Saturday, September 26, 2015

Peter Gabriel — So


   Probably the most interesting feature of popular music is its force of inspiration. In history of music most creative personalities and ideas came out of popular genres, from folk music or various kinds of utility music, from wedding dances to mourn songs. In times of mass culture, when unified product is as much indistinct as universal, it’s getting harder to find popular music which is still able to conduct valuable ideas and artistic qualities. While in seventies many ambitious performers were so much popular as they were just the voice of people, in eighties most popular were those who expressed nothing beyond politics of big record companies. However, from this rule, as always, there were some exceptions. And between these rare artists who were developing independently one of most creative was Peter Gabriel, singer, composer, songwriter and charismatic stage performer.
   For almost 20 years Peter Gabriel was successful progressive rock composer and singer. He was one of founders of Genesis, the band he was member from 1967 to 1975. In 1977 he started solo career with series of eponymously titled albums. These recordings made him recognized artist in early eighties. After four albums called by fans accordingly to sleeve design “Car”, “Scratch”, “Melt” and “Security”, in 1986 Gabriel published album titled So, which was his first non-eponymous but still called with anti-title. This record became great success giving artist fame and triple platinum in GB and five platinum certificates in US. Album win place in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 1986 and 1987 there were five singles released. First single Sledgehammer reached top position on Billboard Hot 100 and its characteristic video won ten MTV Video Music Awards. In next decade it was still in everyday program of MTV and other musical TV stations. 

Peter Gabriel — So (1986)

   As many earlier Gabriel’s albums So was recorded in artist’s home studio at Ashcombe House. It’s understand important role in creative process played studio equipment, two 24 track analog Studer A80 recorders and Neumann U47 microphones for vocal recording. The band was recording on one machine listening to demo version prerecorded by Gabriel on second one. Peter Gabriel was playing legendary Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 analogue synthesizer, groundbreaking Fairlight CMI and even its competition New England Digital Synclavier was used in last track of second side. And otherwise than in eighties pop music these state of the art electronic instruments were just addition to great set of instruments. Among studio performers were Tony Levin, Bill Laswell and Larry Klein on basses, David Rhodes, Daniel Lanois and Nile Rodgers on guitars, L. Shankar on violin, Wayne Jackson on trumpet, trombonist Don Mikkelsen, saxophonist Mark Rivera and additional keyboardists Richard Tee and Simon Clark. Dominant instrumental group were percussionists: Jerry Marotta, Manu Katché, Stewart Copeland, Djalma Correa and Jimmy Bralower.
   The instrumental parts in this perfectly composed and recorded music are appropriate frame for vocal production. Gabriel recorded all lead vocals and some backing vocals. He invited whole bunch of great singers. Kate Bush was featured in Don’t Give Up and in This is the Picture featured artist was Laurie Anderson, who is also co-author of this song. Many vocals created space in song In Your Eyes where one can hear voice Youssou N'Dour and backing vocals by David Rhodes, Michael Been, Jim Kerr and Ronnie Bright. Different backing vocals of P. P. Arnold, Coral Gordon and Dee Lewis were recorded in Sledgehammer and Big Time. The effect is astonishing collection of songs based on strong rhythmic and melodic factor. One of most recognized progressive rock musicians created album fitting to popular music expectations. The recording sessions lasted for almost a year from February to December of 1985. Officially album was released May 19, 1996. Three decades passed from this moment had changed many elements of music market. Album So remained Gabriel’s greatest achievement while it’s most popular of his albums. As this release had changed standards of popular music, the only grade can be complete set of five stars. 

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