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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2012
This is a documentary that could have been twice the length that it was because of the fact that the subject matter seems so interesting and so vital to a lot of music fans. I think that any production company or individual who is intending to put together a music documentary needs to first view the recent George Harrison film "Living in the Material World" as an example of what can be done with the format. I believe that if a person, a place, or a record album are interesting enough to have its story told on film then it should be told for all its worth. Don't cut corners, don't omit, and don't edit out whole blocks of subject matter because of time or budget "restraints". Don't sell the art, or the audience, short.

In the case of the Classic Albums take on Peter Gabriel's "So" you have yet another production from Eagle Rock/Isis Productions that leaves the viewer wanting more. There are some glaring omissions in terms of the cast of characters. Most notably a handful of musicians whose performances are a part of "So", but for whatever reason do not lend their voices to this production. They mention drummer Stewart Copeland, even going so far as isolating his part on the mixing console, but he doesn't show up in the film to talk about it. Why? Mr. Copeland is generally quite a character on camera, and "a name" as far as the Marketing department is concerned. I can't think of any other tunes where Stewart Copeland simply played his distinctive "hi hat" style, and nothing more. What was HIS take on that request? The comments and sections with the drummers Manu Katché and Jerry Marotta are pretty brief (especially Marotta), but at least they're shown on camera. So you are left wondering where is the other (more) famous drummer, Mr. Copeland, who appears to love to write books, make films, and tell stories about his experiences? Makes no sense. Next, Kate Bush. I understand that there might be a mystique and a privacy level under which Kate Bush goes about her life and her work, and if so I can certainly respect that. It seems though, that since this is not a film about Kate Bush but a film where the focus is on the tales related to this particular Classic Album, that Kate Bush would share her experience, too. Her performance on "Don't Give Up" is one of the tenderest moments on the whole album, in my opinion. It was an inspired pairing of her voice with Peter Gabriel's voice. She was in the video for the song when it was released, but she's nowhere to be found in this production. No, I can understand Dolly Parton not wanting to appear in this film (those who have seen this film will get the reference), but why no thoughts and no words from Kate Bush? To me it seems like there are parallels with some of the technology (the Fairlight, for example), and the approaches with some of the production techniques that could have been discussed but were not. I have to wonder who is conducting the interview sessions when the artists and producers are sitting at their gear? Related to that, Laurie Anderson is an interesting person, and one who again would have been able to provide insight into song writing and production approach. She has been innovative with her productions and has a great mind, but her screen time is woefully short. There is mention of the video that she and Mr. Gabriel made together for "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" but where are the insights regarding the song itself? In fact, there are some songs on the "So" album that aren't discussed at all, by anyone. The songs "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" (wonderfully "odd" and one of my favorites from the album, which even appeared in a Miami Vice episode back in the day...), and "That Voice Again" are not covered in the film. Eagle Rock/Isis have done this before, too. The Classic Albums production of Rush's "Moving Pictures/2112" left out any discussion of so many of the great songs that appeared on those albums. Finally, where on earth are L. Shankar and guitarist David Rhodes? Mr. Rhodes is probably the most obvious omission. In the Classic Album production of Queen's "A Night at the Opera", both Brian May and Roger Taylor sort of gristle on the subject of their former band mate, the retired John Deacon. But at least they mention the reason as to why Mr. Deacon is not on camera discussing that Classic Album -- he's retired "from the business" and "doesn't want any part of it anymore". So, is that the case with Mr. Rhodes? Well, no. He's not retired from the business. In fact, he just finished a tour with Peter Gabriel as a band member in SUPPORT of the "So" record. He's been an integral part of the Peter Gabriel albums for a long time now. Is it that he doesn't like to appear on camera and be interviewed? Maybe, but he has appeared in most, if not all, of the Peter Gabriel concert films AND documentaries going back a number of years. Again, Mr. Rhodes being a musician, this would have been the opportunity to share in some of his unique (minimalistic, painterly) approaches to Peter Gabriel's music. His absence from this film is a hard one to figure out.

