KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – PETER GABRIEL “PETER GABRIEL (CAR)”

Artist: PETER GABRIEL
Album: PETER GABRIEL (CAR)

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

Before Peter Gabriel became a multi-platinum global superstar with 1986’s So, which I discussed in this Thirty Year Thursday post last year, he had already led several musical lives. As a founding member of Genesis, his theatrical stage persona, unique & poetic lyrics and unforgettable voice made him a progressive rock legend but far from a household name. When he left that group in 1975 following the tour for their 1974 magnum opus The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, there was no guarantee that success awaited. His first two solo albums, released on Atlantic subsidiary Atco, were Top 10 hits in his U.K. homeland but didn’t make much impact in the U.S. Then a switch to Geffen Records and a more focused sound, with some of the catchiest songs of his career, had him making strides in America, including radio hits “Games Without Frontiers” and “Shock The Monkey.” All of this led to his unsurprising 1986 mainstream breakthrough, but for some reason those first two albums have been overlooked by all but his most passionate fans. It probably didn’t help that his first four solo releases were all titled Peter Gabriel (except in the U.S., where his fourth was called Security), creating some confusion for the record-buying public. Instead they were given numerical sequencing or unofficial titles based on the front cover artwork, so his debut (which is the subject of this post) is commonly known as Peter Gabriel 1 or Car.

Eschewing the long-form musical suites, extended instrumental passages and narrative structure that had often defined his time with Genesis, this collection of nine songs is somewhat more focused than any of his previous work while also covering a wider array of styles than ever before. That diversity often makes for a jarring listen, but his singing & songwriting are in fine form and he surrounded himself with a great team, including producer Bob Ezrin (best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Kiss), King Crimson guitarist/mastermind Robert Fripp, bassist Tony Levin (who has since been a constant presence in Gabriel’s band), synth maestro Larry Fast, drummer Allan Schwartzberg and keyboardist Jozef Chirowski. Gabriel’s wistful ode to letting go & moving on (and an allusion to his departure from Genesis), “Solsbury Hill,” has become a defining track in his career and was his first Top 40 single in the U.K.  With a memorable acoustic guitar pattern throughout, courtesy of special guest (and Ezrin/Reed/Cooper collaborator) Steve Hunter, and a 7/4 time signature for most of its running time, this song is most notable for a repeated 4-note synth melody and the phrase “my heart going boom boom boom.” I love the moody & captivating voice-and-keyboard intro to “Humdrum,” and even after other instruments join in the focus remains on his vocals, which get huskier in the second half (with hints of David Bowie). Album opener “Moribund The Burgermeister” shifts from creepy & claustrophobic with muffled mallets on the tom toms to a big dramatic chorus, and I especially like the quiet little breakdown with cute synth noises at “I will find out…I will find out.”

“Modern Love” is as straightforward as Gabriel gets; a bright rocker with choppy guitar & power chords, a catchy chorus (“Ahh the pain, modern love can be a strain”) and a quiet bridge. Steve Hunter returns on electric guitar with some searing leads on “Slowburn,” a propulsive rocker broken up by softer sections with violin. There are no verses & choruses, just a few different sections mixed together into a very interesting & powerful arrangement. The longest song, at more than 7 minutes, is “Waiting For The Big One,” a bluesy/jazzy waltz featuring pretty piano and splashy instrumental sections with tasty lead guitar (again by Hunter) that’s drastically different than anything else he’s recorded. Although easily categorized as a straight blues tune, his voice is not what you would typically hear with this type of music. The London Symphony Orchestra appears on the two songs which close out the album. “Down The Dolce Vita” morphs from a symphonic arrangement to a funky power-chord-infused proto-disco rhythm, with “Trying to find a way to make it alive” closing each verse.  It’s a bit overblown but still quite enjoyable, and the juxtaposition between rock instruments & orchestra is impressive. “Here Comes The Flood” is a dynamic ballad with a pretty pastoral intro offering just a hint of an Asian melody. I hear some Bowie influence, especially in the glam-rock-meets-power-ballad choruses. It features an impressive guitar solo by Dick Wagner, who (like Steve Hunter) was a favorite of Bob Ezrin, Lou Reed & Alice Cooper. Peter Gabriel (Car) is probably not the best entry point into his discography but its schizophrenic nature shouldn’t scare off fans who are digging deeper than his radio hits. There’s a lot to love here for people willing to give it a few listens to sink in.

 

 

Forty Year Friday will return in a few weeks with a 1977 album that wasn’t actually released in 1977.

