So by Peter Gabriel

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So by Peter Gabriel
So by Peter Gabriel

Album Released: 1986

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Cole Reviews  6th Apr 2017
Although Gabriel goes for a more 'mainstream' sound, he still comes up with some excellent material on So, apart that is from the sappy "Don't Give Up", and a rather pointless little bit at the end called "We Do What We're Told".

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1.Red Rain5:38
3.Don't Give Up6:32
4.That Voice Again4:53
5.In Your Eyes5:29
6.Mercy Street6:20
7.Big Time4:29
8.We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)3:21


This is the kind of album that critics love, the kind of album that fans love. And just as much, it's the kind of album I hate. Ok, I don't hate the album per se, but I hate what it stands for.

You see how Gabriel's previous album dabbled with 'World Music', how it was all experimental and cold, right? Well here, he went the opposite way - he commercialised World Music - but I don't think just to make a lot of money. I'm firmly of the opinion that Gabriel just wanted to be 'relevant' in some way, so he found a brand new area to explore ... World Music.

My gripe is that I hate the commercial representation of 'World Music'. It's stupid, because it simply packs all those exotic rhythms from Africa and whereabouts into nice packages, so that artists can feed it into their music-making machines and create 'different' music. Peter Gabriel isn't trying to explore Africa and Latin America in search of new sounds ... no, he just creates a lot of lazy songs over funky electronic rhythms so that critics can rave about how exotic and genius it sounds. Coming from Brazil, this is really a punch in my face. The album is of course brilliantly produced by Daniel Lanois (no less), but I hardly care about that.

So no, I don't like most of these songs. I believe many people love the album because they're so catchy and uplifting and all, and maybe I'm just being overly critical, but most of these songs aren't catchy to me at all. I guess though I can make an exception for the first big hit from the album, "Sledgehammer", a catchy single that everyone will label as 'intelligent' because of the funky brass and woodwind sounds. And yes, it's infectious in a way, but the other big hit, "Big Time", just passes me by completely. Sure, the lyrics are clever and funny on first listen, but what else is there other than a fast 'dancey' rhythm, unmelodic vocals, and a dumb predictable chorus? Nothing really.

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by Reviewer: Fernando Canto (blogging at Sir Mustapha's Album Reviews [Defunct])

After slogging for years as underground cult heroes, the disparate threads of Genesis had become major commercial forces by the mid-1980's - the Phil Collins-led version of the group, Collins' solo career, and Mike Rutherford's side-project Mike and The Mechanics all enjoyed a high public profile, often with music that was banal compared to what Genesis created during their prime.

Peter Gabriel followed his former bandmates to success with 1986's So, his most popular and commercially-oriented album. Signs of his new direction include an actual album title, extravagant music videos ("Sledgehammer"), and a smouldering portrait shot on the front sleeve.

Less superficially, these songs are simpler and more direct than before. While purists may've been unimpressed by material like the straightahead love song "In Your Eyes", or the faux-Motown groove of "Sledgehammer", the new direction as a whole isn't a problem, and those two songs demonstrate Gabriel's ability to write effective pop songs, even if the record is somewhat incoherent, with a marked contrast between the uptempo singles and moodier album tracks.

More telling, this record's Achilles Heel is "Don't Give Up", a sappy overwrought duet with Kate Bush that's indisputably the worst piece of product either have been involved with. The song actually has its share of good ideas, especially the pretty Gospel bridge, but its sabotaged by a horrendously treacly chorus.

Fortunately, the other singles are pretty much excellent. Opener "Red Rain" strikes a nice balance between artiness and accessibility; "Sledgehammer" is kind of awkward white funk, but still memorable; "Big Time" is an interesting commentary on 1980's values; and "In Your Eyes" is poignant and melodic. And even if a couple of the album tracks are relatively forgettable, "Mercy Street" is beautiful, and "That Voice Again" is driving and urgent.

For better or worse, this is the Gabriel album that the general public are most acquainted with - while he's made stronger records, there's plenty of substance here, and it's more thoughtful and respectable than the product his former Genesis bandmates were selling by the barrowload during the same year.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])

So is my favorite Peter Gabriel album ... I mean, holy hell, it's loaded with hits:

Big hits at that - "Sledgehammer", "In Your Eyes", "Big Time" - and it's got that nostalgic (for me) production style that I remember from my childhood radio listening: big gated drums, layers of synths, and gratuitous bass sounds - totally 80's.

I love the album's melodrama, the cheesiness. But, is it cheesy really? I mean, it's dated, but there's also a sense of Gabriel delivering most of it with a sly wink, as if he knows some of it is a bit over-the-top. And seeing as Side Two dives right back into the artsiness of his earlier works, it seems Gabriel knew exactly what he was doing.

by Reviewer: Austin

Peter Gabriel's most successful album, helped by also being his most accessible one, was driven by a few famous singles, which have always kind of obscured the treasures found among them of which less people are likely to be aware.

I've long struggled with "Sledgehammer", as well as its stable mate, the satirical "Big Time", seeing them both as a bit silly (the former's video, albeit innovative, has never helped my view either), and even annoying in a way. And yet, when I sit down and listen to them in the context of So, I can appreciate their sense of fun, and, in particular, the concluding section of "Sledgehammer" just gets me grooving as it pounds and drives along.

The duet with Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up", is a different animal altogether, and is an example of Gabriel's almost breathtaking touch with melody which is found several times on the record - at least during the verses, as well as the bridge. The chorus, sung just by Bush, seems almost like a bit of an afterthought, which is why I see the track as decent rather than as moving as it could have been.

It's with four of the lesser known songs that this album really shines. The opening "Red Rain", which has Gabriel's voice at its most soulful (let's face it, his cries in "Sledgehammer" are a bit painful), immediately demonstrates his beautiful melodious hand, while the more upbeat "That Voice Again" has a lovely, harmonic chorus. The engaging "In Your Eyes" is similar, is not quite as captivating, but it's with the dreamlike "Mercy Street" that Mister Gabriel really strikes gold. This enchanting piece is rich in ethereal mood, vocal beauty, and deft instrumental touches, resulting in a song that is almost worth the price of admission alone.

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by Reviewer: The Doctor