(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
So is Peter Gabriel's most commercially successful and accessible release to date. It got pretty heavy rotation on MTV from a few years back in the mid 80's, with the organic looking, metamorphic, hallucinatory videos that accompanied the songs: "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time". "Sledgehammer", with its Memphis horns and soul influence, and with its double-entendre meaning, gained popularity from the critics and the public alike. One could see Gabriel had come into his own as a solo artist. But let's examine the rest of the album, as there's more to it than those commercial successes.
So begins with the powerful "Red Rain". It seemed that Peter had been experimenting with rhythm and drum machines right from the start as this track is crackling with inventive rhythms, and his vocals have never been better. "Red Rain" is a rather dreamlike, impressionistic song, but one that envelopes you from the start.
"Don't Give Up" is a wonderful duet with fellow Brit, Kate Bush, that soars to new heights as both voices combine as they sing about not giving up in life, and how human interaction is needed in our lives to help to make life bearable. The inspiration came from a Depression-era photo Gabriel had seen about miners on strike in England.
"In Your Eyes" is a love song with nice poetic lyrics: "Love I get so lost, sometimes, days pass and this emptiness fills my heart." African singer, Youssou N' Dour helps out with the background vocals incorporating some of Gabriel's interest in ethnic origins and song.
"Mercy Street" continues in a poetic, atmospheric fashion. Daniel Lanois, who helped co-produce this album (as well as albums by U2, Robbie Robertson and others) is probably most evident here as the song has his trademark of moody introspection. This song draws upon the influence of American poet, Anne Sexton, who committed suicide in 1974.
"We Do What We're Told" derives from university experiments in which test subjects were asked to administer what they believed were injury-inducing electric shocks to others, in the majority of cases, rather than disobey the authority figure giving them instructions.
"This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)" ends the album with a song he and Laurie Anderson co-wrote and produced ending on an exotic, arty note. Yes, the album So is engaging and accessible, but it is also powerful and poignant. Check it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed.