- This superb British pressing of Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
- Gabriel’s solo debut, the album features his autobiographical lead single, Solsbury Hill
- Clearly the hardest of the first five PG records to find with good sound and decent vinyl, which is why these seldom make the site
- “…much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on Slowburn, or the orchestral-disco pulse of Down the Dolce Vita), and the closer “Here Comes the Flood” burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the ’80s.”
*NOTE: On side one, the intro to track 1, Moribund the Burgermeister, plays Mint Minus Minus.
Tubey Magical Richness and breathy vocals are the hallmarks of a good British PG 1.
Unlike any that follow, the sound varies greatly from track to track on the first PG album, as does the music. You know you have a good copy when the best sounding tracks sound their best. That may seem like a tautology but is in fact the only way to judge a side when the songs sound this different from one another.
Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These early British Charisma pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.
This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a number of them I’m sure, but those of us with good turntables could care less.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
No doubt there’s more — there always is — but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
On side one the fourth track, Excuse Me, with its barbershop quartet harmonies, has potentially Demo Disc Quality Sound.
On side two of the best copies Waiting for the Big One will indeed be big, as well as powerful and above all dynamic.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of vintage pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on Peter Gabriel No. 1
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
Moribund the Burgermeister
Waiting for the Big One
Down the Dolce Vita
Here Comes the Flood
…much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on Slowburn, or the orchestral-disco pulse of Down the Dolce Vita), and the closer “Here Comes the Flood” burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the ’80s. Yes, it’s an imperfect album, but that’s a byproduct of Gabriel’s welcome risk-taking — the very thing that makes the album work, overall.
Having left Genesis the previous summer, Peter’s first solo album arrived in February 1977. He was 26. With legendary producer Bob Ezrin taking charge (the man behind many of the records of Lou Reed, Kiss, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd), the intention was, despite the presence of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, to make something more direct and tougher than the proggy flights of fancy he’d often taken off on with Genesis.
Fripp helped Peter expand his horizons; there was experimentation both with electronics and with music from across the globe. And after opening track Moribund The Burgermeister – not a huge step in sound or name from those prog days – the clouds part with the bucolic Solsbury Hill. The widescreen, apocalyptic feel of Here Comes The Flood was another hint of what was to come from the solo years, a song about “the flood that drenches the brain, not necessarily the countryside”. Meanwhile, the brains of Peter’s acolytes were preparing for the flood of solo music heading their way.
I really wanted the first record to be different from the stuff that I’d done with Genesis, so we were trying to do things, different styles. There was a variety of songs and arrangements that were consciously trying to provide something different than what I’d done before.
I’d chosen Bob Ezrin, having met many different producers. He was based in Toronto at the time and we were working in his studio there. There was a selection of people that he’d recommended and some that I’d brought in. I think it really took me three albums to get confidence and find out what I could do that made me different from other people.