[Review] Peter Gabriel (1978)

Modern rock and sympathetic storytelling mark Gabriel’s second album.

Kronomyth 2.0: Scratching at greatness.

Peter Gabriel cultivated a reputation as something of a crank with his second album, choosing a cover that traded in self-obscurity for self-mutilation and again refusing to give the album a proper title (which must have given folks at the label fits). But the crankiness is most evident in the music, from “A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World” to “Animal Magic.” Unlike his debut, which tried its hand at all sorts of things, this album focuses on modern rock, delivered by producer Robert Fripp with all the rough edges intact (a style he would replicate on his own Exposure). There are some quieter moments, achingly sad in the case of “Mother of Violence” and “Home Sweet Home,” but Gabriel’s perturbation is still tangible even in these settings.

Since it’s something of an itchy sweater as albums go, Gabriel’s second is rarely placed on the same pedestal as Peter Gabriel III, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. Songs like “Flotsam and Jetsam” and “Indigo” generate genuine pathos, while the slicker tracks (“Perspective,” “D.I.Y.”) make a better case for Gabriel as a “new” rock artist than “Modern Love” ever could. Yeah, his voice isn’t the commodity here that it once was (and would become again) and the arrangements are stuck in an awkward halfway point between plain old rock & roll and the darker, dire arrangements of the future, but the songs are clearly cut from the stuff of genius.

Gabriel hadn’t quite locked into the “vision” thing yet, but Peter Gabriel version 2 was at least promising. There are some very good ideas here, packaged into confining conventional parcels out of habit, which would explode from their containers and take a more fantastic shape on his next album. Or next installment, depending on how you see these things.

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Original LP Version

A1. On The Air (5:30)
A2. D.I.Y. (2:37)
A3. Mother of Violence (Peter and Jill Gabriel) (3:10)
A4. A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World (3:33)
A5. White Shadow (5:14)
B1. Indigo (3:30)
B2. Animal Magic (3:26)
B3. Exposure (Peter Gabriel/Robert Fripp) (4:12)
B4. Flotsam And Jetsam (2:17)
B5. Perspective (3:23)
B6. Home Sweet Home (4:37)

All songs written by Peter Gabriel unless noted.

The Players

Peter Gabriel (lead vocals, background vocals, synthesizer, piano), Bayete (keyboards), Roy Bittan (keyboards), Larry Fast (synthesizer & treatments), Robert Fripp (electric guitar, Frippertronics), Tony Levin (bass, background vocals, string bass, recorder arrangements, Chapman stick), Jerry Marotta (drums, background vocals), Sidney McGinnis (electric guitar, steel guitar, background vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin) with Timmy Capello (saxophone), George Marge (recorders). Produced by Robert Fripp.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on June 22, 1978 in the UK (Charisma, CDS 4013), the US (Atlantic, SD 19181), France (Charisma, 9103 123), Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (Charisma, 9124 025) and Japan (Charisma, 20S-101) with lyric inner sleeve or insert; reached #10 on the UK charts and #45 on the US charts.

  1. Re-packagedwith Peter Gabriel 1 on 2-for-1 cassette in March 1983 in the UK (Charisma, 102).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in March 1984 in the UK (Charisma, CHC24) and in 1984 in Japan (Charisma, 25VB-1121).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in May 1987 in the UK and the Netherlands (Charisma, PGCD 2) and in the US (Atlantic, 19181-2).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1988 in Japan (Charisma, VJL-145).
  5. Re-released on remastered compact disc on April 29, 2003 in the US (Geffen, 493300), in 2003 in the UK (EMI/Virgin, SAPGCD2), in 2003 in Germany (EMI/Virgin, 811676) and in Japan (EMI/Virgin, VJCP-68522).

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