Sunday, April 8, 2007

Peter Gabriel

@ Wiki
Peter Brian Gabriel (born February 13, 1950, in Chobham, Surrey, England) is an English musician. He first came to fame as the lead vocalist and flautist of the progressive rock group Genesis. After leaving Genesis, Gabriel went on to a successful solo career. More recently he has focused on producing and promoting world music and pioneering digital distribution methods for music. He has also been involved in various humanitarian efforts.

Gabriel founded Genesis in 1967 while a pupil at Charterhouse School with bandmates Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, and drummer Chris Stewart. The name of the band was suggested by fellow Charterhouse School alumnus, the pop music impresario Jonathan King who produced their first album From Genesis to Revelation.

A lover of soul music, Gabriel was influenced by many different sources in his way of singing, mainly Nina Simone, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum and Cat Stevens. He also played the flute on Stevens' Mona Bone Jakon album in 1970.

Genesis quickly became one of the most talked-about bands in England and eventually Italy, Belgium, Germany and other European countries, largely due to Gabriel's flamboyant stage presence, which involved numerous bizarre costume changes and comical, dreamlike stories told as the introduction to each song. The concerts made extensive use of black light with the normal stage lighting subdued or off. A backdrop of fluorescing white sheets and a comparatively sparse stage made the band into a set of silhouettes, with Gabriel's fluorescent costume and makeup the only other sources of light.

Among Gabriel's many famous costumes (which he developed partly as way of overcoming his stage fright) were "The Flower" (worn for "Supper's Ready", from Foxtrot), "Magog" (also worn for "Supper's Ready", from Foxtrot), "Britannia" (worn for "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", from Selling England by the Pound), "The Old Man" (worn for "The Musical Box", from Nursery Cryme), "Rael" (worn throughout most of the performance of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), and "The Slipperman" (worn during "The Colony of Slippermen", also from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).

Backing vocals in Genesis during Gabriel's tenure in the band were usually handled by bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist/guitarist Tony Banks, and (most prominently) drummer Phil Collins, who (after a long search for a replacement) eventually became Genesis's lead singer after Gabriel left the band in 1975.

The breakup
Gabriel's departure from Genesis (which stunned fans of the group and left many commentators wondering if they could survive) was the result of a number of factors. His stature as the lead singer of the band, and the added attention garnered by his flamboyant stage personae, led to tensions within the band. Genesis had always operated more or less as a collective, and Gabriel's burgeoning public profile led to fears within the group that he was being unfairly singled out as the creative hub of the group.

Tensions were heightened by the ambitious album and tour of the concept work The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a Gabriel-created concept piece which saw him taking on the lion's share of the lyric writing. During the writing and recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel was approached by director William Friedkin, allegedly because Friedkin had found Gabriel's short story in the liner notes to Genesis Live interesting. Gabriel's interest in a film project with Friedkin was another contributing factor in his decision to leave Genesis. The decision to quit the band was made before the tour supporting The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but Gabriel stayed with the band until the conclusion of that tour.

The breaking point came with the difficult pregnancy of Gabriel's wife, Jill, and birth of their first child, Anna. When he opted to stay with his sick daughter and wife rather than go record and tour, the resentment from the rest of the band led Gabriel to conclude that he had to leave the band. "Solsbury Hill", Gabriel's debut single as a solo artist, was written about his departure.

Solo career
Gabriel famously refused to title any of his first four solo albums (they were all labelled Peter Gabriel using the same typeface, but different cover art), since he wanted them to be considered similar to concurrent issues of a magazine instead of individual works; they are usually differentiated by number in order of release, or sleeve design, I, II and III being referred to as Car, Scratch and Melt respectively, in reference to their cover artwork. His fourth solo album, also called Peter Gabriel in the UK, was titled Security in the U.S., at the behest of Geffen Records. Even after acquiescing to distinctive titles, he has continued to use words as short as possible to title his albums: So, Us, and Up. His most recent greatest hits compilation was called, simply, Hit.

The "untitled era"
Gabriel recorded his first solo album in 1976 and 1977 with producer Bob Ezrin, titled Peter Gabriel. His first solo success came with the single "Solsbury Hill", an autobiographical piece expressing his thoughts on leaving Genesis. In it, he sings, "My friends would think I was a nut...", alluding to his decision to begin a period of self-exploration and reflection, while he grew cabbages, played the piano for long hours, practiced yoga and biofeedback, and spent time with his family. Although mainly happy with the album, Peter Gabriel felt that the track "Here Comes the Flood" was over-produced. Sparser versions can be heard on Robert Fripp's Exposure, and on Gabriel's greatest hits compilation Shaking the Tree (1990).

