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Rock - Released May 19, 1986 | Real World Productions

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Peter Gabriel introduced his fifth studio album, So, with "Sledgehammer," an Otis Redding-inspired soul-pop raver that was easily his catchiest, happiest single to date. Needless to say, it was also his most accessible, and, in that sense it was a good introduction to So, the catchiest, happiest record he ever cut. "Sledgehammer" propelled the record toward blockbuster status, and Gabriel had enough songs with single potential to keep it there. There was "Big Time," another colorful dance number; "Don't Give Up," a moving duet with Kate Bush; "Red Rain," a stately anthem popular on album rock radio; and "In Your Eyes," Gabriel's greatest love song, which achieved genuine classic status after being featured in Cameron Crowe's classic Say Anything. These all illustrated the strengths of the album: Gabriel's increased melodicism and ability to blend African music, jangly pop, and soul into his moody art rock. Apart from these singles, plus the urgent "That Voice Again," the rest of the record is as quiet as the album tracks of Security. The difference is, the singles on that record were part of the overall fabric; here, the singles are the fabric, which can make the album seem top-heavy (a fault of many blockbuster albums, particularly those of the mid-'80s). Even so, those songs are so strong, finding Gabriel in a newfound confidence and accessibility, that it's hard not to be won over by them, even if So doesn't develop the unity of its two predecessors. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 13, 2019 | Real World Productions

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Rock - Released February 25, 1977 | Real World Productions

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Rock - Released May 19, 1986 | Real World Productions

Peter Gabriel introduced his fifth studio album, So, with "Sledgehammer," an Otis Redding-inspired soul-pop raver that was easily his catchiest, happiest single to date. Needless to say, it was also his most accessible, and, in that sense it was a good introduction to So, the catchiest, happiest record he ever cut. "Sledgehammer" propelled the record toward blockbuster status, and Gabriel had enough songs with single potential to keep it there. There was "Big Time," another colorful dance number; "Don't Give Up," a moving duet with Kate Bush; "Red Rain," a stately anthem popular on album rock radio; and "In Your Eyes," Gabriel's greatest love song, which achieved genuine classic status after being featured in Cameron Crowe's classic Say Anything. These all illustrated the strengths of the album: Gabriel's increased melodicism and ability to blend African music, jangly pop, and soul into his moody art rock. Apart from these singles, plus the urgent "That Voice Again," the rest of the record is as quiet as the album tracks of Security. The difference is, the singles on that record were part of the overall fabric; here, the singles are the fabric, which can make the album seem top-heavy (a fault of many blockbuster albums, particularly those of the mid-'80s). Even so, those songs are so strong, finding Gabriel in a newfound confidence and accessibility, that it's hard not to be won over by them, even if So doesn't develop the unity of its two predecessors. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 22, 1980 | Real World Productions

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Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel's finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that's artier, stronger, more song-oriented than before. Consider its ominous opener, the controlled menace of "Intruder." He's never found such a scary sound, yet it's a sexy scare, one that is undeniably alluring, and he keeps this going throughout the record. For an album so popular, it's remarkably bleak, chilly, and dark -- even radio favorites like "I Don't Remember" and "Games Without Frontiers" are hardly cheerful, spiked with paranoia and suspicion, insulated in introspection. For the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes, plus the songs to articulate his themes. Each aspect of the album works, feeding off each other, creating a romantically gloomy, appealingly arty masterpiece. It's the kind of record where you remember the details in the production as much as the hooks or the songs, which isn't to say that it's all surface -- it's just that the surface means as much as the songs, since it articulates the emotions as well as Gabriel's cubist lyrics and impassioned voice. He wound up having albums that sold more, or generated bigger hits, but this third Peter Gabriel album remains his masterpiece. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 6, 1982 | Real World Productions

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Rock - Released September 27, 1992 | Real World Productions

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Hit

Rock - Released November 3, 2003 | Real World Productions

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Rock - Released April 26, 2019 | Real World Productions

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Country - Released May 1, 2015 | Real World Records

