Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Archivist Volume 2: Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (car)

I could have picked several of Peter Gabriel's album to include in the blog - and I may return to him later - but the one Peter Gabriel album I keep returning to is his 1977 debut solo album - Peter Gabriel - also know as Car or just 1.

Peter left Genesis after The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour in 1974/5. 
Apparently the writing was on the wall throughout the recording process of Lamb as it became obvious that it was very much Gabriel's project - a similar situation to that of Roger Waters in Pink Floyd with The Wall and also other factors.

As the major lyricist and very much the visual centrepiece of the band, Peter was seen as the artistic driving force behind Genesis.
So, it came as no surprise that Peter chose Bob Ezrin as producer. Bob is the man behind such albums as Destroyer by Kiss, Berlin by Lou Reed & 6 of Alice Copper's classic 1970s output.
 You can see the attraction of Bob to Peter and Peter to Bob. It's a very dramatic album with multiple variations of music contained within it.

I would call it Grandiose. 

And this is what I love about Peter's debut, the variety of the songs he presents. Never again would Peter achieve such variation - because from his second album to the present day Peter has chosen a Sound or Mood which represented his vision on every later album.

(Let's call it Car) opens with the very odd sounding Moribund the Burgemeister. It's opening drum pattern points to many of Peter's future works. But it's as bold an opening to an album, especially a debut, as you'll ever hear. In fact, if it had appeared on The Lamb, you wouldn't have looked twice with it's strange sounding noises and vocals.

I remember first hearing the second track and first single from the album, Solsbury Hill and absolutely loving it from the first time I heard it back in 1977. I loved it's pastoral feel and acoustic based drive. Again we hear the almost african inspired rhythms. It is obviously autobiographical in nature regarding his departure from Genesis and was the first Gabriel music that people had heard since his departure. The single was a big hit for Peter and he still performs it to this day. He has to!!

The second single to be released from the album is the outright rock song Modern Love - you can almost hear Alice Cooper singing this song - very much a Bob Ezrin production. You can imagine the record company executives in the background shouting that this song must be a single.

And who the hell would expect a barber's shop quartet version opening of a song called Excuse Me. It's very much Music Hall and very English - just adding to the oddness with Banjo, whistles & tuba. By now you have no idea where this album is going to go next.

Humdrum is more like the Gabriel we know these days but with many dramatic variations within one song - everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in there. While listening to these songs on the album it brings to mind The Beatles' Let It Be - not for the songs but for it's Phil Spector production - many felt it was over produced but the quality of the songs is undeniable. I would love to hear a stripped down version of this album - but then it wouldn't be the album I love.

This would have been the end of side 1

Side 2 opened up with a bang with the uptempo Slowburn - again another song that has been 'Cooperised' to the hilt by the production - but one which in another form could easily have come from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - apart from Solsbury Hill, this is my favorite song on the album.

Waiting For The Big One is a big, bluesy song that to me is the one glaring misstep on the album. I can see why Peter would have wanted it on there, he has a strong, blusey voice - but if it were me in the production chair, it would have gone. But you can't have a go at the boy for trying.

I said the album was dramatic and next up is the epitome of Drama on the album, the over the top Down The Dolce Vita - complete with Wagnerian orchestral flourishes and over the top guitar histrionics - remember, this album came out the same year as A Bat Out Of Hell and this track has a very similar feel. 

The final track is the epic Here Comes The Flood. Peter himself has said that he believes this song to be over-produced. But bear in mind the context of the whole album - it's all out drama - and I think the song fits in well with the whole album, especially as a closer, but I can see his point. He performs this track these days with just a piano accompaniment and you can still feel it's power.

The album is very much an album of it's time but it's sheer bravura and creativity are enough to carry it though. As a first solo album it is a brave attempt to show that he could move on from Genesis. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - it could have done with a toned down production - but hey, this was the 1970s where anything goes, if only today's artists could be as brave.

Peter's next album (Scratch), produced by King Crimson's Robert Fripp was a tough listen and contained no major hit singles but by the time his third album (Melt) was released, people had become accustomed to his vision and Melt became the biggest album of his career up to that point on it's release, spawning the huge single Games Without Frontiers - and he continues to push the boundaries to this day. 

But he still plays Solsbury Hill.

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