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In spite of sharing the same title, Gabriel's sophomore release is quite a deviation from his debut (he wanted his albums to be like magazine issues, and not have different titles).

This album doesn't quite have the flashy high-flying Broadway ambitions of the previous album - this is more of a poppy and rocking affair - however, I'd say that as a whole it fares slightly better than the previous one.

That said, there isn't a song here that quite matches the awesome radio-friendly glory of “Solsbury Hill”. Thus, if you judge albums based on the presence of radio hits, then Peter Gabriel [2] might be considered his worst ... neither of Gabriel's greatest hits collections (Shaking the Tree and Hit) has even one representative from this album, which kind of does his discography a disservice, as there are a fair number of wonderful songs here.

My vote for inclusion on a greatest hits package would be the beautiful piano ballad “Mother of Violence”. Sure, it wasn't a hit, but it's just as good - if I were in charge of issuing Gabriel's compilations, I think it would have been worth bending the rules for that one. Whilst I don't think many people single out that song as their favorite, I do have a soft spot for a well-written piano ballad. Especially that one, since I've never quite heard anything like it before.

“On the Air” - the flashy album opener, and probably the most commonly selected highlight of this album (for good reason, because it rules!) - has heavy electric guitar grooves and excited drumming as an excellent backdrop to Gabriel's dramatic and passionate singing. Additionally, the synthesizer textures are tight and nicely hypnotizing. Please excuse me though if I don't get too excited over Gabriel's synth textures throughout the rest of the album, because I happen to know he would improve upon them greatly later in his career.

There again, Gabriel's subsequent albums don't quite rock like this one, so - given the relative simplicity of these songs - I wouldn't be surprised if there were people who would consider Peter Gabriel [2] to be one of their personal favorites of his. Not me, but I'm sure there's someone ...

On the rocking note, “D.I.Y.” has a catchy vocal hook, toe-tapping drumming, and a pulsating synth-bass. And - for my money - “White Shadow” is one of the album's highlights, with its lovely laid-back textures, and a synthesizer that delivers some vaguely Middle Eastern tones (Gabriel budding at his serious 'World' music ambitions perhaps!) - it's a treasure from beginning to end.

Unfortunately, the latter half of the album isn't quite as good as the first, but I wouldn't consider any of the songs poorly written ... “Perspective” is an upbeat rock'n'roll song with a catchy riff and some enjoyable saxophone, though unfortunately it fails to make any extreme impression on me. And the medieval flute introduction to “Flotsam and Jetsam” sounds like Gabriel hadn't entirely left Genesis mode - not a bad thing, except the song never catches fire. Thus, it seems like he's treading water.

Whilst there are enough excellent songs here to make the album a worthwhile purchase for both Gabriel fans and more general fans of 70's pop/rock, all I really do when I sit through it is anticipate all the great things he would do later on in his career. So I can't help considering these early Gabriel albums as mere warm-ups.

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

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Posted: Sunday 12th May 2019 9:17 PM

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album review
As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the greatest albums ever written. I mean, if you went to the record store and selected an album at random, there's a 99.9% chance that it'll be worse than this one.

Now that's a pretty big statement about an artist whose previous work I'd made somewhat lukewarm comments about. Obviously, something happened to Peter Gabriel to make him go from a mostly good pop/rock musician to a GREAT pop/rock musician! Could it have been his muse, that eagle on Solsbury Hill?

At any rate, it seems Gabriel decided to up the ante with his music. Instead of writing nice pop/rock songs or showtunes, he decided to immerse himself fully in the latest studio technology, where he could experiment with instrumentation, sound effects, and atmosphere. And he usually put it all to a danceable beat (I guess because he wanted an audience).

The atmospheres and moods are quite effective - I don't believe I've ever heard a darker and more paranoid pop album than this one. As a matter of fact, this is done so well that - if I were to criticize this album for one thing - it would be that the mood doesn't change at any point at all.

But that complaint is evidently an insignificant one, as this is one of the most frequently played albums I have in my collection. It's easily in my Top 10 of most-played albums. I don't even have to think hard about that - I probably listen to it at least once every month or so.

In short, this album is awesome from beginning to end. The beginning consists of the evil and menacing “Intruder”, in which Gabriel convincingly play-acts the role of a seedy cat burglar. His creepy growl-whispering of the lyrics is effective enough, but without his diction, they send shivers up the spine, making the track without doubt Gabriel's finest play-acting performance since The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, perhaps even of his entire career. The instrumentation itself is also brilliant in creating a paranoid mood - the very, very loud and clean drums seem a bit like an overactive heart-beat. And the synthesizers playing a catchy riff are creepy as hell. Freaking fantastic!

The album ends with “Biko”, a much-loved protest song about South Africa. And how do I know it's much-loved? Because Joan Baez covered it. Anything she covers is much-loved.

That track also marks the first occasion that Gabriel took up with 'World' music, which became an ongoing aspect of his career. The melody sounds something like an African folk song, with some wonderful bagpipes playing in the background (what do bagpipes have to do with South Africa? Who cares? They sound cool!). And thanks to knowledge I gained during the 2010 World Cup, I do believe I can hear some vuvuzela blaring faintly in the background of the track. At over 7 minutes, it's a bit long, but it's hypnotizing.

Really, there's so much going on with this album that I'd never be able to write down everything about it. Though I will have to mention at some point what's perhaps the second best thing about it ... it served as an inspiration for Kate Bush. I ask you: how could Never for Ever or The Dreaming have even existed without this album?

I know it was directly inspirational for Bush, because she sings background vocals on two of the songs ... faintly heard in the driving and danceable “I Don't Remember”, and more prominently throughout “Games Without Frontiers”. That also happens to be my favorite song on the album, because the melody is so memorable. I mean, that melody engrained itself in my brain the first time I heard it. I also love the playful whistling throughout, which always makes me think of an evil Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

I don't feel like I've even scratched the surface of this album, but hopefully you get the idea. If you only buy one Peter Gabriel album, then definitely make it this one.

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

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Posted: Friday 17th May 2019 4:37 PM

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