Blu-ray Review: Peter Gabriel - So - Classic Albums

By , Contributor

New on Blu-ray from Eagle Rock Entertainment is another installment in the venerable Classic Albums series. This time around, the subject is the 1986 megahit by Peter Gabriel, So. Over the course of an hour, director George Scott and producer Nick de Grunwald tell the story of one of the greatest artistic statements in pop music. This being billed as “the definitive authorized story,” it’s only appropriate that many original participants turn up for interviews. Predictably, Gabriel himself contributes some of the most interesting comments. Producer Daniel Lanois is low-key and lucid as he reminisces about the creation of So more than 25 years later.

Along the way we also hear from musicians who played on So, including bassist Tony Levin and drummer/percussionist Manu Katché. Everyone has sort of a subdued approach to discussing their collaboration with Gabriel, which works in the documentary’s favor. This isn’t about hyperbole or breathless compliments. The artists who contributed to making So one of the best-received albums of its era are humble and thoughtful in their reflections. Quite understandably, considerable time is devoted to discussing the impact of the ultra-popular music video for “Sledgehammer,” so instrumental in turning Gabriel into a mainstream superstar. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke is on hand to offer a journalistic perspective, speaking about the album not only as a “critic” but also an obvious true fan.

Eagle Rock’s 1080i Blu-ray presentation is quite solid throughout. The new interview segments naturally look the best, with Gabriel, Lanois, and company captured in great detail on high definition video. The archival footage is decidedly mixed, though there’s no reason to expect it not to be. Grainy excerpts of live concerts and music videos (some that were quite modestly-budgeted) show their age. The LPCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack is sufficient for this type of presentation. The focus is more on what the artists have to say, rather than a purely musical experience. Though the lack of a 5.1 mix may disappoint some, the uncompressed stereo track does the job.

More than a half-hour of supplemental material adds a good deal of extra value to So - Classic Albums. If it seemed like the iconic hit singles “Big Time” and “In Your Eyes” were given short-shrift in the main documentary, each has an additional segment devoted to further exploration. The “Making of ‘Sledgehamer’” looks even more closely at one of the most innovative music videos of all time. Perhaps the best extra is a segment that looks at Gabriel’s efforts to assist Amnesty International and the associated concert tours that benefited that organization.

Peter Gabriel’s So definitely deserved a place in the Classic Albums series and this Blu-ray is sure to please fans of the album.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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