Peter Gabriel - So (1986)


So is the fifth studio and seventh album overall released by British rock musician Peter Gabriel, released in 1986. Many of its songs reflect a more conventional pop-writing style which became radio hits. Others still retained Gabriel's dark, brooding sense of experimentalism and are held as classics by his more eclectic fans.

This is Peter Gabriel’s second album produced by Canadian artist Daniel Lanois. The previous year, the two of them had worked together on Birdy. Lanois had been previously known for his ambient collaborations with Brian Eno as well as producing U2 since 1984. As he had with the soundtrack to the film Birdy, Lanois brought many of his own ambient sensibilities to this recording.

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So is the fifth studio and seventh album overall released by British rock musician Peter Gabriel, released in 1986. Many of its songs reflect a more conventional pop-writing style which became radio hits. Others still retained Gabriel's dark, brooding sense of experimentalism and are held as classics by his more eclectic fans.

This is Peter Gabriel’s second album produced by Canadian artist Daniel Lanois. The previous year, the two of them had worked together on Birdy. Lanois had been previously known for his ambient collaborations with Brian Eno as well as producing U2 since 1984. As he had with the soundtrack to the film Birdy, Lanois brought many of his own ambient sensibilities to this recording.

Songs

The album begins with an emotionally charged piece titled "Red Rain." Its lyrics vividly depict dream imagery that reflect a sense of vulnerability.

The second track is Peter Gabriel's most popular single, "Sledgehammer." "Sledgehammer" is an upbeat piece with strong Motown influences, and a world music touch from its famous use of the shakuhachi flute. An eccentric video was made for this song which won MTV's 1987 Top Music Video Awards. This video features stop motion animation by the Aardman Animations company who later created the famous Wallace and Gromit series. The video ends with a shadowy dancing figure covered with lights. While performing "Sledgehammer" in his 2002 tour, Peter Gabriel recreated this image by wearing a jacket covered with LED lights.

Tracks 3-6 cover more serious emotional content. These tracks are a duet with Kate Bush titled "Don't Give Up," "That Voice Again," "In Your Eyes" and a piece about the poet Anne Sexton titled "Mercy Street," whose song title is taken from the name of her play 45 Mercy Street (1969)

Track 7 is the album's last upbeat pop piece, "Big Time". This song is a wicked sendup of the narcissism of the 1980's. It was also accompanied by a video in the vein of Sledgehammer, although to less popularity.

Then comes the album's darkest and most experimental track titled "We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)." The title refers to the 37 out of 40 compliant subjects of Milgram Experiment 18.

The album ends with a pictorial and meditative piece titled "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)." This song features vocals with Laurie Anderson, who co-wrote the piece. This track is not included on the original vinyl release of the album, but was added to the audio cassette edition and later CD reissue. Anderson had previously recorded her version of the song entitled "Excellent Birds" for her 1984 album, Mister Heartbreak, which also featured vocals by Gabriel.
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Notes

When the album was remastered, with most of Gabriel's catalog, in 2002, the song "In Your Eyes" was moved from the 5th song to the 9th song. This was what Peter Gabriel originally intended. Oddly, the credits in the booklet were not changed to show the change in order (so, Youssou N'dour, instead of being credited with back up vocals to "In Your Eyes" is given credit for back up vocals on "Mercy Street").

In 1998 Q magazine readers voted So the 81st greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 282 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 91.
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Track listing

All songs written by Peter Gabriel except as indicated.

1. "Red Rain" – 5:39
2. "Sledgehammer" – 5:12
3. "Don't Give Up" (with Kate Bush) – 6:33
4. "That Voice Again" (Gabriel, David Rhodes) – 4:53
5. "In Your Eyes" – 5:27
6. "Mercy Street" – 6:22
7. "Big Time" – 4:28
8. "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" – 3:22
9. "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" (Laurie Anderson, Gabriel) – 4:251

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