Now, David Fricke is a known journalist and authority on music, and obviously the producers of the Classic Albums series feel strongly about his insights because they keep calling him back. However, with regard to "So" wouldn't it perhaps add more to the story to have photographer Armando Gallo give his thoughts and perspective? It could be that Mr. Fricke has written articles on Peter Gabriel over the years, but Mr. Gallo has created and published several cool books on Genesis, in addition to a book on Peter Gabriel's career up through "So". Mr. Gallo being an artist and photographer has had some inside access over the years, but he too is nowhere to be found in this film. It looked as though some of Mr. Gallo's photography was included in the production of this Classic Albums release, but again there was no discussion on the Gallo images from Ashcombe house.

I also noticed that there didn't seem to be any of the people from the record label telling their tales. Where are the Geffen executives that worked with Peter Gabriel during the release of "So"? We've heard from label and marketing people before in this series, but not this time. There was some talk by other non-label people (studio assistants and also bassist Tony Levin) regarding the fact that the "So" album was THE breakthrough to bigger audiences. However, no one from "behind the scenes" who would've been responsible for helping make that breakthrough happen appears on camera to share in how it happened. It wasn't just the "Sledgehammer" video that made it happen, nor was it the fact that Peter Gabriel simply made a great album.

All in all, this was a good documentary, but not a great one. One of the saving graces of this production is that Daniel Lanois does get some screen time, and his insights and his live playing of the mixing console is a joy to see and hear.

"So" is a great album, and I just think that if you're going to take on a project with a great subject as its focus then you need to rise to the occasion and make a great documentary film that adds to the legacy. So far, Eagle Rock/Isis Productions hasn't done that with a Classic Album production. I want to think that they're getting better at it. At least we have Blu Ray releases now. I love the series, which is why I took the time to write this. The series was a great idea from the beginning and there really is nothing out there like it, but Eagle Rock/Isis needs to step it up and make it even better. They can do that by going more in depth and devoting more time and effort to the subject(s), to filling in the gaps in terms of the missing characters, and by conducting "better" interviews with the people who they do manage to get on camera. Here's to hoping that someone is listening.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2012
The interviews take a great in-depth look at each song from So, from Peter, other musicians, editors, collaborators, producers, etc. In fact, I loved that there were no interviews (as is common on VH1 and every other station nowadays) from comedians and "celebrities". Someone cares what the guy from Full House thinks of Sledgehammer? Anyway, not in this review thankfully. These interviews lend great hand to the understanding of this album, and why it took a full year to complete.

There is also great footage of videos and concerts, which are essential to a review such as this. However, there is where this Blu-Ray falls flat. While the quality of the interview segments are perfect, the quality of the non-interview footage is VHS quality. I literally have better quality footage in my personal collection of this same material. Not getting better sources is corner cutting that is unacceptable when offering a Blu-Ray. While I understand this old footage won't look perfect, it was significantly below standard.

The content is 5 star...-1 for this corner cutting on non interview footage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 12, 2012
My fellow reviewer, Khonsu, has written a fairly lengthy, and detailed, review of this "episode" in the ongoing "Classic Albums" series of documentaries from Eagle Vision, each of which concentrates on the individual songs on a classic album, so I won't repeat what he has written but - hopefully - add to the info he has provided.

First, I have to admit that I like Peter Gabriel and his music but I can't say I'm a compulsive fan. I find the Classic Albums series informative and helpful since it helps me understand all the work - in this case over a year - to put a single 45-minute album together. Using new interviews with many involved in the project - most importantly the artist, the producer and the sound engineer - plus archival "music videos" to cover the album in under an hour (these were made for broadcast on VH1 before home video release), I learn a lot. The interviews, other than those noted above, depend- of course - on access to them. In this case we get Laurie Anderson, who is fairly accessible for projects she likes, but not Kate Bush. Honestly, I don't think I've ever heard a Bush interview for a documentary. And, Khonsu regrets that that no one from Gabriel's label is included. I seem to remember a guy from Geffen records making his comments.

Producer Daniel Lanois is given a lot of screen time and he is an engaging speaker.

So, I felt this volume was at least equal to the rest of the Classic Albums series.

The DVD includes four additional interview segments - totaling 35 minutes (50% more than the broadcast version) - three of which cover the songs "Sledgehammer", "Big Time" and "In Your Eyes", plus one on Gabriel's involvement in the Amnesty International concerts. And the DVDs are fairly priced.

