One of the 1980s albums that has really stood the test of time is Peter Gabriel’s 1986 success, “So”. Rated #297 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, this record stands out for its diverse and innovative songwriting, along with the distinctive production touched from Daniel Lanois. I’m beginning to recognize his sound more and more, and I don’t think this will be the last we hear from him as a producer.
The version I listened to was the 2012 remaster, and I believe the song order for this album was slightly modified, so if a serious Peter Gabriel is confused by that, there is the explanation. The album opens with the mystical “Red Rain”, which sets the tone well for the rest of the album. Next comes the mega-hit “Sledgehammer”, and anyone from this era will likely recall the bizarre video that accompanied this song. This was the biggest hit on the album, although there are several other songs here that are more to my liking. It is a catchy and well-written pop tune from an unusual performer like Gabriel.
We recently heard from Kate Bush, and she resurfaces on the duet “Don’t Give Up”, which feels like the perfect ballad-blend of Peter Gabriel’s imagery, Bush’s haunting vocals, and the tribal pulse of Daniel Lanois’ sound lurking in the background. “That Voice Again” and “Mercy Street” are a good contrast of up and down, even if neither song really stands out on the album.
My all-time favorite Peter Gabriel song has always been “Big Time”, along with one other song on this record, but I do really love this track. It has such a great bounce and drive, and although there are very few songs I have ever truly considered motivational, this song definitely pumps me up to do my best and stand out above the crowd.
The last song on the album, and the current front-runner for my favorite song by Gabriel, couldn’t be any more different than “Big Time”. “In Your Eyes” has to be one of the greatest love songs I have ever heard, and it is a beautiful testament to the enduring passion of a life that is complicated by distance, pain, suffering and heartache. I’m grateful that at the end of this day and every day, I know I’m complete in someone else’s eyes, and whatever shortfalls or crisis I’m trying to navigate, I know that I am never alone. The blend of African music within this melody just makes the song even more of a classic, and as I noted in the beginning, this song and this entire record is just as relevant and current as if it was released last week. I needed this album and these songs today…