Peter Gabriel 1977
From the get-go, I’ve always considered the debut album by Peter Gabriel to not only be the best record ever to emerge from the Genesis stable but also one of the greatest rock albums period.
Stylistically it is a unique one-off, which is simultaneously rather a shame and arguably what makes it such a sparkling gem even after all these years since its much anticipated 1977 release.
It’s unquestionably a very “prog” record, possessed of Gabriel’s established storytelling songwriting of his Genesis years, full of vivid and often bizarre imagery, but painted on a far more epic canvas, with marvellous contributions from the London Symphony Orchestra.
That sense of the grandiose is most definitely a by-product of the great decision to bring in renowned rock producer Bob Ezrin, who went on to produce the next three Pink Floyd albums, starting with The Wall.
Huge credit should also go to celebrated ex Lou Reed/Alice Cooper Band guitarist Steve Hunter who, along with Robert Fripp, turns in a fine shift with some outstanding work throughout the album’s quite lengthy two sides.
What I still find so remarkable about this LP is that it literally has no weaknesses at all. All of the nine extraordinarily diverse tracks are staged so fantastically that they robustly exist in their own space, yet perfectly complement the other songs in terms of how brilliantly they are sequenced.
The record kicks off with the enigmatic Moribund The Burgermeister, which was the B side to the next track, the highly successful Solsbury Hill that my dear 87-year-old mum still says is her favourite song. So there’s a wide appeal for you.
Modern Love is arguably the most conventional track here, driven by its amazing and highly original riff.
Next up is Excuse Me, with its barbershop quartet opening and light-hearted euphonium. So clever.
Humdrum ends Side One and I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve put this in playlists over the years. Starting with a simple Gabriel vocal accompanied by electric piano, it builds and builds with stunning drama. Fabulous.
Flip the record over and that drama kicks up another gear with Slowburn and yet more great guitar braggadocio and a powerful Peter Gabriel vocal.
Next up is the deceptively low key jazzy/blues opening to Waiting For The Big One, which gradually gives way to production on the grandest of scales. The fade into Down The Dolce Vita culminates in the LSO playing on the most massive scale. What a song, with yet more fantastic guitar work and even a heavenly choir.
Here Comes The Flood is a fitting end and, just maybe, the most memorable song here. It’s long been a staple of Peter Gabriel’s live work and is much loved. Another beautiful song that again builds wonderfully.
What a start to Gabriel’s solo career. It was such a logical progression from the Genesis years and, although I love all that went before it, I still find this record to be on another level altogether.
But, Peter being Peter, he was forever experimenting and subsequent albums, up until the huge So, were all about a more economical style. I listen to them a lot and truly love them, but for me, nothing even remotely comes close to this sensational debut LP. It is total genius and I couldn’t be without it. I can honestly say I know every note by heart.
Seen here as an exceptional near mint original 1977 UK pressing on Charisma.