Gabriel followed his former band-mates from Genesis to mainstream success with 1986’s So, his most popular and commercially oriented album; signs of his new direction include an actual album title, extravagant music videos (‘Sledgehammer’) and a smoldering portrait shot on the front sleeve.
These songs are simpler and more direct than before; there’s material like the straightforward love song ‘In Your Eyes’ and the faux-Motown groove of ‘Sledgehammer’, showing Gabriel’s ability to write effective pop songs. Opener ‘Red Rain’ strikes a balance between artiness and accessibility, and ‘Big Time’ is an interesting commentary on 1980s values. Among the album tracks ‘Mercy Street’ is beautiful and ‘That Voice Again’ is driving and urgent. More problematic is ‘Don’t Give Up’ a sappy, overwrought duet with Kate Bush, while the record as a whole feels disjointed with a marked contrast between the up-tempo singles and the moodier album tracks.
For better or worse, So is the Gabriel album that the general public are most acquainted with – while he’s made stronger records, there’s plenty of substance here.