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Flotsam and Jetsam

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released September 13, 2019 | Real World Productions

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Rated PG

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released April 13, 2019 | Real World Productions

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Rated PG is a clever title for a compilation of songs Peter Gabriel gave to films over the course of his career. Gabriel has been intimately involved with the world of cinema since the start of his career -- during the waning days of Genesis, he collaborated with Exorcist director William Friedkin on a film that never left the development stage -- and provided scores for Birdy, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Rabbit-Proof Fence, but Rated PG focuses on the stray songs he contributed to movies between the years of 1984 and 2017. As this is a comp designed with Record Store Day in mind, it consists of ten songs running at a tight 50 minutes. This means there are several songs left stranded on soundtracks -- most egregiously, this doesn't have "Out Out," his paranoid gift to Joe Dante's 1984 monster movie Gremlins -- but what's here emphasizes Gabriel's moodiness, his bent for collaboration, and his passion for non-Western music. There are exceptions to the rule, usually arriving through his contributions to blockbusters -- there is the buoyant "Down to Earth" from WALL-E and "That'll Do," a Randy Newman composition written for Babe: Pig in the City also featuring Paddy Maloney on vocals -- but most of Rated PG simmers at a low-key atmospheric setting before "In Your Eyes," the 1986 single that was made into a romantic standard via its inclusion in Cameron Crowe's 1989 comedy drama Say Anything, brings it to a rousing conclusion. "In Your Eyes" isn't quite tonally of piece with the rest of Rated PG but as it's one of Gabriel's most famous songs, it belongs here and helps put into perspective how so much of Gabriel's film work leans toward the artier side of the spectrum. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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This Is Party Man (feat. The Worldbeaters)

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released April 11, 2019 | Real World Productions

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The Veil

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released September 9, 2016 | Real World Productions

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Scratch My Back And I'll Scratch Yours (Limited Edition)

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released February 15, 2010 | 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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New Blood (Special Edition)

Peter Gabriel

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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Scratch My Back

Peter Gabriel

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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Scratch My Back (Special Edition)

Peter Gabriel

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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Hit

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released November 3, 2003 | Real World Productions

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Growing Up Live

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released November 4, 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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Up

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released September 24, 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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Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence

Peter Gabriel

Film Soundtracks - Released August 16, 2002 | Real World Productions

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Long Walk Home: Music from 'The Rabbit-Proof Fence'

Peter Gabriel

Film Soundtracks - Released April 16, 2002 | Real World Productions

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Nearly a full decade after the release of Us, Peter Gabriel finally returned with new music in the summer of 2002 -- but it wasn't a new studio album, it was the soundtrack to Phillip Noyce's return to independent Australian cinema, Rabbit-Proof Fence. The film tells the true story of three Aboriginal girls who make a return to their home after being abducted by the government to serve as domestic help to a white family in 1931; as they make their journey through the Outback to their home, they follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, which had been constructed to prevent animals deemed agricultural pests -- including rabbits, dingoes, and foxes -- from crossing into Western Australia agricultural lands. This, understandably, is a moody, emotional piece, and Gabriel was an ideal choice for the soundtrack, since he proved with his score for Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ that he could stay faithful to the indigenous music of the region while synthesizing it with his own synth-based art-rock, providing a haunting, emotionally resonant soundtrack to the film. He does a similar thing here, using Aboriginal music as a foundation for much of his music, yet winding up with a score that's ultimately closer to Birdy than Passion. That's largely due to its long stretches of moody, spare keyboards, which dominate much of the album. The keyboards are the dominant sound here, not the rhythms, but it all blends together for a very evocative, dark yet hopeful set of music. It's not a splashy comeback, then, but a quiet return to something Gabriel does best -- creating soundscapes that are at once alien and familiar, eerie yet comforting. That he hasn't done this in a while does not diminish the fact that he's created a strong instrumental piece that stands on its own, outside of the film, holding its own with Birdy and Passion. And it only whets the appetite for a full-scale comeback. © TiVo
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OVO

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released June 13, 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
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OVO

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released June 13, 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
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Secret World Live

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released September 13, 1994 | Real World Productions

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Secret World Live

Peter Gabriel

Pop - Released September 13, 1994 | Real World Productions

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An aural postcard of Gabriel's 1993-1994 "Us World Tour," Secret World Live is demonstrative of this studio perfectionist's ability to produce singular, textured works in any setting. To expand the music's breadth, for the "Us" tour he added noted jazz violinist Shankar and vocalist Paula Cole to his band, and restructured the songs to reflect the more celebratory aspects of live performances. This mix provides Secret World Live with its worldbeat-meets-new age jazz meets-English art-soul sound. The second half of the album incorporates previous hits -- the sexually charged "Sledgehammer," the elegiac "Don't Give Up" (with Cole playing Kate Bush's part), and the anthemic "In Your Eyes" -- into a song-cycle that explores youth and love. It all makes Gabriel's Secret World Live add up to a musical stew that is equal parts William Gibson, Carl Jung, and Fela Kuti. © TiVo
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Us

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released September 29, 1992 | Real World Productions

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Six years after earning his first blockbuster, Peter Gabriel finally delivered Us, his sequel to So. Clearly, that great span of time indicates that Gabriel was obsessive in crafting the album, and Us bears the sound of endless hours in the studio. It's not just that the production is pristine, clean, and immaculate, it's that the music is, with only a handful of exceptions (namely, the "Sledgehammer" rewrite "Steam" and the fellatio ode "Kiss That Frog"), remarkably subtle and shaded. It's also not a coincidence that Us is, as Gabriel says in his liner notes, "about relationships," since the exquisitely textured music lets him expose his soul, albeit in a typically obtuse way. Since the music is so muted, it's no surprise that the album failed to capture a mass audience the way So did, but it's foolish to expect anyone but serious fans to unravel an album this deliberate. Gabriel is as adventurous as ever, yet he is relentlessly sober about his experiments, burying exotic sounds and percussion underneath crawling tempos measured atmospherics -- this is tastefully two-toned music, assembled by a consummate craftsman who became too immersed in detail to make anything but an insular, introspective work. Some gems are easier to unearth than others -- "Digging in the Dirt" has an insistent pulse, "Blood of Eden" and "Come Talk to Me" are quite beautiful, "Secret World" is quietly anthemic -- yet, given enough time, the record's understated approach and reflection becomes its most attractive element. But it takes a lot of spins and patience to get to that point, since this is an album he made for himself, and only those dedicated to the artist will have the patience to decode it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Shaking The Tree: 16 Golden Greats

Peter Gabriel

Rock - Released November 20, 1990 | Real World Productions

Greatest-hits albums are a traditional way of buying time for artists between albums. Peter Gabriel's, entitled Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats, arrived in December of 1990, as he was toiling away at the follow-up to his smash So, which was four years old at that point. As greatest-hits albums go, it's pretty good, containing all the hits, plus an effective re-recording of "Here Comes the Flood" and a good new song in the form of the title track. While the sequencing may leave something to be desired -- it is neither chronological, nor as supple as a good mix tape -- it does contain nearly everything a casual fan could want (nothing from the second album, though; both "On the Air" or "D.I.Y." would have been nice additions), making it an effective sampler. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ

Peter Gabriel

Film Soundtracks - Released June 1, 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