Peter's first LP was dazzling in its post-prog nature. Had he only made this one album I think he would have been remembered as a god of that era, and the funny thing is - he would do better later on. It's difficult to compare this record to his prior work with Genesis as its aims are different. No longer interested in long, proggy songs and conceptual stories, in the three years since The Lamb Lies Down
... he'd revamped both his sound and his image. Wisely observing that progressive rock had run its course and realizing he could work in a post-punk structure (if we can even call this music that), he essayed an LP more in line with what songwriters five or more years younger than he were doing at that time. The album is not a masterpiece, but I can think of no other ex-band member of a premier prog group who reinvented himself as successfully. Perhaps Robert Fripp, who had become a sideman extraordinaire, and whose music had a similar forward-thinking thrust might be comparable, but then he never became a solo star in his own right. No, Gabriel stands alone in this regard. People who had no use for progressive rock enjoyed Gabriel's music, and that's largely due to the fact that he was no longer making prog in the traditional sense of that term.
Peter Gabriel – vocals, keyboards, flute, recorder
Robert Fripp – electric guitar, classical guitar, banjo
Tony Levin – bass guitar, tuba, leader of the Barbershop Quartet
Jozef Chirowski – keyboards
Larry Fast – synthesizer, programming
Allan Schwartzberg – drums
Steve Hunter – acoustic guitar on "Solsbury Hill"; lead guitar on "Slowburn" and "Waiting for the Big One"; electric guitar, rhythm guitar; pedal steel
Dick Wagner – backing vocals, guitar on "Here Comes the Flood"
Jimmy Maelen – percussion, synthibam, bones
London Symphony Orchestra – orchestra on "Down the Dolce Vita" and "Here Comes the Flood"
Michael Gibbs – arrangement of orchestra
All songs written by Peter Gabriel, except where indicated.
1. "Moribund the Burgermeister" 4:20
From the first sounds you hear it's evident Peter's songwriting has adapted to modern times. There's still a sense of grandeur evidenced by the synths, but he sounds more like a rock singer now and there's enough spacey effects to satisfy those fans coming from his previous band and it's catchy enough to garner new ones as well. I really love this track.
And just why did he leave Genesis? Wiki - "During The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
tour, Gabriel announced to his Genesis bandmates that he had decided to leave the band, citing estrangement from the other members and the strains on his marriage. Nonetheless, he saw his commitment through to the conclusion of the tour. The breaking point came with the difficult pregnancy of Gabriel's wife, Jill, and the subsequent birth of their first child, Anna. When he opted to stay with his sick daughter and wife, rather than record and tour, the resentment from the rest of the band led Gabriel to conclude that he had to leave the group.
In a letter to fans, delivered through the music press at the end of the tour, titled Out, Angels Out,
Gabriel explained that the "vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our song writing became our master and had cooped us up inside the success we had wanted. It affected the attitudes and the spirit of the whole band. The music had not dried up and I still respect the other musicians, but our roles had set in hard."
Gabriel then closed the letter: "There is no animosity between myself and the band or management. The decision had been made some time ago and we have talked about our new direction. The reason why my leaving was not announced earlier was because I had been asked to delay until they had found a replacement to plug up the hole. It is not impossible that some of them might work with me on other projects."
Gabriel's Genesis bandmate Phil Collins, who replaced him in the band as lead vocalist, later remarked that the other members "were not stunned by Peter's departure because we had known about it for quite a while". The band continued without Gabriel, starting with their next studio album, 1976's A Trick of the Tail
2. "Solsbury Hill" 4:21
Perhaps his most well-known '70s song, its poetic verse eludes easy analysis, but it concerns his decision to leave Genesis and foregoe the safety of a successful band in favor of a solo career. I view the song as a classic and I recall my only visit to England in 2003 when I was with my then-wife in a bus tour of the countryside, when the driver asked the passengers if they could think of who sang the song concerning Solsbury Hill which was in our view. Naturally, I was the only one who knew and was thinking of just this tune right before he asked.
"Solsbury Hill" is the debut solo single of English musician Peter Gabriel. He wrote the song about a spiritual experience atop Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England, after his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis, of which he had been the lead singer since its inception. The single was a Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at number 13, and reached number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1977. The song has often been used in film trailers for romantic comedies.
