Sunday, December 18, 2011

SO - Peter Gabriel

YEAR: 1986

LABEL: Geffen

TRACK LISTING: Red Rain, Sledgehammer, Don't Give Up, That Voice Again, In Your Eyes, Mercy Street, Big Time, We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37), This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)

IMPRESSIONS: Here is another album I associate strongly with college as it is one I listened to constantly on my long commute to and from Glassboro State College. It is also an album which marks the exact moment of the end of the chapter of my life at Rustler which closed in May 1986. I remember the first time I listened to the album was during my morning drive to college and I hadn't even looked at the album notes. When "Don't Give Up" came on and I suddenly heard a voice that sounded like my idol Kate Bush I nearly drove off the road in surprise! The songs "Mercy Street" and "Red Rain" also hit a very strong chord with me; I don't really know why. I recall one summer night while I was waiting to go out, I strolled around my yard in the dark with "Mercy Street" playing on my headphones in my cassette Sony Walkman. It's a very peaceful and soothing song which is almost hypnotic and it stills affects me that way.

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Red Rain, Sledgehammer, Don't Give Up, That Voice Again, In Your Eyes, Mercy Street, This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)

GUEST ARTISTS: Stewart Copeland (hi-hat on "Red Rain", drums on "Big Time"), Kate Bush (vocals on "Don't Give Up"), Youssou N'Dour (vocals on "In Your Eyes"), Jim Kerr (backing vocals on "In Your Eyes"), Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (backing vocals on "In Your Eyes"), Laurie Anderson (co-writer/vocals on "This Is the Picture [Excellent Birds]), Nile Rodgers (guitar on "This Is the Picture [Excellent Birds])

FACT SHEET: SO is Peter Gabriel's fifth album and his most commercially successful at quintuple platinum status. The album was produced by Daniel Lanois who worked on ambient recordings with Brian Eno as well as producing successful U2 albums. "Red Rain" was inspired by a recurring dream Gabriel had of swimming in red water; the song uses a lot of dream imagery and is a part of the "Story of Mozo": several songs which include the wandering character Mozo. "Red Rain" is one of Gabriel's favourites of his own songs. "Sledgehammer" is Gabriel's most successful single which also won an MTV Video Award for best video. The song features world music and Motown influences as well as use of the shakuhachi. "Don't Give Up" deals with economic hardship with Kate Bush dueting on encouraging and supportive counter-lyrics. "In Your Eyes" became a monster hit in 1989 after it was used in the film "SAY ANYTHING...". "Mercy Street" is dedicated to poet Anne Sexton and takes its title from her 1969 play. SO is the first Peter Gabriel album to have a title. Legend has it that the record label complained that Gabriel had to come up with a name for the album because all his others had none; Gabriel reportedly answered "So." However, Gabriel has said in interviews that the title actually means nothing; he simply liked the shape and form of the two letters. When SO was remastered to cd in 2002, "In Your Eyes" was moved to the final song on the album as Peter Gabriel originally intended; the limitations of vinyl had caused the song to be originally placed as the first song on side two. I will admit that this explanation makes no sense since the length of side two is not altered whether the song appears first or last on side two. I prefer the original track order. SO was awarded a retroactive Penguin Award for 1986 album of the year in 2010.

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