Rocks In The Attic #117: Peter Gabriel – ‘So’ (1986)

Rocks In The Attic #117: Peter Gabriel - ‘So’ (1986)I really should listen to more Peter Gabriel. His voice is awesome, but for some reason, even though I have a fair bit of early Genesis on vinyl – plus their entire back catalogue on my iPod – their brand of Englishness doesn’t connect with me as much as, say, Pink Floyd.

I saw a foreign pressing of this record the other week in the sales racks at Real Groovy. A Russian version, with all writing – bizarrely even Peter Gabriel’s name I think – in Russian. There wasn’t anything on the record in English, and nothing that would lead a non-Russian speaker that it was a record by Peter Gabriel – unless you recognised his photo on the cover (designed by Factory Records’ Peter Saville). I should have bought it simply for its curiosity value, but left it there. I’ll have to manage with my normal English version.

Sledgehammer is a song that reminds me of my youth, and of family holidays. My Dad loves the track, and I think most people loved it at the time because of its groundbreaking video. I haven’t seen that in a few years, but the song is a classic – a little bit funky, a little bit menacing, and a choice of arrangement and orchestration that on paper doesn’t sound too great, but completely fits when it blasts out of the speakers.

The album is co-produced (alongside Gabriel) by Daniel Lanois – better known for his work with Brian Eno amongst a whole raft of other notable production credits. It’s probably because of this that the album doesn’t sound as dated as it should. It’s slightly more experimental and cutting edge than most ‘rock’ albums of the mid-80s, and even though the record is peppered with synthesisers it doesn’t make the same kind of mistakes that cheeseballs like Paul McCartney were making with synths around the same time.

There’s a whole list of guest appearances on So – the most famous being the duet with Kate Bush, but also showing up are The Police’s Stewart Copeland, PP Arnold, Wayne Jackson from Stax Records’ Memphis Horns, Youssou N’dour, Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr, and Larry Klein (better known as the producer and former husband of Joni Mitchell).

Hit: Sledgehammer

Hidden Gem: Big Time

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