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Peter Gabriel to Celebrate Anniversary of So with Badly Needed Reworking of 1987 Concert Film

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Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel's 1986 project So has long been critically and commercially beloved. The accompanying Martin Scorsese-directed concert film, “Peter Gabriel: POV"? Not so much.

Look for reissues of both in the coming months, as Gabriel puts the finishing touches on a special 25th anniversary edition of the original album and a long-needed reworking of the 1987 performance flick—shot in Athens, but dragged down by a series of off-stage and behind-the-scenes edits. Entertainment Weekly, at the time, praised Gabriel's performance, but rightly excoriated the project's “lame accompanying visuals."

[SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: PETER GABRIEL: We rewind some favorite cuts from Peter Gabriel's solo career, including “Big Time," “Biko," “Shock the Monkey" and “Here Comes the Flood."]

After So became Gabriel's most celebrated album, the ex-Genesis frontman would score the soundtrack for Scorsese's controversial 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ"—a project that was released in edited form as the album Passion. By then, Gabriel had already collected four Grammy nominations for So, including album of the year, song of the year and record of the year for the hit “Sledgehammer." Other standout tracks included “Red Rain," “Don't Give Up" (a duet with Kate Bush), “Mercy Street," “In Your Eyes" and “Big Time."

Here are our recent thoughts on Peter Gabriel. Click through the titles for complete reviews ...

PETER GABRIEL—NEW BLOOD: LIVE IN LONDON (2011): I was fine, mostly, with Peter Gabriel dumping the guitars and drums for his interpretations of other people's work on Scratch My Back. There was considerably less excitement, though, for these looming orchestral interpretations of his own solo works, many of which were initially defined by their rhythmic invention. Many of them were so closely associated with the serpentine grooves and frisky cadences of their original forms, it felt like a middle-aged cop out to accept them in this decelerated string-arranged form—like giving in. So, forgive me if I skipped right to those moments that seemed like a more natural fit for The Concept, as Gabriel explored delicately wrought ballads like “Wallflower," “Biko," “Mercy Street," “Blood of Eden" and, in particular, “San Jacinto"—a shattering meditation on the experience of Native Americans as their culture was ultimately subsumed. It's here, after all, that the promise of this chamber-music adaptation is most fully realized.

PETER GABRIEL—NEW BLOOD (2011): Somewhere out there, music fans cower in fear. The day has come again: Peter Gabriel returns with yet another album of orchestral covers! But fear not. This time he's covering his own songs. Luckily on New Blood the results are far, far more pleasing to long-time fans than his previous effort, 2010's Scratch My Back, which saw Gabriel taking on a number of current and older favorite songs and, as the title would suggest, the artists in question would then submit their own covers of his songs (to be called I'll Scratch Yours.) A noble, even intriguing effort on paper, but the outcome was significantly more, shall we say, dull than most would expect from Peter Gabriel.

PETER GABRIEL—US (1992): A cool blending of Gabriel's 1986 hit So and Passion, his 1989 soundtrack for Martin Scorsese's “The Last Temptation of Christ." But even though that is certainly welcome, Us was no step backward. Save for “Fourteen Black Paintings"—the only song here that touches on Gabriel's penchant for the political—Us finds the former Genesis frontman surveying the wreckage of two past relationships. He comes away with few answers. Throughout, Gabriel's core band is in rare form, and they are the heart of this album. The big news, however, was everybody else: Many tracks include more than a dozen people—certainly a first for such an introverted, even egocentric, dude. (After all, he kept naming his albums Peter Gabriel until an American label slapped a sticker with the word “Security" on one of them.) Even with the crowd, however, Us features interior performances that are implausibly taut—very clearly the work of someone who had taken years to sort things out.

PETER GABRIEL—SO (1986): Working within a sound palette that gives him some room to stretch, Gabriel actually gets within himself—avoiding the kitsch, bare-knuckle sax fills and sometimes too-jaunty pop stuff that had marred earlier efforts at updating the prog-rock framework. Radio-ready offerings like “Sledgehammer" haven't aged as well, but this album's enduring pleasures were always found as “Red Rain" erupts, “Don't Give Up" tearfully overemotes, “In Your Eyes" descends from the heavens, and “That Voice Again" crashes down. Each mines a deep well of musicality, featuring far-off tablas, Youssou N'Dour strolling up and yelping with joy, cumulus synthesizers. Yet everything feels organic: Gabriel once said he picked the album title because he “liked the shape." With a low-key assist from Lanois, his offbeat vision was finally fully realized.


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