Review of Shaking the Tree

Stereo Review - March 1991


Peter Gabriel is hardly your average hit-hungry singles artist, yet he wittily subtitled this best-of collection "Sixteen Golden Greats," as if he were Gary Lewis or Johnny Rivers. What a card! As any serious listener knows, such complex, non-AM pieces of songcraft as San Jacinto and Biko set Gabriel apart from more commercial, entrepreneurial colleagues like Phil Collins. Still, Gabriel has proved that brainy eccentricity and commercial clout aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, even in the MTV age -- witness the success of Sledgehammer and Shock the Monkey. But his albums are self-contained entities, and almost everything on "Shaking the Tree" is better heard in its original context. Also, the song selection is lopsided: five-eighths of "So" is repeated, while nothing is culled from his 1978 album produced by Robert Fripp (the second of four successive albums titled simply "Peter Gabriel"). The anthemic D.I. Y., in particular, is glaringly absent. So, while the music is uniformly wonderful, "Shaking the Tree" does not present a balanced picture of Peter Gabriel's solo career. Pass on this one.

--P.P.


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