Peter Gabriel [1]

Peter Gabriel

Geffen, 1977

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The title of the first leg of Peter Gabriel’s first solo tour says it all: “Expect The Unexpected.”

After leaving the confines of the prog rock outfit known as Genesis in the mid-‘70s, lead singer Peter Gabriel was given free rein in crafting what would be the first in a series of stunning eponymous albums. Only the cover artwork would give the releases the subtitles that they go by today, namely “Car,” “Scratch,” “Melt” and “Security.” For his debut, Gabriel made sure he was photographed in the driver’s seat. This made producer Bob Ezrin’s job easy. All he had to do was put the passenger’s seat down and let Peter Gabriel do his thing.

Still considered a part of the progressive rock genre, Car was also an early example of alternative rock. For the uninitiated ear, this was heady stuff indeed. One look at the video for the muted rock single “Modern Love” was an indicator of freakier things still to come from Gabriel. Remember 1982’s “Shock The Monkey?” MTV certainly knew a cutting edge artist when it saw one. As the budgets for music videos grew, so did Gabriel’s creative visions. He’d even reach the #1 pinnacle here in the States with 1986’s “Sledgehammer,” owed in great part to the masterful and unforgettable Claymation special effects clip.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Despite such successes throughout his career, Peter Gabriel has never really been considered a mainstream artist. Too arty. Too British. Too “what the hell was that?” It wasn’t for lack of trying. Eventually his album output would be completely overshadowed by his video work, as if he was expected to top himself with every video he made. Once MTV stopped airing music videos in favor of reality shows, however, Peter Gabriel’s career completely stalled. This was no mere coincidence. It was a monster he helped to create, after all.

Now hardcore fans will point to Gabriel’s early records and implore us to really listen to the groundbreaking music itself. Screw the videos and forget MTV. MTV forgot about you a long time ago. This 1977 debut was where it all started and should be your first stop when investigating an artist who had the potential to blow people’s minds with his out-of-the-box creativity and daring. You’ll immediately recognize the radio staple “Solsbury Hill,” which is something of a gentlemanly kiss-off to his former bandmates: “Today I don’t need a replacement / You can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home.” I especially love the line, “I walked right out of the machinery.” That you did, Peter. You broke the mold.

There’s Gabriel’s sly, knowing smile all over the creepy, quivering and theatrical opening cut “Moribund The Burgermeister,” while he all but winks at us on the farcical and fanciful “Excuse Me.” Bet you never thought you’d hear a ragtime number on a rock album, am I right? Something tells me Peter Gabriel has seen his share of Monty Python movies. Don’t worry, things get back to this side of normal on the Latin-flavored “Humdrum” and the elevated torch song that is “Waiting For The Big One.” This cat not only has range, he has mad skills, son!

Unfortunately, the manic rock numbers “Modern Love,” “Slowburn” and “Down The Dolce Vita” are too clunky to really work. Something tells me that Ezrin advised Gabriel to include something more straightforward, but Peter Gabriel doesn’t do straightforward. That’s why his sophomore release Scratch failed. Whenever you’re forced to sacrifice your “eccentric” tendencies to please the record company, you’re not being true to yourself. Gabriel learned this lesson in a hurry. From then on, it would be all PETER GABRIEL or nothing at all. Fans would rejoice, critics would sit up and take notice and the sales receipts would keep the label execs happy. “Here Comes The Flood,” indeed. It only proves one thing: You can’t keep a good artist down…nor should you even try.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen, and is used for informational purposes only.