Gabriel has said of the song's meaning, "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." His former bandmate Tony Banks acknowledges that the song reflects Gabriel's decision to break ties with Genesis, but it can also be applied in a broader sense to situations of letting go in general." - Wiki
3. "Modern Love" 3:38
Another great one, and it summarized his current position in the modern rock landscape in the late '70s. Sometimes I feel his songs from this era could have been sung by David Bowie, it was almost like he was competing on that level. Of course, Gabriel's efforts weren't of the same consistency as Low
or possibly even Heroes
that year, but the best songs on this effort were more or less in line with some of Bowie's work.
4. "Excuse Me" (Peter Gabriel, Martin Hall) 3:20
If the LP is front-loaded with possibly the three best cuts, then this harmony-sung number (in the beginning, anyway) is more than just filler. Gabriel has always had a sense of humor and this music hall ditty is definitely in that vein. I've always found it memorable and a brief respite from his usual style.
5. "Humdrum" 3:25
Another good one, and a track I'm surprised more people don't talk about. Well-produced (even if Gabriel had his reservations, more about that below), and I can imagine this being a Genesis tune in earlier years but with different production values of course.
6. "Slowburn" 4:36
A rocker, just when the album needed it, and a fine opener to the second side. Dynamics, as the song ping pongs from fast to slow - but always returning to the guitar riff (Fripp or Steve Hunter?). Another tune which would have sounded fine on the radio. Dare I say this is a better album than And Then There Were Three
? Yes, I do believe it is...
7. "Waiting for the Big One" 7:15
Side two's "Excuse Me," which is to say it doesn't sound like routine Peter Gabriel music. This has got to be the first blues he ever recorded, and it's not like he returned to that well-worn genre any time soon after. He sounds like a saloon singer after a few drinks. Like pretty much everything else on this record, I like it. Gabriel never would have put something like this on one of his records after this though.
Wikipedia: "Peter Gabriel
was recorded at The Soundstage in Toronto with producer Bob Ezrin in the autumn of 1976, with additional sessions at Morgan Studios and Olympic Studios, in London, England.
"Bob Ezrin was suggested. For my part, I didn't feel I could be an Alice Cooper, but I made him listen to the extracts of what I had done and he liked them – or, rather, he liked what I liked. We understood each other. We talked. There was an excellent rapport immediately – a human rapport – and that was what I was looking for above all ... I tried to achieve a combination of Bob and me as producers. He controlled the American rhythm sections and I handled the more European things. And, on the album, Bob dominated the very rock passages which I wasn't used to producing, and I led the quiet parts – things I'd done in Genesis." – Peter Gabriel
Gabriel and Ezrin assembled musicians for the sessions including guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson, bass player Tony Levin (later of King Crimson), drummer Allan Schwartzberg, percussionist Jimmy Maelen, guitarist Steve Hunter, keyboardist Jozef Chirowski and Larry Fast on synthesizers and programming.
"I was uncertain of what I could or couldn't do so went with some of Bob Ezrin's choice of musicians (including Tony Levin) and invited Robert Fripp and Larry Fast to cover my more soundscape orientated / European ambitions. Although it was mainly recorded in a snowy couple of weeks in Toronto I remember the sessions as fast, exciting and hot. Many of the backing tracks were put down live, working to the limitations of the 16-track tape machine. It was a fun, intense and scary session, with a great band – who later came out to tour with me."– Peter Gabriel"
8. "Down the Dolce Vita" 5:05
Perhaps my least fave cut here. The orchestra sounds like it should be on a Rick Wakeman album, and the subsequent disco beat is another thing he wouldn't explore in the future. He's throwing things at the wall on this LP searching for something that sticks and this ain't it.
9. "Here Comes the Flood" 5:38
Ah, but this one is great! Many singers probably going back to Dylan sang apocalyptic scenarios in their songs, so this is another one in that tradition. Peter had touched upon that in "Waiting for the Big One" already, but this examines the theme to better effect. Yet one more tune that Genesis could have done well with. That's gotta be Hunter playing the bluesy guitar towards the end.