So…Peter Gabriel has returned

After a fairly quiet last few years, Peter Gabriel has released i/o, his first album of original material in 22 years. Originally the frontman for progressive rock legends Genesis, Gabriel departed the band following their 1974 masterwork The lamb lies down on Broadway / Genesis (Musical group) to embark on a solo career that would bring him both critical acclaim and commercial success over the ensuing five decades. He would also branch out into film soundtracks, scoring such films as The Last Temptation of Christ (see below) and Rabbit-proof fence.

In 1982, driven by an interest in world music, he founded the WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) festival, followed in 1989 by the Real World record label. Both are still going to this day and have been instrumental in bringing world music to a wider audience in the West. Many of the titles in Wellington Libraries World CD collection will have been issued on Real World.

The following list, while by no means exhaustive, provides an overview of Gabriel’s work held at Wellington City Libraries.

Peter Gabriel [1] / Gabriel, Peter
After taking some time out after leaving Genesis, Gabriel announced himself as a creative force in his own right with the first of four self-titled albums (we have them all!). Co-produced by Todd Rundgren it’s a varied collection containing one of his greatest and most recognisable songs, “Solsbury Hill”.

 

Peter Gabriel [3] / Gabriel, Peter
The content of Gabriel’s third solo album was so dark that his US distributer, Atlantic, balked at releasing it. As a result, the album’s release was delayed for several months while a new distribution deal was secured with Mercury Records. Timid though they may have been, Atlantic executives were not wrong. With songs such as the self-explanatory “Intruder”, assassins POV “Family Snapshot” and “Biko”, a lament for South African poet and activist Steve Biko murdered in police custody in 1977, Peter Gabriel 3 is a downbeat listen. Still a great one, though.

(Biko’s story was also the basis for the 1987 film Cry freedom, directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.)

So / Gabriel, Peter
For all his experimentation over the years, Gabriel has still had a sharp ear for pop. This was nowhere better demonstrated than on this 1986 blockbuster. Propelled by the iconic music video for the single “Sledgehammer”, So became Gabriels biggest selling album and made him a major mainstream star. Other highlights included the haunting Kate Bush duet “Don’t Give Up” and “In Your Eyes”, featuring Youssou N’Dour.

Passion : music for The last temptation of Christ, a film by Martin Scorsese / Gabriel, Peter
An expansion of Gabriel’s original score for Martin Scorsese’s controversial film, and the first release on the newly formed Real World label. Largely instrumental, the album reflected his growing interest in and involvement with world music, in this case particularly Middle Eastern and African.

 

Up / Gabriel, Peter
Arriving a full ten years after its predecessor Us (sadly not in the collection), Up signalled a move towards longer, denser compositions, although tracks such as “The Barry Williams Show” and “The Drop” show he hadn’t lost his pop touch. The end result is less accessible than much of his earlier work, but rewards patient listening.

 

New blood / Gabriel, Peter  / Live blood / Gabriel, Peter
Gabriel collaborated with New Zealand born violinist and arranger John Metcalfe on rearranging his songs for orchestral accompaniment. It would turn out to be one of the best examples of this mini trend, as Gabriels melodic, nuanced compositions translated superbly.

New Blood, although released first was actually recorded second, following a concert containing a different set list held in London and documented on Live Blood.

 

30 : Real World at Womad
Although this only includes one track by the artist (“The Rhythm of the Heat”), no summary of Gabriel’s career would be complete without mentioning his role in bringing world music to a wider audience in the West via his founding of WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) and the Real World record label. Assembled in 2012 to mark the 30th anniversary of WOMAD, this draws on the over 200 albums released on Real World for a two-disc overview featuring artists as varied as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Afro Celt Sound System, The Blind Boys Of Alabama and Joseph Arthur.

Rated PG : songs from the movies / Gabriel, Peter
As the title indicates, this release compiles several tracks Gabriel has contributed to movie soundtracks over the years. Included are songs from films as diverse as Natural born killers , WALL-E
and Rabbit-proof fence.

 

Hit / Gabriel, Peter
The most comprehensive Gabriel compilation currently available, this two CD set covers the years between 1977 and 2002.

 

 

i/o / Gabriel, Peter
The much delayed i/o (it’s release was originally planned for 2004) comes in a two-disc set containing both the “Bright Side” and “Dark Side” mixes. Listeners can decide for themselves which mix is preferable, but Gabriels’s voice and songwriting remain as solid as ever, successfully marrying the epic soundscapes of his more recent work (including nods to his progressive rock and world music sides) with his still intact pop touch.