Hometown boy walks away from his successful school buddies and breaks out on his own to even more acclaim. Sounds like the plot to a movie, right? Well, that’s what happened in the mid-seventies to Genesis, this talented group of former Charterhouse school chums. As the progressive rock giant was poised on super-stardom with their ground-elevating album and performances of Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, charismatic frontman Peter Gabriel dropped the bomb that he was breaking out on his own and leaving the group.
This, Peter’s first solo record is a mixed bag for sure. It runs the gamut from almost-prog, to barbershop quartet, to blues, disco, rock and roll, and everything in-between. The production by Bob Ezrin is not very sensitive to Gabriel’s talents. I sense that Ezrin and Gabriel are pushing and pulling throughout each song on this record. Sometimes Gabriel concedes to Ezrin’s more commercial aspects than necessary. This compromise would not be an issue on later solo records produced by such major stars as Daniel Lanois and Steve Lllywhite.
Opener “Moribund the Burgermeister” does not depart too much from Peter’s period with his former band. He even uses his “liquid oxygen” voice for the title character. Then “Solsbury Hill” literally talks about his departure from the band. Free to go his own way now he rips it up with the rocker “Modern Love,” departs fully with a barbershop harmony intro for “Excuse Me,” and brings it all back a bit for the three part “Humdrum.” “Humdrum” is one of the more intriguing songs here as it moves from mellow electric piano with a tender vocal to a tango beat and ending in a grand symphonic manner.
“Slowburn” does just that. It stays rocking with a smoldering underbrush, only wavering at the refrain. This section again reveals a bit more of Gabriel’s progressive tendencies. “Waiting for the Big One” is a misfired blues number influenced by Randy Newman?! I really wasn’t expecting that! “Down the Dolce Vita” mixes an actual disco rhythm with a great Peter Gabriel song. Whoops! Ya caught me doin’ the ”cherry picker” during this one! The London Symphony Orchestra sounds majestic and symphonic throughout. It takes a turn from the dance beat for a few moments in the middle and packs a lot of great stuff in less than five minutes.
Not his greatest album and leaves us a bit confused as to what kind of an artist Peter wanted to be. He would find his way later with the more world music beat conscious albums “So” and “3-Melt,” but this album does have some merit. It is in fact the first to feature Gabriel’s classic “Here Comes the Flood,” recorded in multiple versions on other records throughout the years.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on March 18th, 2012