37 comments on “Forty Year Friday – PETER GABRIEL “PETER GABRIEL (CAR)”

  1. Murphy's Law
    October 20, 2017

    This is an album I tend to listen to in pieces – I tend to be in the mood for one part or another. But I love “Down the Dolce Vita”, sometimes a bit overblown is exactly what I’m looking for.

    Like

    • I can understand that as it’s such a schizophrenic record…in a good way. I agree that sometimes “overblown” is just what I need to hear.

      Like

  2. mikeladano
    October 20, 2017

    Bruce Dickinson swears by the first 3 PG albums as massive influuences. Me, I still only have a best of!

    Like

    • I won’t say that every Gabriel record is essential, including the one featured in this post, but a best-of will really only scratch the surface. At the very least every collection should include his 3rd, 4th & 5th albums (Peter Gabriel 3 aka Melt, Peter Gabriel 4 aka Security and So). I love the first two but they’re not for everyone, so I don’t completely agree with Bruce Bruce.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        October 20, 2017

        As a Marillion fan, I think I can be safe to check out any of that old Gabriel stuff and find something to enjoy. Bruce Bruce mentioned a song called “Intruder” as particularly great…I am going to check it out, apparently that’s on Melt.

        Like

      • His solo stuff is pretty far removed from Marillion but obviously there’s always the Genesis connection. “Intruder” is one of my favorites. Good place to start.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        October 20, 2017

        Really interesting track! I can see a commonality with Bruce’s solo album Balls to Picasso. Definitely hearing a lot of this influence on it.

        A lot of Genesis always makes the annual Sausagefest countdown. Gabriel, not so much. I definitely need to explore. When I was a young feller I just knew his pop hits and I didn’t know he did so much more than that.

        Like

      • Haven’t played Balls To Picasso in a while so I’ll have to revisit it soon to find out if I hear any Gabriel connection. I came to Bruce’s solo career via Accident Of Birth and Chemical Wedding when I fell heavily for Maiden in the latter half of the ’90s. His earlier solo works didn’t resonate quite as much with me as those two monster albums, but perhaps I’ll feel differently when I reevaluate them. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of Gabriel songs that will make an impact on you. Even his pop hits were really interesting & not predictable, but many of his album tracks are simply astounding. I hope they make the cut at your next Sausagefest.

        Like

  3. Josh Lerman
    October 20, 2017

    Now you’re talking!

    Like

  4. Aphoristical
    October 20, 2017

    Have you heard his piano only version of Here Comes the Flood. I find the album a little frustrating, as it’s all over the place, but there’s some great stuff. I could never get into 2, but I think 1992’s Us is one of his best.

    Like

    • That was the version on the Shaking The Tree compilation, right? If so, I’ve heard it and really like it, but I also love the bombastic album version. I can understand why you’re frustrated by this album being all over the place but I find that to be one of its charms. It’s like he had no idea what direction to take in his solo career so he tried various things. There’s no questioning the songwriting, of course. As for Us, I agree that it’s a pretty spectacular record.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        October 20, 2017

        There’s a version on Fripp’s Exposure that’s pretty stripped back as well. You’re totally right about newly liberated artist trying lots of different things, basically what this album is, but it has enough great moments to work

        Like

      • I love the Exposure version as well. What a phenomenal album that is.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. J.
    October 20, 2017

    This is on my list (so too are the other 3). Been close to buying it a few times just for Solsbury Hill, but I’ve always found something else to spend money on.

    Like

    • Do you have any Gabriel in your collection? If not, I would suggest starting with albums 3 through 6. Once you’re in the “Gabriel Zone” you’ll probably enjoy the first two, but they’re not the ideal entry points.

      Like

      • J.
        October 20, 2017

        I don’t. I’m a little familiar with the early albums, as my brother has them, but starting points duly noted!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. kevin
    October 20, 2017

    Another hero of mine. This album is all over the place, which, for me, makes it a difficult listen. I’m not sure if Ezrin was the man for this job. Notice PG abandons this bombastic version of “Here Comes The Flood” for quieter moodier versions in the future, (I like this version, but the Exposure version is exceptional). Of course there are great songs, though. Especially “Humdrum.”

