, the one disc highlights version was the only pressing available, except in Japan where it remains a double disc set with the complete track listing. Confused yet? I am. Why shorten the album? Instead, why not add the rest of the material recorded on the 1982 tour and provide a complete performance for the fans? Regardless, it is a decent album. Sadly, you don't get much in the way of rarely performed live gems in this set.

 

Peter Gabriel - Birdy (Soundtrack)

WOG RATING: **

The Birdy soundtrack represented Gabriel's first attempt at composing a score for a major motion picture. The concept of the album was to take elements of existing Gabriel tunes, and a few new ones, and cultivate them into music that would be suitable for the film. The end result is an interesting blend of instrumental tunes that worked well with the movie. Some of the original sources are revealed by Gabriel, but the remainder of the material's influences are left to the listener's own detection... A very unique and clever concept. All in all, if you are a fan of Peter Gabriel's early works, I think you'll find the project worth while. If you are not a fan of this era of his work, you might find it difficult at times to sit through. Still, several tracks like "The Heat," which is derived from "Rhythm of The Heat" from Gabriel's fourth album (a.k.a. Security), and "Birdy's Flight," which is a loose interpretation of "Not One Of Us" from Gabriel's third solo album, make Birdy worth exploring.

 

Peter Gabriel - So

WOG RATING: *****

So, Peter Gabriel's fifth solo album, may not have been as influential on the future of modern rock music as his third self-titled album, but it clearly 'put him on the map' as a superstar. In what many would say is the most commercial album of Gabriel's career, So showcased influences of rock, rhythm and blues, and various ethnic grooves. This potent combination resulted in a near-flawless pop album filled with material that splits at the seams with humor, maturity, thought-provoking wit, and passion. The landmark effort included a string of successful radio hits, including: "Big Time", "Sledgehammer", "Don't Give Up", and one of Gabriel's signature tunes, "In Your Eyes." In addition, strong album cuts like "Mercy Street", "That Voice Again" and "Red Rain" fortified the release and earned Gabriel numerous accolades. As an album, So stands out as a crowning achievement in Peter Gabriel's career.

 

Peter Gabriel - Passion (Soundtrack to the film The Last Temptation of Christ)

WOG RATING: ****

On Gabriel's second film score, he develops what is, perhaps, his best use of ethnically influenced material. The soundtrack includes music used in the film along side of a few tracks that were done after the movie's completion. Passion features some of the finest singers and soloists in the field of world music, perched upon a backdrop of North African rhythms and sounds.  It's difficult not to be taken back by the album's intoxicating beats and exotic themes, regardless of your level of interest in world music. While I cannot say that I am a huge world music enthusiast myself, I must say that I found Passion captivating. It also speaks volumes to Gabriel's artistic character that he would follow up a massive commercial success like So, with something so uniquely different and clearly uncommercial. While Passion may not be for everyone, I think the soundtrack makes a nice introduction to world music, and a prime example of the abilities of a performer who is limited only by his own interests as a musician.

 

Peter Gabriel - Shaking The Tree: 16 Golden Greats

WOG RATING: ***

Calling 16 Golden Greats a "best of" somehow just doesn't seem appropriate. The album is a one-disc compilation that spans Gabriel's career starting from his debut self-titled album through Passion, but it is far from being a complete representation or even a half-way decent highlights of his early work as a solo artist. Instead, I think of the album as more of an introduction to some of Peter Gabriel's more commercially accessible music, with the possible exception of "Zaar" from the Passion project which is also included.  Nestled among the songs are a few chestnuts for the fans, including an alternate, more stripped down, version of "Here Comes The Flood", the 1985 remix of "I Have The Touch", and the title cut which was originally featured on a Youssou N'Dour album. Missing, however, are early favorites like "DIY" and "On The Air" from the second self-titled album and even Gabriel's signature classic, "In Your Eyes" from the So album. In fact, Peter Gabriel's second album and Birdy are completely overlooked here. Again, the album is a nice introduction for the casual listener, but 16 Golden Greats leaves much to be desired as a retrospective of Gabriel's career. I certainly do not discount the fact that even by this point in his career, creating a one CD highlights that showcases all of the facets of Peter Gabriel's music is no easy task, but in my opinion, this album falls a little short.