Peter Gabriel worked with guitarist Robert Fripp (of King Crimson fame) as producer of his second solo LP, in 1978. That album was darker and more experimental, and yielded some fine recordings, but no major hits.

Gabriel's third album, released in 1980, arose as a collaboration with Steve Lillywhite, who also produced early albums by U2. It was notable for the hit singles "Games Without Frontiers" and "Biko", for Gabriel's new interest in world music (especially for percussion), and for its bold production, which made extensive use of recording tricks and sound effects. Gabriel's third album is generally credited as the first LP to use the now-famous "gated drum" sound, invented by engineer Hugh Padgham and Gabriel's old Genesis band-mate Phil Collins. Collins played drums on several tracks, including the opener, "Intruder", which featured the reverse-gated, cymbal-less drum kit sound which Collins would make famous on his single "In the Air Tonight" and through the rest of the 1980s. The massive, distinctive hollow sound arose through some experiments by Collins and Padgham. Gabriel had requested that his drummers use no cymbals in the album's sessions, and when he heard the result from Collins and Padgham, he asked Collins to play a simple pattern for several minutes, then built "Intruder" on it.

Arduous and occasionally damp recording sessions at his rural English estate in 1981 and 1982, with co-producer/engineer David Lord, resulted in Gabriel's fourth LP release (Security), on which Gabriel took more production responsibility. It was one of the first commercial albums recorded entirely to digital tape (using a Sony mobile truck), and featured the early, extremely expensive Fairlight CMI sampling computer. Gabriel combined a variety of sampled and deconstructed sounds with world-beat percussion and other unusual instrumentation to create a radically new, emotionally charged soundscape. Furthermore, the sleeve art consisted of inscrutable, video-based imagery. Despite the album's peculiar sound, odd appearance, and often disturbing themes, it sold well and had a hit single in "Shock the Monkey", which also became a groundbreaking music video.

Gabriel toured extensively for each of his albums, continuing the dramatic shows he began with Genesis, often involving elaborate stage props and acrobatics which had him suspended from gantries, distorting his face with Fresnel lenses and mirrors, and wearing unusual makeup. For one tour, his entire band shaved their heads. His 1982-83 tour included a section opening for David Bowie, where many audience members and critics thought that Gabriel as opener (especially with his elaborate makeup) overshadowed Bowie at the height of his popularity. Recordings of this tour were released as the double LP Plays Live The stage was set for Gabriel's critical and commercial breakout with his next studio release So which was in production for almost three years. During the recording and production of the album Gabriel found time to work on the film soundtrack for Alan Parker's 1984 feature Birdy, which consisted of new material as well as remixed instrumental tracks from his previous studio album. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Stephen Thomas Erlewine @ Allmusic
As the leader of Genesis in the early '70s, Peter Gabriel helped move progressive rock to new levels of theatricality. In his solo career, Gabriel was no less ambitious, but he was more subtle in his methods. With his first eponymous solo album in 1977, he began exploring darker, more cerebral territory, incorporating avant-garde, electronic, and worldbeat influences into his music. The record, as well as its two similarly titled successors, established Gabriel as a critically acclaimed cult artist, and with 1982's Security, he began to move into the mainstream; "Shock the Monkey" became his first Top 40 hit, paving the way for his multi-platinum breakthrough So in 1986. Accompanied by a series of groundbreaking videos and the number one single "Sledgehammer," So became a multi-platinum hit, and Gabriel became an international star. Instead of capitalizing on his sudden success, he began to explore other interests, including recording soundtracks and running his company Real World. By the time he returned to pop with 1992's Us, his mass audience had faded away and he spent the remainder of the '90s working on multimedia projects for Real World.

Following his departure from Genesis in 1976, Peter Gabriel began work on the first of three consecutive eponymously titled albums; each record was named Peter Gabriel, he said, as if they were editions of the same magazine. In 1977, his first solo album appeared and became a moderate success due to the single "Solsbury Hill." Another self-titled record followed in 1978, yet received comparatively weaker reviews. Gabriel's third eponymous album was his artistic breakthrough. Produced by Steve Lillywhite and released in 1980, the album established Gabriel as one of rock's most ambitious, innovative musicians, as well as one of its most political -- "Biko," a song about a murdered antiapartheid activist, became one of the biggest protest anthems of the '80s. "Games Without Frontiers," with its eerie chorus, nearly reached the Top 40.

