Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peter Gabriel II

Peter Gabriel II (1978) – That's not the official title; none of his first three albums had titles.  This is the second one, otherwise known as the one with the fingernails scratching cover.  More importantly, it's the one with Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) on guitar, as well as production duties.  Long gone are the eleven minute progressive rock suites of yore; Gabriel sticks to 3 to 4 minute artsy rock/pop tunes that show an evidence that he was at least paying cursory attention to the New Wave going on around him at the time ("A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World" uncannily recreates the early Talking Heads).  Opening with the fantastic Who-like (as in "Baba O'Riley") rocker, "On the Air", which ranks as one of Gabriel's greatest tunes ever, the high quality extends for the first five or so songs, before giving way to listless ballads ("Flotsam and Jetsam") and forced, unexciting rockers ("Animal Magic", "Perspective"), before rounding the album off with another high point (the intriguing divorce ballad, "Home Sweet Home").  As expected with Fripp featuring on guitar throughout, it's harder rocking that usual for Gabriel, but the production sounds rather flat, muffled and muted, particularly on the vocals (I have to strain to hear what he's singing quite a bit of the time).  Still, a generally enjoyable effort from Gabriel; fans won't be disappointed, even though fans know that it's only a warm up to his real masterpiece, Peter Gabriel III (the one with the melting face cover and "Biko" and "Games Without Frontiers") -review of that coming soon!  Or eventually.  ***1/2

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