Big Blue Ball is more of a collective than a band, with the final project being completed well over a decade after the majority of the sessions. Back in the '90s (1991, 1992, and 1995 to be exact), Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger invited friends and musicians from around the world to participate in weeklong collaborative writing and recording sessions at Real World Studios. The results were then crafted into this album. Overall, the album crosses the globe-trotting multiculturalism of Music and Rhythm (the first WOMAD compilation) with the slick production of Gabriel's Us (released about the same time these sessions took place). Couple the fact that Gabriel's solo work has been increasingly infused with world music beginning with Security and the fact that he's got one of the more recognizable voices in music, and Big Blue Ball almost plays like a lost Peter Gabriel album. This is not meant to diminish the strong contributions of others. Hossam Ramzy and Natacha Atlas take the lead on "Habibe" and Márta Sebestyén, Sinéad O'Connor, Rossy, and Papa Wemba all turn in great vocal performances. Joseph Arthur and Iarla Ó Lionáird's "Altus Silva" actually sounds a bit like Gabriel, and when Arthur joins Gabriel on "Exit Through You," the result could easily be a So outtake. The sound changes a bit at the end of the album, moving from the Peter Gabriel '90s sound to something a bit more 21st century with the Malagasy rap of "Jijy" and the sampled horns of the title track. It's a bit odd that Big Blue Ball was so long in coming, but Peter Gabriel fans will find it was worth the wait. © Sean Westergaard /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 2, 1978 | Real World Productions

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Up

Rock - Released September 23, 2002 | Real World Productions

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Ten years is a long time, especially in pop music, but waiting ten years to deliver an album is a clear sign that you're not all that interested in the pop game anyway. Such is the case with Peter Gabriel, who delivered Up in 2002, a decade after Us and four years after he announced its title. Perhaps appropriately, Up sounds like an album that was ten years in the making, revealing not just its pleasures but its intent very, very slowly. This is not an accessible record, nor is it easy to warm up to, which means that many may dismiss it upon a single listen or two, never giving it the time it demands in order to be understood (it does not help matters that the one attempt at a single is the ham-fisted, wrong-headed trash-TV "satire" "The Barry Williams Show," which feels utterly forced and out of place here, as if Geffen was pleading for anything resembling a single to add to the album). Really, there is no other choice for an artist as somber and ambitious as Gabriel to craft an album as dense as Up; those who have waited diligently for ten years would be disappointed with anything less and, frankly, they're the only audience that matters after a decade. And they're not likely to be disappointed, since this album grows stronger, revealing more with each listen. Initially, it seems to simply carry on the calmer, darker recesses of Us, but this is an uncompromising affair, which is to its advantage, since Gabriel delves deeper into darkness, grief, and meditation. It may take a while for him to emerge from the darkness -- there is little of the comfort of a "Come Talk to Me" or "Blood of Eden," which are immediately soothing on Us -- but there are glimmers of hope throughout the album, even in its darkest moments. Again, it takes awhile to sort all this out -- to unlock the form of the songs, then their meanings -- and it's such a somber, hushed, insular affair that some dedicated listeners may not bother to spin it the appropriate number of times. But those serious fans who want to spend time with this will find that it does pay back many rewards. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 6, 1983 | Real World Productions

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Although he had thrived on live performance as a member of Genesis, Peter Gabriel waited until he was four albums and six years deep into his solo career -- with the hit album Security and the Top 40 "Shock the Monkey" chalked up to his credit -- before he took the plunge into concert recording with this album. Released as a double-LP and two-CD set (but also later in a single CD "highlights" edition, missing four songs), this is a fine summing up of the artist's early solo years. Most of his biggest hits and key album tracks are represented in tight, inspired performances -- the notes concede that some of what is here was sweetened after the fact in the studio, but the immediacy of the stage performances wasn't lost in the process, and that emotional edge and intimacy give songs such as "Solsbury Hill," "I Don't Remember," and "Shock the Monkey" a sharper, deeper resonance than their studio renditions, fine as those are. It's that side of the performance that makes this release well worth owning, for anyone enamored of Gabriel's voice or songs, even if nothing here wholly supplants the studio originals. And the band -- Tony Levin (bass, stick, backing vocals), Jerry Marotta (drums, vocals), David Rhodes (guitar, vocals), and Larry Fast (keyboards) -- is in excellent form as well. What is lacking is the cohesiveness that one might have gotten from a live album assembled from a single concert; derived from a multitude of shows, the individual songs are excellent unto themselves, but there's little sense (or even the illusion) from song to song of any forward momentum across the album, and that might be the one major flaw here. But this is a suitable capstone to the first phase of Gabriel's solo career, and also a peculiar one in certain respects -- given the effort that obviously went into assembling the album, the packaging is almost minimalist by the standards of live albums and double albums of the era (the LP version even put both platters into a single sleeve). © Bruce Eder /TiVo

