Review: Peter Gabriel

Eagle Rock’s excellent 94-minute DVD marking the 30th Anniversary of So is packed with fi rst-hand insight and revelatory refl ection on Peter Gabriel’s truly timeless recording.
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SO: THE DEFINITIVE AUTHORIZED STORY OF THE ALBUM (DVD) [Eagle Vision]

Eagle Rock’s excellent 94-minute DVD marking the 30th Anniversary of So is packed with first-hand insight and revelatory reflection on Peter Gabriel’s truly timeless recording. Among those opening up are Gabriel and producer Daniel Lanois— each behind boards soloing various tracks from the songs; engineer Kevin Killen, who did yeoman’s work synching and editing this early massive meeting of man and machines; and a half-dozen musicians who played on the platter. Of course, a key part of the legend of the album is the singular bass work by Tony Levin and Larry Klein, and both are interviewed.

Levin relates how “Sledgehammer” was done last-minute, and picks up the black Music Man fretless he used—played with a pick through an octave pedal—to demonstrate the bass line (with close-ups on both hands). For “Don’t Give Up,” Tony talks about Gabriel asking him to put notes to the rhythm box tom-tom figure that was the tune’s genesis. Grabbing the Music Man he used (since partially burned in a fire), he shows how he got the bass line first and then added the double-stop harmony. He also recounts shoving diapers (that he had on hand for his daughter) under the strings to get what Gabriel and Lanois famously dubbed the “Super Wonder Nappy Bass Sound” for the song’s outro. Later, Levin tells the studio and live stories of developing and using “drumfingers” on “Big Time,” which he gamely dons to play the part on his burned Music Man.

Klein relives being called by Gabriel to work on “Mercy Street,” before demonstrating his dual fretted and fretless parts on a 5-string Music Man. “In Your Eyes” —for which both Klein and Levin are credited—is covered with no specific mention of the bass, though we do learn the album track is culled from 96 versions! Klein also talks up the 1986 Amnesty tour with Gabriel, accompanied by a concert clip of him playing Levin’s “Red Rain” part. [Note: Darryl Jones can be seen in brief footage of Gabriel’s 1988 Amnesty tour, as well.] Rolling Stone’s David Fricke sums it all up by describing a classic album as “The best album you can make at that moment, with the notion you want it to live longer than you do.” That ethic certainly extended to So’s unforgettable bassmanship.

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