[Review] Peter Gabriel: Us (1992)

Not quite the coming out party of his last record, Gabriel balances his interests in world ambient music with pop.

Kronomyth 10.0: Desperately seeking closure.

The atmospheric, understated Us may have come as a disappointment to some following the upbeat So, but anyone who picked up Passion will anticipate its mix-heavy melange of third-world sounds and electronic effects. Coproduced by Daniel Lanois, Us did feature a few singles that sought to re-cultivate the same audience as So: “Kiss That Frog,” “Digging in the Dirt” and especially “Steam.” And more groundbreaking videos were in the offing for each, giving the impression that little had changed over the years.

And yet much had changed; Peter Gabriel had divorced his wife, lost his latest muse (the actress Rosanna Arquette) and seems to have plumbed the experience to its depths in a post-mortem examination. More indicative of Us are the moments when Gabriel exposes his wounds, such as “Love To Be Loved,” “Secret World” and “Blood of Eden” (one of several tracks to reference Adam and Eve as aliases for the parties involved). The album does take time to appreciate, slowly working its way under the skin with subtle melodies and exotic soundscapes.

Although Passion and So are the albums most like it, Us does recall Peter Gabriel II at times; “Washing of the Water,” for example, is kin to tracks such as “Flotsam and Jetsam” and “Indigo.” Building on his musical alliances with alternative rock’s leading ladies, Gabriel here enlists the help of Sinead O’Connor on backing vocals, who makes an impression out of the gate with her distinctive voice on “Come Talk To Me.” Other notable collaborators include Brian Eno (credited with “extra brainstorming”), Peter Hammill, John Paul Jones and William Orbit. Lanois and Eno were coming off the hugely successful Achtung Baby, and the pair had developed a readily identifiable sound that you’ll hear immediately on “Only Us.” Yet the record is audibly the work of Gabriel at every turn.

The decision not to capitalize on the success of So must have confounded his label, and six years between proper albums tested the reasonable limits of patience. There’s no grousing about the quality of the material here, however. Us is a work of art, painstakingly crafted—in fact, you could say that pain is the primary creative force here, though filtered through the lens of Gabriel’s growing interests in world music.

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The Songs

1. Come Talk To Me (7:04)
2. Love To Be Loved (5:16)
3. Blood of Eden (6:35)
4. Steam (6:02)
5. Only Us (6:30)
6. Washing of the Water (3:50)
7. Digging In The Dirt (5:16)
8. Fourteen Black Paintings (4:36)
9. Kiss That Frog (5:27)
10. Secret World (7:01)

All tracks written by Peter Gabriel.

The Players

Peter Gabriel (vocals, programming, triangle, keyboard bass, keys, percussion, valiha, horn arrangement, harmonica, Mexican flute), Richard Blair (additional verse keyboards, additional programming), David Bottrill (programming, hi hat), Manu Katche (drums, electronic drums, percussion), Daniel Lanois (Telecaster guitar, dobro, vocals, shaker, horn arrangement), Tony Levin (bass), David Rhodes (guitar, 12 string guitar) with The Adzido Drummers (additional percussion loop on 9), Malcolm Burn (additional synth cello & additional production ideas on 10), Bill Dillon (Stratocaster on 2/5), Johnny Dollar (string arrangement on 2/6), Brian Eno (extra brainstorming, additional keys on 2), Kudsi Erguner (ney flute on 5), Manny Elias (Senegalese shakers on 9), Richard Evans (mandolin on 8), The Babacar Faye Drummers (sabar drums on 1/4, djembe on 7/8), Tim Green (tenor saxophone on 4/6), Peter Hammill (vocals on 7), Reggie Houston (baritone saxophone on 4/6), Gus Isidore (bridge guitar on 3), Daryl Johnson (hand drum on 2), John Paul Jones (surdu, bass & keyboards on 8), Caroline Lavelle (cello & string arrangement on 2, cello on 6/10), Richard Macphail (vocals on 7), Will Malone (string arrangement on 2/6), Marilyn McFarlane (vocals on 9), Levon Minassian (doudouk on 1/3/8), Leo Nocentelli (Epiphone guitar on 4/7), Sinead O’Connor (vocals on 1/3), Ayub Ogada (vocals on 5/6), William Orbit (programming on 2/5), Chris Ormston (bagpipes on 1), Renard Poche (trombone on 4/6), Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble (1), Hossa Ramzy (tabla on 2, surdu on 7), Doudou N’Diaye Rose (drum loop on 1/10), Shankar (violin on 2/3/5/8), Assan Thiam (tama on 7, talking drum on 8). Produced by Daniel Lanois and Peter Gabriel; recording and mix engineered by David Bottrill except mix engineered by Richard Evans (8); additional engineering by Richard Blair, Richard Evans (2), Mark Howard (6); mix by Richard Chappell (3), digital editing by David Bottrill.

The Pictures

All photographs by David Scheinmann. Sleeve design by Malcolm Garrett, Assorted Images.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc, cassette and 2LP on September 29, 1992 in the UK (Virgin, PGCD/PGMC/PG 7), the US and Canada (Geffen, GEFD/GEFC 24473) and Germany (Virgin, 86455); reached #2 on the UK charts and #2 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). Also released on elpee in Russia (label unknown, BL 1054) with only 8 tracks (minus original tracks 8 and 9) and different track order.

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2002 in the UK (Virgin, PGCDX 7) and the Netherlands (Virgin, 811 748).
  2. Re-released on limited edition remastered 200g vinyl 2LP in 2002 in the US (Classic, PGLP10) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-released on half-speed remastered 2LP in 2017 in the US (New World).

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