 

Peter Gabriel - Us

WOG RATING: *****

Peter Gabriel's sixth studio album as a solo artist is among his finest efforts to date. Us is a conceptual piece about love and relationships with Gabriel's music emoting all of the desperation, love, anxiety, libido, compassion, and remorse felt through life's experiences. Us provided the right mix of all of Gabriel's inspirations. Despite the intelligence of the material and the interwoven influence of world music, somehow Gabriel never comes off as pretentious. The music is easy to relate to and universal in its appeal. The result are songs like "Steam", "Digging In The Dirt", "Come Talk To Me", "Blood of Eden", "Fourteen Black Paintings" and "Secret World" to name just a few of the outstanding cuts. Following-up an album like So, from a musical and commercial perspective, was no easy task, but Gabriel appears to pull it off flawlessly here. Us is yet another outstanding project in the legacy of an artist who continues to prove that innovation can sometimes come from echoes of the past.

 

Peter Gabriel - Secret World Live

WOG RATING: ***

Peter Gabriel's second live album is a mixed bag of predominantly newer material recorded while on tour in support of the Us album. To it's credit, Secret World offers a slightly more diverse set of material than the slimmed down version of his first live recording, Plays Live. In addition to the expected songs, we get a couple of album tracks like "Washing of The Water" and even a few older, less mainstream, tunes like "Slow Marimbas" and "Across The River." Unfortunately, to the detriment of Secret World Live, some of the songs don't work extremely well when transferred to the audio format. For example, the tune "Across The River" was incredible at the concert with the imagery displayed, but when listening to just the audio, the song just sounds long, drawn-out, and frankly, boring. Other tracks sound so touched up in the studio, they barely sound live at all. Over all, I liked the album, but Secret World Live is far more enjoyable with the added impact of video. 

 

Peter Gabriel - Ovo

WOG RATING: ***

Another conceptual piece, Ovo ushered in the opening of the Millennium Dome in England. Unlike other Gabriel projects, he enlisted the vocal assistance of other lead singers including Patrick Buchanan and Elizabeth Fraser for the roles of characters in Gabriel's generationally inspired yarn. As such, Peter Gabriel sings lead vocals on only a few tracks on Ovo, the strongest of which is "Father, Son." Some listeners might not be crazy about the idea of a Peter Gabriel album that appears to be more of a collection of songs performed various artists, but the album has quite a few stand-out tracks, not all of which are sung by Gabriel himself. As an album, it certainly is not Gabriel's strongest work. In fact, a couple of the tracks are among his worst. Over all, aside from four or five tracks, Ovo is a fairly mediocre offering inhibited by the confines of Gabriel's creative epic tale.

 

Peter Gabriel - Long Walk Home (Rabbit Proof Fence Soundtrack)

WOG RATING: **

Similar to the way Peter Gabriel's Passion, the score for the film The Last Temptation of Christ, drew upon middle eastern influences to set the mood of the film, the score for Rabbit Proof Fence feeds on the influence of aboriginal music for this motion picture set in Australia. While Gabriel effectively uses the  native sounds of this culture to intensify the atmosphere of the film, the soundtrack is nowhere near as captivating as Passion. There are a few stand out tracks, but for the most part, Long Walk Home does not easily grow on the listener. In fact, despite several listens, it has never really grown on me. Perhaps more clearly stressing my point, after listening to Passion, I contemplated exploring other world artists. After getting about two-thirds of the way through Long Walk Home, I found myself checking to see how much more of this album I needed to listen to before getting through it! If you enjoyed Passion, I believe you'll find this album to be modestly interesting and somewhat enjoyable. On the other hand, if you found Passion hard to get through or dull, you will find this less enthralling, practically instrumental, soundtrack album to be even more painful to endure.  
 

