Rock Around the World • A prit 1977 7
A Wizard in his
by John Burbage
He has, as he puts it, “traded in a slightly used pair of bat wings” to reach his present position, but as the subsequent solo album and headlining tour have demonstrated, Peter Gabriel need harbour no regrets.
True, the aftermath of Gabriel’s sudden, albeit prearranged, departure from Genesis created shock and consternation amongst the ranks of the faithful, but by the time the epic LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY album had appeared. it was apparent that the gestation period of Peter Gabriel, the artist, within the womb of Genesis had reached a climax. This four-sided statement, hatched from one of Peter’s short story ideas. captured the ears and minds of critics and audience alike, while introducing Rael. Gabriel’s most awesome personae to date. Unfortunately, this hastened the convergence of Peter’s identity with Genesis’, and the last thing that the lads wanted was to see their tidy collective become personified in one member. So, with Peter’s ideas and ambitions stretching the bounds of the “five-man democratic ensemble” a bit past accepted limits, and Genesis at the same time moving full-throttle toward big commercial success in America. Peter effectively announced “all change!” in a statement to the British rock press. then, like the aerosol kid racing into the subway, Gabriel went underground. The silence became unbearable. Flint illusion and Raelity (choke) the association had lasted harmoniously, and now…what? How would Peter fare on his own? Did Genesis minus Gabriel still eq41. Genesis? (For reasons related to my pers( al health and well being I’ll pass here on the latter question). ■
A year passed, as Peter retreated to family and esoteric pursuits denied him by Genesis’s, hectic road schedule. Maintaining this low profile, he. began to collaborate with the songwriter, poet Martin Hall on various musical projects. Sympathetic view regarding the machinery of rock and assorted apocalyptic visions brought him in tune with old friend and fellow wizard in his own time, Robert Fripp. News of the pairing gave rise to dark rumors of a Gabriel, Fripp. and Eno triumvirate, but Peter was set in his course. A move toward another writing collective would contradict his original motivation for leaving Genesis, that is, to have the artistic freedom to he the master of his own musical fate. Robert’s studio expertise made him an invaluble addition to any group of musicians, as Gabriel well knew; and he also knew that he still needed to fill out the workings of a hand plus secure the services of a producer to help mold his visions into life. Enter one
Bob Ezrin (after a series of-inquiries) to solve both problens by suggesting that Peter use Etrin’s own stable of musicians, including guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, for the album’s instrumental backing. He agreed. again sending out waves of surprise \ through the multitudes. Progressive purists \snickered aloud. The Alice Cooper, Lou • ‘geed, Bob Ezrin” With Peter Gabriel? Maahhh, they said. With malevolent intent. this unlikely assemblage padded off to The Soundstage Studios in Toronto. Again the intolerable silence, followed by a press release from the record company saying, of all things, to “expect the unexpected!”
Which pretty much brings us up to date. as the long awaited first word from Peter, titled PETER GABRIEL, has at last been revealed. Through a recurring theme of impending apocalypse, the Gabriel that emerges is more powerful and in control of his creative capacities than ever before. Stripped of the trappings which eventually smothered him in Genesis, Peter is free to work his magic, and the grand sorcerer weaves nine tracks of musical wonder. With
few exceptions of overindulgence, the Gabriel-Ezrin bond works incredibly well. And after once listening (in a state of discomfort bordering on nausea) to the Ezrinized version of Lou Reed’s “Heroin” I learned that overindulgence on musical arrangement is not new to his productions. Still, Ezrin delivers as promised. The focal point of PETER GABRIEL is Peter Gabriel, and the artist always dominates an Ezrin project.
As for the songs themselves, there is a bit of something here for everybody. Each of the nine selections rings with a mood all its own. Side one opens on an eerie not with “Moribund the Burger meister”, a composition recalling the LAMB period inspired, says Peter, by an article on St. Vitus Dance, an involuntary dancing fit afflicting folks during the Middle Ages. This piece is marked by an intriguing background percussion (kudos to Jim Maelen) and Gabriel’s “I…will…find…OUT!” in perfect Linda Blair cum Regan voice. Gabriel’s early days of bashing about on the drums have always lent an offbeat percussive
air to his songwriting, turning otherwise ordinary tunes into musical wonderment. Such is the case on “Solsbury Hill”. where the thump-a-thump backbeat makes a bouncing acoustic melody an infectious event. “Modern Love” and Slowburn” are blistering rock arrangements of the Ezrin mold catering to Peter’s vocal strengths. There is a barbershop quartet (from the “Martin Hall Connection”) on “Exuse Me” which also includes the delightful bonus of a Robert Fripp banjo excursion behind the whimsical vocals, and the haunting. dreamy vocals of “Humdrum”. “Down The Dolce Vita” and “Here Comes The Flood” close the album on a heavy note, using the London Symphony Orchestra to assist on the former as the empassioned vocals of Peter convey the power of each composition.
Granted, by all first, second, and third impressions, this would seem to be an excellent accomplishment for premier solo offering. Bringing together such diverse elements as Robert Fripp, Larry Fast (of Synergy and Nektar fame), and the Ezrin troupe would be a worthy achievement for anyone, and on vinyl the concoction had performed with a high level of efficiency, but. as the saying goes. “would it play in Peoria?”
Luckily, I did not have to venture that far to find out. No. it was somewhere in the hostile enviorns of a place known as’New Jersey that I found the answer I was seeking. Occupying centerstage and spending large amounts of time on piano, our dynamic hero performs the entire contents,of the elpee plus a few new cuts not included therein, and other surprises, fueled by the steadiness of the band. The touring caravan in much the same as the vinyl roster, with a name changed to protect “the innocents” (boy, can that Dusty Rhodes play a mean guitar!). Sans costumes it’s just Peter taking on the audience on his terms. Not surprisingly, the show goes down very well among the masses tonight, but does little to prepare for the stunning impact of the encore. As ominous power chords grow to a menacing climax, a leather-jacketed Rael leaps onstage and bursts into “Back In NYC” and “Hairless Heart” from the LAMB album, sparking an already dangerously excited crowd into uncontrollable frenzy. Can this be the foretold apocalypse?
No. But let this be a warning to you. Peter Gabriel has returned from the void stronger than ever, and just scratching the surface IA his new career. ACCEPT the unexpected. You…will…find…OUT!!! ■
Peter Gabriel by P Jay Plutzer