In 1982, Gabriel released Security, which was an even bigger success, earning positive reviews and going gold on the strength of the startling video for "Shock the Monkey." Just as his solo career was taking off, Gabriel participated in a one-shot Genesis reunion in order to finance his WOMAD -- World of Music, Arts and Dance -- Festival. WOMAD was designed to bring various world musics and customs to a Western audience, and it soon turned into an annual event, and a live double album was released that year to commemorate the event. As Gabriel worked on his fifth album, he contributed the soundtrack to Alan Parker's 1984 film Birdy. His score was highly praised and it won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes that year. After founding Real World, Inc. -- a corporation devoted to developing bridges between technology and multiethnic arts -- in 1985, he completed his fifth album, So.

Released in 1986, So became Gabriel's commercial breakthrough, largely because his Stax homage "Sledgehammer" was blessed with an innovative video that combined stop-action animation with live action. So climbed to number two as "Sledgehammer" hit number one, with "Big Time" -- featuring a video very similar to "Sledgehammer" -- reaching the Top Ten and "In Your Eyes" hitting the Top 30. As So was riding high on the American and British charts, Gabriel co-headlined the first benefit tour for Amnesty International in 1986 with Sting and U2. Another Amnesty International Tour followed in 1988, and the following year, Gabriel released Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ, a collection of instrumentals used in Martin Scorsese's film. Passion was the furthest Gabriel delved into worldbeat, and the album was widely acclaimed, winning the Grammy Award in 1989 for Best New Age Performance. In 1990, he released the hits compilation Shaking the Tree.

Gabriel labored long on the pop-music follow-up to So, finally releasing Us in the spring of 1992. During the recording of Us, Gabriel went through a number of personal upheavals, including a painful divorce, and those tensions manifested themselves on Us, a much darker record than So. For various reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was released six years after its predecessor, Us wasn't as commercially successful as So, despite positive reviews. Only one single, the "Sledgehammer" knockoff "Steam," reached the Top 40, and the album stalled at platinum sales. In 1993, Gabriel embarked on the most ambitious WOMAD tour to date, touring the United States with a roster including Crowded House, James, and Sinéad O'Connor, with whom he had an on-off romantic relationship. The following year, he released the double-disc Secret World Live, which went gold. Later in 1994, he released the CD-ROM Xplora, one of many projects he developed with Real World. For the next three years, Gabriel concentrated on developing more multimedia projects for the company. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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J.D.Considine @ Rolling Stone
Over the course of his career, British rocker Peter Gabriel has metamorphosed from theatrical prog-rock cult artist to canny, multimedia pop star to worldly rock sage. It's been a dramatic change: Fans of sly, pop/funk singles like "Big Time" might actually find it hard to accept that their hero was also responsible for the baroque silliness that is "Moribund the Burgermeister."

Gabriel's first three solo albums -- each entitled Peter Gabriel, although the remastered versions are helpfully numbered 1, 2, and 3 -- were experiments in reinvention. The first Peter Gabriel (the cover of which finds our hero half-hidden behind a wet windshield) arrived three years after his last studio recording with Genesis, 1974's arty, ambitious The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Between the flabby dramatics of "Moribund the Burgermeister" and the forced whimsy of "Excuse Me," it was clear that Gabriel without Genesis wasn't all that different from Gabriel with. Yet the folky economy of "Solsbury Hill" and the understated majesty of "Here Comes the Flood" clearly pushed toward something else -- not mainstream pop, exactly, but something close.

The second Peter Gabriel (with the fingernails cover) moves closer to that new sound. Produced by King Crimson's Robert Fripp -- himself a prog-rock star hoping to remake himself to fit a postpunk world -- the album finds Gabriel trying to square his past with the (then) present. "D.I.Y.," his paean to self-produced punk, seems especially prescient in the post-Napster world, while the spare, abstract "Exposure" reveals an unexpected edge. Still, neither the Who-style pomp of "On the Air" nor the ham-fisted pathos of "Home Sweet Home" suggests that Gabriel was surrendering his old turf easily.