 

Peter Gabriel - Up

WOG RATING: *****

Up, Peter Gabriel's first true solo album in nearly a decade, proves to be worth the wait. While Up is not a very commercially accessible album, it evokes moments of some of Gabriel's more experimental, darker, projects. Tracks like "Darkness" could have easily fit on Peter Gabriel's third self-titled album, stylistically speaking.  Others, like "Sky Blue" and "The Barry Williams Show," reflect the panache of his more modern material as demonstrated by works like So and Us. Interestingly, with the possible exception of "Signal To Noise," the influence of world music, which played a significant role in many of Gabriel's past works, is much more subtle here. What few elements of world music are evident are completely assimilated into Gabriel's unique sound. Fans of Gabriel's catalog will embrace Up, but I suspect people who only find his more commercial projects (like So and Us) appealing may find this disc to be somewhat of a departure. Although not as 'radio-friendly' as other projects, Up has many solid tracks. Among the most memorable are: a new version of "I Grieve" (the original version was featured on The City of Angels soundtrack), "Sky Blue", "Darkness", "Don't Leave" and "My Head Sounds Like That." As one of his earliest promotional pieces stated, "expect the unexpected" from Peter Gabriel. A truer statement has never been spoken.


 

Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back

WOG RATING: ***

I thought the initial concept of the project Gabriel proposed for this release was an interesting one. A literal song swap with Peter Gabriel covering an artist's songs and those artists, in turn, covering his music (the latter which has yet to be released but is said to be aptly titled I'll Scratch Yours). Gabriel chose to cover these tracks with an orchestra (with no guitars or drums), which I also thought was a really different idea. Unfortunately, the end result is somewhat mixed. I particularly enjoyed Gabriel's take on things like Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble", Neil Young's "Philadelphia", Lou Reed's "Power of Your Heart" and and Davie Bowie's "Heroes." My favorite track is still Peter's cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Book of Love" (which was initially released on the Shall We Dance? soundtrack a couple of years prior). In fact, short of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" most of the collection was filled with reasonably faithful orchestral Gabriel-ized renditions that I enjoyed.

Perhaps the greatest disappoint, however, is how monotone the album sounds. If you isolate any of these songs (minus maybe the Radiohead track), they all sound very good as a stand alone song. Combine them all together, and the album just doesn't work as well. In fact, the flow gets a bit humdrum. Scratch My Back has a very somber, mellow quality throughout than never falters from the opening notes to the album's closing moments. It makes this collection seem difficult to listen to in one sitting, which is unfortunate because there are some genuinely good interpretations here. I gained a far greater appreciation for the album when I saw it performed live in New York City in March 2010 (see review here), but that show seemed to have significantly more energy than is transposed onto my aluminum compact disc. When I mix these tracks on my iPod with some more upbeat tunes, these somber tracks gain new life because it adds more diversity in tempo and song flow. It also seems to make these tracks (particularly Regina Spektor's "Apres Moi") far more intense. If you purchase the 2-CD version of this release (which contains a few bonus tracks), you'll find the cover of the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" to be one of only a couple slightly more up-tempo moments on Scratch My Back. In the end, I would recommend checking out the album, but admittedly, I struggle listening to this CD in one sitting unless its mixed with other songs (try playing "Power of Your Heart" into Gabriel's "Digging in the Dirt" from the Us album to see what I mean). Gabriel purists will find his take on these songs fascinating, but the passive fan may find the pace of this album a bit slow, dull, and boring after a few selections in a row. Its a perfect example of how great material isn't great if the flow of the album is stagnant and doesn't work (due to lack of variety mainly).
 



To Return To The Review Index Page Click Here.





World of Genesis.com is a fan site and has no affiliations with Genesis or any artist associated with the band. Website design, content and pictures copyright 2000-2014 David Negrin. All Rights Reserved. All content on this website is either the property of David Negrin, or the original owners, and may not be duplicated, copied, transmitted, or altered without permission. This site is best viewed in 1280x768
(widescreen), using IE 10.0 or better. Genesis band shot used in "Reviews" icon used by permission from P. Kamin.