These shows shouldn't be - as Khonsu does - to feature documentaries like "Living In A Material World". This is not a documentary about Gabriel; it's about a specific album and Lanois and the musicians are just as important as the guy on the front cover.

By the way, I watched the DVD version, not the Bluray, though I understand the contents are exactly the same.

So, I guess I'll be the first to give it five stars. It worked for me. And I always wonder what the subject of the next Classic Album will be. Guess we'll find out soon!

I hope this review was both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2013
I have been a huge Peter Gabriel fan for years now and this dvd was absolutely Fantastic. If you are a fan, casual listener or just a lover of great music this is a must have. So cool to see all the behind the scenes stuff and the way the album came together. ADD THIS DVD TO YOUR COLLECTION>>>>>>>TODAY!
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on November 14, 2012
Classic Albums remains the best "series" ever for any serious music fan. Each 60 minute episode dissects the motivation and execution of some of rocks most iconic albums with the people who were there. While some of the first episodes struggled in finding their groove all the recent editions have been simply excellent. Must see/owns for any serious music lover.

Produced by Eagle-Rock and distributed by Kayos Productions in the USA, "Peter Gabriel - So" is the latest episode of this British produced series to land in America. It is terrific and you should check it out. Better yet go to Amazon and buy it as you might want to watch it a few times.

"So" is the album that took Peter Gabriel from cult artist to worldwide superstar. Before "So" Gabriel was the "weird ex-singer from Genesis!" No more. After this record (and the great videos that accompanied it) Gabriel became widely known for both his artistry and commitment to various humanitarian causes.

"So" was a sonic marvel that even today sounds incredible. Rich with nuance and musical detail in every track. "So" is always interesting to listen to and frequently punctuated with great individual performances. Tony Levin's bass. Stewart Copeland's high hat. Kate Bush's duet with Gabriel on the haunting "Don't Give Up". Laurie Anderson. Wow! What a record!

This was record that introduced the world to the unique drumming style of Manu Katche who would go on to drum with Tears for Fears, Joni Mitchell, Dire Straits, Robbie Robertson and Sting (among others). His contribution can't be overstated here in creating this indefinable collection of songs. Just give a quick listen to "That Voice Again' - crazy drumming unlike anything else at the time.

Mainly though this is the product of a collaboration between Gabriel and then unknown producer Daniel Lanois. Lanois would go on to do big records with Dylan and U2 (among so many others). Gabriel and Lanois truly came together in the way real artists do: creating something unique that neither expected during the process. They both became better as a result.

One of the fruits of this collaboration was Gabriel's masterpiece, "In Your Eyes." 'Eyes," when dissected by Lanois in the video, is shown to have been meticulously created layer upon layer to become the song it is.

"In Your Eyes" is a song that would get a second wind from John Cusak's elevated boom box in Cameron Crowe's film "Say Anything." The song would also go on to be the centerpiece of Gabriel's live show (check out Secret World Live - also on Blu-Ray DVD). Great tune - explained in detail on classic albums.

All the details are here on this great Blu-Ray DVD. Comments from Lanois, Gabriel, Anderson, Levin, Katche and others - many at the playback board - are great. Critic David Fricke, the most articulate of all the talking heads, again delivers context and insight into what makes this record so great. The only one missing is the reclusive Bush. A minor problem with this otherwise great must have DVD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2015
I love Peter Gabriel and I love Eagle Rock Classic Album documentaries! Along with the feature documentary you get bonus material discussing more about the album. Would recommend to any Gabriel fan who wants to learn more about this genius (IMO).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2014
A truly wonderful look at the creative energies that went into the making of this classic album. Fascinating listen & watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2014
This is a GREAT album and seeing the process in which this incredible musician completed this epic album is fascinating!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2014
I enjoy peter Gabriel music for years and this is a great one to get if you are fan of his music.
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on January 15, 2013
Behind the scenes with one of our greatest artist's (not to mention human being's) triumphs, the 1986 long-player that catapulted him to pop star status. Just about everyone involved with the record's making is accounted for here, including Gabriel, producer Daniel Lanois and bass hero Tony Levin. The stories about the painstaking filming of the pre-CGI video for "Sledgehammer" are like the ones about the mechanical shark failures on the "Jaws" set--I never get tired of `em. (From The Beachcomber, Jan. 17-30, 2013 edition.)
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