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23 septembre 2006

Top Ten Songs by Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel's 30-year solo career has produced a wealth of extraordinary music.

Whether writing for a studio album, or for film, Gabriel is consistent in intensity and talent.

Gabriel's love songs can be every bit as poignant as his political pieces.

In nearly 30 years since becoming a solo artist, Peter Gabriel has released some of the most riveting music of a generation. Whether writing songs about relationships, politics, philosophy, or composing music for movie soundtracks, there is intensity to Peter Gabriel’s music that is consistent, and his compositions are inspiring.

What follows is my list of the top ten greatest songs by Peter Gabriel as a solo artist. Although he released some amazing work with Genesis, it is on his own that he really released his true genius. The most challenging thing about compiling this list was determining what to leave off it.

10. “In Your Eyes”
It is an extraordinary occasion when massive airplay cannot cause a song to become tired. “In Your Eyes,” from Peter Gabriel’s 1986 monster hit album So is one of those rarest of love songs. It is a beautiful and stirring song to listen to. It is radio friendly, but not dumbed down. The song is a simple masterpiece. “In your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches.”

9. “The Tower that Ate People”
Peter Gabriel took some time off just before the turn of the millennium to compose a stage show that was performed New Year’s Eve 1999 at the Millennium Dome in London. The show was entitled OVO. The track “the Tower that Ate People” is a gritty song throughout, but progresses through some melodic moments that take the listener by surprise.

8. “Solsbury Hill”
Always one to do things his own way, artistically, Peter Gabriel named each of his first three solo albums Peter Gabriel. For clarity’s sake, they have become commonly known as [1], [2], and [3]. His 1977 first solo release, [1], included the single “Solsbury Hill,” a song that, nearly thirty years after its release, is as current and significant as it was when it was released.

7. “Here Comes the Flood”
Another track from [1], “Here Comes the Flood” is a simple, sad, melodic piece that is atypically sparse in production. A collaboration with Robert Fripp, an even more pared down version of the song can be heard on Fripp’s album Exposure. Both versions are beautiful.

6. “Washing of the Water”
1992’s Us, an album about loss and sadness recorded after Peter Gabriel’s break up with longtime partner Rosanna Arquette, is a work of art that offers several tracks of profound emotional intensity. “Washing of the Water” is a somber song that gains power as it progresses, while never increasing in tempo.

5. “Sky Blue”
In 2002, Peter Gabriel released his long awaited follow up to Us, entitled Up. The track “Sky Blue” is one of the most amazing pieces in Gabriel’s catalog, in my opinion. A song about continuous travel, he enlisted the amazing voices of the Blind Boys of Alabama for the song, and it is one that should not be missed.

4. “Family Snapshot”
A song that evokes the stories of John Hinckley, Jr. and Mark David Chapman, “Family Snapshot,” from Peter Gabriel’s third eponymous album from 1980 is a forceful song from the viewpoint of a messed up kid with family problems who is on a hunt to shoot the president. “The governor’s car is not far behind. He’s not the one I’ve got in mind.” The narrative of the song coupled with the force of the music portrays a mind slipping into insanity and violence to chilling effect.

3. “Biko”
Also from his third album, “Biko” is a much-lauded tribute to South African political activist Stephen Biko. It is a stirring song, dense in its production, and was an effective tool for raising awareness about Apartheid to a younger generation in the 1980s.

2. “It is Accomplished”
Peter Gabriel wrote and recorded the entire score to the 1989 film The Last Temptation of Christ. Entitled Passion by Gabriel, it is, in my opinion, one of the most effective, stunning movie soundtracks of all time. One of the last few tracks, entitled “It is Accomplished” is an instrumental that is clean and joyful, and wonderful to listen to.

1. “Secret World (Live)”
The studio version of “Secret World” is on Peter Gabriel’s Us. A beautiful, evocative, painful song in its original form, I have none-the-less chosen the live version from the 1994 Secret World Live CD as my pick for the number one song by Peter Gabriel. Gabriel is an amazing live performer, and the power and emotion of this live version of “Secret World” is absolutely staggering.

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