    Like

    • Hi Kevin. I’m pretty sure I already knew you were a Gabriel fan but it’s good to know how you feel about this album. I’m finding that some people love it while others are bothered by the fact that it’s all over the place. You might be right that Ezrin wasn’t the optimal choice for him at this stage of his career, but I imagine Gabriel…as confident as he is…was feeling pressure to make an impact after leaving Genesis, and he didn’t know what direction to take. Having an experienced producer was essential at that point. Of course, there’s no questioning the songwriting & musical performances. Glad we agree about “Humdrum.”

      Like

  7. Daddydinorawk
    October 20, 2017

    oooh, let me guess…

    Sacred Songs?

    Like

  8. Vinyl Connection
    October 20, 2017

    Always interesting, is Mr PG. As others have noted, the sheer variety of styles and moods on PG1 make it something of a roller coaster but it is a fascinating solo debut, and equally interesting when spun alongside ‘Exposure’.

    Nice writeup, Rich.

    Like

    • Thanks, Bruce. Your description of this album as a rollercoaster is fantastic. Some fans gets queasy after the ups & downs & twists & turns while others love it all. Good call regarding the link between this and Exposure. I would add Daryl Hall’s Sacred Songs into that mix.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jeff Kempin
    October 21, 2017

    I recently did a “listening project” where I tracked down PGs first 4 albums. Of the 4, I found the 2nd album (scratch) the weakest. I liked this first one just fine, but really, with “melt” we get the classic Gabriel sound. That album and Security are pretty stellar. But the first album has its charms too. Yeah, it is all over the place, but still a good listen.

    Like

    • Hi Jeff. Were you unfamiliar with the first four PG albums before your listening project, or were you revisiting one or more of them in the process? I agree that “Scratch” might be the weakest of the bunch, but it also has several of my favorite PG songs, especially “D.I.Y.” I completely agree that the Peter Gabriel sound really comes into its own on “Melt.” That one & Security are undisputed classics.

      Like

      • Jeff Kempin
        October 23, 2017

        I was unfamiliar with all 4…besides the hits.

        Like

      • Cool. That had to be an enjoyable experience hearing them all for the first time in one big batch.

        Like

  10. stephen1001
    October 22, 2017

    Even if it’s not my favourite opener in the PG catalogue (that would be Red Rain), surely ‘Moribund The Burgermeister’ is one of the finest opening track titles!

    Like

  11. Alyson
    October 23, 2017

    I’m starting to sound like a broken record but Peter Gabriel, like Genesis a few weeks ago, kind of passed me by in 1977. I am surprised however that Solsbury Hill was released as early as that as I could have sworn it was recorded later on in the ’80s. My most vivid memories of PG are from his 1986 mainstream breakthrough. Some very imaginative videos at that time to accompany the songs as well. Don’t Give Up with Kate Bush is a pretty amazing piece of work – Not sure if she made it big in the US or not? Over this last year I have been pretty bowled over by just how many of your FYF albums were by British artists. We tended not to know who made it big and who didn’t back in those days but a lot of overlap on both sides of the Atlantic. Enjoy the few weeks off (it will be November when you return – where has the year gone?) and in the meantime a few of us will be no doubt trying to guess which 1977 album wasn’t actually from 1977. Cryptic indeed.

    Like

    • You certainly don’t sound like a broken record, Alyson. Not even a scuffed record that skips. 😛 This PG album didn’t make much of an impact here in the U.S. and only got exposure because of “Solsbury Hill” and later due to his immense popularity. I was surprised to see how successful it was in the UK. I agree that So provided some vivid memories, thanks to the combination of great songs AND great videos. I love “Don’t Give Up.” For some reason my wife, who’s not a big music fan but likes Peter Gabriel, thinks the song is too dramatic. I see it as powerful. Kate Bush never caught on here beyond cult status. Only doing a handful of live appearances in the US early in her career & then never touring didn’t do much for her profile. I like her a lot, though. One of my college roommates (and still a close friend) has been an obsessive Kate fan for more than 30 years, and flew to London to see one of her shows a couple of years ago. I love artists that inspire such passion. She did vocals on “The Seer” by Big Country. As you know, they are one of my all-time favorite bands.

      This break from the blog is a necessary one. We’re approaching the end of our renovations and we have to vacate the house for two weeks while floors are finished and the two rooms we’ve been using for the past 6 months are updated. I could probably find time to write one more post but preparing everything for this two week period has knocked me out. I barely have the energy to listen to music let alone write about it. After my next post that I alluded to, I might have to start wrapping up the series with brief write-ups on multiple albums in each post. There’s still a lot to cover and very little time left in 2017. Oh the pressure!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        October 23, 2017

        You are being too kind I think as I have had little to contribute here of late whereas your other followers always seem so knowledgeable about the albums you share – Hope they realise I approach each post from a different angle i.e. harking back to my memories of the time and whether the artist made an impact or not.