It's the third Peter Gabriel album (with the melting-face cover) that finally puts him on the proper path. Rather than being written on piano and having the ideas translated to band arrangements, the songs on this album were written using digital synthesis and drum loops. Suddenly, there's a new urgency to Gabriel's voice as he rides the rhythms of "Intruder" and "No Self Control," while the blissfully transcendent "Biko" and "Games Without Frontiers" hint at a pop future very different from the guitar-based world Gabriel came up in.

Security expands on those possibilities by adding world-music elements to the mix. Gabriel had already made moves toward African music in "Biko," which opened with a brief mbube chorale, but that bit of color is nowhere near as dramatic as the burst of percussion that the Ekome Dance Company provides in "The Rhythm of the Heat." It isn't simply exoticism that makes the song (or the similarly flavored "San Jacinto" and "The Family and the Fishing Net") so intriguing; it's the way Gabriel incorporates these rhythmic ideas into his melodic concepts, resulting in a kind of magic that's as applicable to the boisterously tuneful "Shock the Monkey" as the moody, mysterious "I Have the Touch."

Gabriel's internationalist musical strategy didn't translate particularly well to live performance, at least not by the evidence of Plays Live (although P.O.V., a 1990 concert video shot with a different band and repertoire, isn't quite so flat). But it does make excellent soundtrack source material. In fact, several selections on the all-instrumental Music From the Film "Birdy" are reworkings of tunes from Security and the third Peter Gabriel, transforming familiar melodies into emotionally evocative mood pieces.

With So, Gabriel finally figures out how to play these new tools as pop. Amazingly, he does so without compromising the ambition or adventurousness of his previous efforts. Although the hits "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" are pointedly funk-driven (and serve up a fair amount of sarcasm with their big-beat arrangements), the rest of the album shows how much Gabriel had gleaned from his world-music side project, the W.O.M.A.D. (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) Festival. There are allusions to Zimbabwean Shona mbira themes in Tony Levin's bassline for "Don't Give Up," and Senegalese mbalax singing (courtesy of Youssou N'Dour) spikes the final choruses to "In Your Eyes." Exotic touches, to be sure, but delivered in a context conventional enough to make them palatable to any pop fan.

Gabriel's second soundtrack album, Passion (composed for Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ), is similarly world-music savvy, though it draws more from the Middle East than Africa. Unlike Birdy, it feels more like a genuine film score, covering a range of styles (from Gabrielesque prog rock to quasi-symphonic tone poems), and suggests that there are depths to Gabriel that his pop work barely hints at.

Shaking the Tree, by contrast, makes no such moves in that direction, offering only a representation of his big hits augmented by a fresh collaboration with Youssou N'Dour (the title tune) and a new version of "Here Comes the Flood." Us, which followed, did its best to pick up where So left off, mixing sophis-ticated funk-pop ("Steam," "Kiss That Frog") with issue-oriented art rock. In this case, however, the issues were more personal, focusing more on psychosexual drama than on social issues, which lent the whole project the fruity air of postanalytic revelation instead of pop-culture inspiration. None of that was audible in Secret World Live, however, which made the pop content seem more like the white funk it wanted to be, while rendering the artier fare all the more indigestible.

That, sadly, seems to have been the high-water mark for Gabriel. Eight years passed before he finally released a new album, and that turned out to be another Birdy-like soundtrack, Long Walk Home (from the film Rabbit-Proof Fence). Taken on its own, it not only complements the film's vision of the Western Australian outback, but reduces many of the major themes from his subsequent "commercial" release, Up, to a far more potent essence. Up, on the other hand, manages to make several of Gabriel's stylistic habits -- grandiloquent prog, slyly mannered funk -- seem less like strengths than tics, and (worse) with the tabloid TV-bashing "Barrie Williams Show" turns his gift for satire into an embarrassing and slow-arriving statement of the obvious. We deserve better -- and so does he.

After Up, Gabriel seems to have tried to make up for his slack productivity in the '90s by releasing numerous new albums. Sadly, he's done so without producing much in the way of new music. The misleadingly titled Hit offers only one new song ("Burn You Up, Burn You Down") while recapping much of Up and rounding the disc out with middling rarities plus a sprinkling of actual hits. It's hardly an improvement on Shaking the Tree. Simultaneously, he has been releasing concert recordings online through the "Encore Series" ( There were 21 released from his 2003 tour, and several dozen more planned for his 2004 outing. It beats writing new songs, apparently. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Peter Gabriel @ You Tube

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