Film Soundtracks - Released June 5, 1989 | Real World Productions

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Passion is in actuality Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, retitled as a result of legal barriers; regardless of its name, however, there's no mistaking the record's stirring power. Like much of Gabriel's solo work, the album is a product of his continuing fascination with world music, which he employs here to create an exceptionally beautiful and atmospheric tapestry of sound perfectly evocative of the film's resonant spiritual drama; inspired by field recordings collected in areas as diverse as Turkey, Senegal, and Egypt, Passion achieves a cumulative effect clearly Middle Eastern in origin, yet its brilliant fusion of ancient and modern musics ultimately transcends both geography and time. Remarkably dramatic, even visual, it is not only Gabriel's best film work but deserving of serious consideration as his finest music of any kind; equally worthwhile is Passion -- Sources, which assembles the original native recordings which served as his creative launching pad. © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 18, 2013 | Real World Productions

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This two-fer from Peter Gabriel includes the 2010 covers album Scratch My Back, which featured the pop icon taking on material from the likes of David Bowie ("Heroes"), Arcade Fire ("My Body Is a Cage"), and Randy Newman ("I Think It's Going to Rain Today"), and its 2013 companion piece I'll Scratch Yours, which saw some of those artists offering up their interpretations of Gabriel cuts like "Biko" (Paul Simon), "I Don’t Remember" (David Byrne), and "Games Without Frontiers" (Arcade Fire). © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 13, 1994 | Real World Productions

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Rock - Released November 3, 2003 | Real World Productions

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Recorded in May 2003 at a single show in the Round in Milan, Italy, this documents Peter Gabriel's worldwide tour following his Up release. As such, it not surprisingly relies heavily on that disc, with seven of the 17 tracks originating from the album. Only about five tunes in this show can be considered "hits" (conspicuously absent is anything from his second and third albums) but most won't miss the many omissions since the performance is so consistently breathtaking. Gabriel is known for his elaborate, high-tech presentations and this certainly has its share of surprises. To reveal them would be unfair, since much of the excitement in watching a Gabriel show is seeing how his stage act -- here modernized for an in-the-round setting -- unfurls and reflects the songs. But suffice it to say, that unless you were there -- and even then -- Gabriel has plenty of tricks up his baggy black sleeves. Although he begins modestly, playing stark piano alone on an empty stage for a moving "Here Comes the Flood," the ever-present and very visible orange-suited crew, which appears and disappears though trap doors in the fake floor, quickly adds the full band. Split screens display these techs looking bored under the stage, preparing for the next song, a video technique that is overused throughout the concert's 2 1/4 hour running time. Otherwise, the camera work is excellent, if a bit hyperactive at times. Vocal overdubs are kept to a minimum and the 5.1 surround mix is astonishingly vibrant and detailed. One new song, "Animal Nation," is played, but it is not one of Gabriel's best and at nearly 15 minutes overstays its welcome. Also, the band introductions, which are chanted by the audience after the tune, might have been fun if you were there, but wear thin quickly. Still, this is a beautifully and imaginatively shot production caught in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Gabriel sounds great, as do the bandmembers, many of whom, like bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Rhodes, are longtime associates. It's a must for any fan of the British star and a riveting performance even for those unfamiliar with his work. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 12, 2010 | Real World Productions

Considering the slow trickle of completed albums he has released since becoming a superstar in 1986 -- just two albums of songs with vocals, paired with two albums of soundtracks and two live records -- deliberate is expected from Peter Gabriel, so the slow, hushed crawl of Scratch My Back is no shock. What may be a shock is that Gabriel chose to follow 2002’s Up with a covers album but, like all of his work, this 2010 record is highly conceptual no matter how minimal the end result may be. Designed as the first half of a two-part project where Gabriel would cover 12 different artists who would then return the favor by recording their own versions of Gabriel’s compositions -- the counterpart album naturally bearing the title I’ll Scratch Yours -- Scratch My Back divides neatly between six songs from his peers (Bowie, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Lou Reed, David Byrne) and six songs from younger artists (Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Stephin Merritt, Bon Iver, Elbow, Regina Spektor). Gabriel doesn’t dodge familiar tunes, choosing to sing “Heroes” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” but he twists each tune to his own needs, arranging everything with nothing more than piano and strings, a change that’s almost jarring on Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” yet it stays true to the undercurrent of melancholy in the melody. Indeed, all of Scratch My Back is stark, sober, and spare, delving ever deeper inward, a triumph of intellect over emotion -- a noted contrast to almost all cover albums that celebrate the visceral, not the cerebral. Immediate it may not be but fascinating it is, and after hearing Gabriel turn all 12 of these songs into something unmistakably his own, the appetite is surely whetted for its companion piece. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 10, 2011 | Real World Productions

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Almost every one of Peter Gabriel’s best-laid plans winds up going awry, and so it was with Scratch My Back, his 2010 collection of orchestral covers of some of his favorite songs. He had hoped to have the artists he covered return the favor by interpreting his songs but that project never got off the ground, so he pursued New Blood, an album where he turned that orchestra upon his own songs. New Blood is in every way a companion piece to Scratch My Back; it’s cut from the same aesthetic cloth, it's austere and cerebral without being chilly, it finds emotion within intellect. Some songs aren’t considerably different tonally than the original versions -- this is particularly true of the So material, with “Mercy Street” and “Red Rain” seeming no different in their transition from Synclavier to symphony -- but the ones that are heavily reworked, such as “San Jacinto” and “Intruder,” are startling, rearrangements that seem to give the songs a new set of bones. New Blood isn’t always as astonishing but that’s fine: the faithful adherence to melody on “Don’t Give Up” and “In Your Eyes” functions as something of a palate cleanser, and even when the album isn’t risky it’s always quietly absorbing. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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OVO

Rock - Released June 12, 2000 | Real World Productions

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In 1997, Peter Gabriel was asked to pilot a visual project for London's Millennium Dome. OVO is a work based on the intersecting problems of race relations, environmental concerns, family issues, and fairy tales as allegories, violence, and more. And keep in mind that this was to be a visual piece. Gabriel, to meet the challenge for CD, added a ton of multimedia to the musical soundtrack: there is a drawn storybook, The Story of OVO, a view of the installation itself from every angle, and many stopgap notes, drawings, and the like. For the soundtrack, he enlisted the help of collaborators such as Elizabeth Fraser, Neneh Cherry (whatever happened to her third record, the one she did with Tricky?), Richie Havens, the Black Dyke Mills Band, the Electra Strings, Paul Buchanan (of Blue Nile), Adzido, the Dhol Foundation drummers, and Iarla Ó Lionáird from the Afro-Celt Sound System. Needless to say, the music is all over the map, from a rap version of the "Story of Ovo" to an Irish jig to Gabriel's percussive culture plundering soundscapes and new songs (including a truly dull rework of "Digging in the Dirt") to Eno-like ambiences to folk songs and new songs with Havens and Ó Lionáird singing like the opposite ends of a heavenly choir and Liz Fraser soaring over the Dhol Foundation drummers. It sounds awesome doesn't it? It should be. But it's not. OVO sounds labored, choppy, and pasted together, like it is the soundtrack to a visual installation, and feels incomplete without it. This is not a project like Passion was or even Birdy; it's a pastiche that attempts to be as ambitious as the installation project. And it is ambitious. Unfortunately, musically it isn't consistent enough to sustain the listener's interest for the entire length of the recording. It is a curious project with moments, but is most likely for hardcore fans only. © Thom Jurek /TiVo