        Interesting to note that Kate Bush didn’t make it big commercially in the US but did achieve cult status – Those concerts in London a few years back sold out in record time didn’t they and she hadn’t performed live in decades. A lot of love out there for her still.

        Good luck with the end of the renovations – Funnily enough I am just starting off on ours! I finished work a few weeks ago now and don’t want to start something else until I’ve got everything the way I want it. Won’t be nearly as amazing as what I suspect you are doing but this has very much been a family home for years and I think it’s now maybe time to make it a house fit for grown-ups. That’s the plan anyway. Good luck and will see you back here in a few weeks.

        Like

      • I don’t see these comments sections as places to contribute, per se, but more of an opportunity to take the conversation in various directions…and I always enjoy the directions your comments lead to, Alyson. It’s just as enjoyable to chat with people who are unfamiliar with a particular album/artist, or maybe only familiar with some of their other work, as it is with fellow obsessives. I feel bad that I haven’t had the time to comment on other wonderful blogs (yours included) for most of this year, but I’m hoping that changes in the next couple of months as life should finally settle down. At the very least that WordPress “Like” button is a good way to let our fellow bloggers know we’re still following even if we’re not participating in the conversation.

        Good luck with your renovation project. I certainly hope it’s not on the same level that my wife & I tackled this year. We knew what we were in for yet it’s been even more difficult slogging through it than we expected. It hasn’t helped that our poor cat got very ill last month, and it’s likely due to stress. He’s doing much better now but he’s not happy about being uprooted right now. We want to get to the finish line for us, of course, but even more for him so he can finally have some consistency in his life. Between packing, moving, unpacking, packing again, renovations, etc., no two days have been the same for him…and cats like routine.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. billyshakes
    October 23, 2017

    Rich,

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I’ll echo the sentiment of nearly all on this being a bit of a spotty album but I’ve always enjoyed the artistry of PG and his willingness (fearlessness?) to eschew commercial success and follow his visions. I believe he starts mostly from the rhythms and then writes the tunes around them if I remember a comment from an interview long ago.

    Wondering if you’ve heard the German version of Here Comes the Flood (called Jetzt kommt die Flut)? It is more solemn and includes a little Frippertronics in the back but none of the bombast of this version. In that respect, it has more in common with the Exposure version. I think it was released as a B-side to a single or a 12″. I thought it was on one of his 2 “German” albums but I checked my copies of those and found it not there. Guess I’ll have to track a version down….

    Like

    • Hi Billy. I appreciate you chiming in (and for lurking as well…I often do the same thing). Thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of Gabriel’s German version of “Here Comes The Flood.” Since we’re living in the internet age I was able to find it easily and the performance (on a German TV show) was mesmerizing. Not sure I agree that his debut album is spotty, since the songwriting, performances & especially his vocals are all wonderful. Because he tried so many different styles, though, it doesn’t hold together as a single unit quite like his later albums. I also love that it sounds like nothing else in his discography.

      Cheers…
      Rich

      Like

      • billyshakes
        October 24, 2017

        Okay…spotty was perhaps not the best word choice. Maybe “lacks coherency?” I looked at that word before I posted but couldn’t think of a better choice. My intent was spotty as in a spot over here, a spot over there, etc. Not good quality here and bad quality. Just that it was a group of individual “spots” or moments rather than a cohesive picture. If I’m going to run with that metaphor, I will say that it perhaps isn’t even a pointillist picture that is made of spots but produces a coherent picture. It would be more of an abstract piece.

        Yes, after writing I found a website that had the mp3 audio on the blog. If you look at the page source code, you can usually find the link to the file and then download it. Glad you enjoyed the tip. I know some German and it is fun to try to decipher the lyrics. Apparently, they are really well done and hardly lose any of the meaning or artistry that is often done when you translate something.

        -Bill

        Like

      • Hi Bill. I really enjoyed your explanation of “spotty” in this scenario, and especially the reference to pointillism, a style I’ve enjoyed since I was a teenager. Well done, sir.

        I’ve always enjoyed German opera even though I don’t know a word of that language, so perhaps you’re on to something with your comment about not losing the meaning in translation. It’s all about how the lyrics sound and what they convey.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to KamerTunesBlog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 395 other followers

Archives

%d bloggers like this: