Peter Gabriel: Play (2004)


Released by: Rhino
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; videos appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Gabriel fans should own.

Peter Gabriel, former lead singer of Genesis, head burrito of world music label Real World and field general for the WOMAD tour, has not only been on the cutting edge of music for a long while, but has made music videos that push boundaries. Some, like "Kiss That Frog," push the boundaries of then-levels of CGI ability. Some, like "Shock the Monkey," push the amount of times one can ponder to oneself, "Now what the fuck is this all about?", during the course of one music video. So it's fortunate that a flat-out collection of the videos has hit, because now you can see all of the goodness in one place.

And there's a lot of goodness to be had. "Sledgehammer" is probably the best known of Gabriel's videos, just for the sheer madness it took to create a mostly stop-motion video, along with the at-times impenetrable symbolism. There's also the fiesta of "Big Time," the aforementioned pleasing headscratcher, "Shock the Monkey," the playful romp of "Steam," and the extremely disturbing "Digging in the Dirt."

That's not to say that there aren't some that don't warrant multiple viewings or simply aren't as visually interesting. "Don't Give Up" is a great song, a duet with Kate Bush, but the video is about as boring as a dead frog. "Mercy Street," again, is a great song, but while the video is a nice counterpoint, its punch comes at the end--such as it is--and just isn't very effective when compared to some others. Gabriel's songs appear to have suffered in recent years as well.

"The Barry Williams Show" is a condemnation of tabloid talk shows...but do we really need another one of those? Yeah, they're killing our souls, fine, pass the remote. It's just been done to death. "Growing Up" is also a weak song, though the video tries to match some of the visuals we've seen in the past, it just can't work with a faulty foundation. "Father, Son" is the best of Gabriel's most recent work--a very moving song coupled with a simple footage of Gabriel at a piano and he with his father. Even with the weak videos, the collection's worthwhile for the Gabriel fan--it's a no-brainer.

And yes, there are some bonus bits. The main business at hand are the video introductions that give snippets of insight or behind the scenes info on the videos. And we're talking snippets. Most don't even go for more than a minute, and when all they do is hint at the vast wealth of archival material that Real World Productions has on hand, it's more frustrating than enlightening.

You get a sneak preview of the upcoming film of Gabriel's 2004 tour, with a live performance of "Games Without Frontiers." This is notable because Peter and Melanie Gabriel sing while doing a choreographed routine with Segway transporters. No, I'm serious. There are two bonus videos, one for "The Nest That Sailed the Sky"--but I couldn't tell you much about it because I was too busy trying to figure out what I was looking at the entire time--and "Modern Love" from Gabriel's first solo album in 1977. There's nothing particularly bonus or special about these two, so I wonder why they weren't just lumped in with the others in the "main" part of the disc.

Sadly, there are no commentaries on any of the videos, which would have seemed like a given. A chance for Gabriel to give his thoughts on some of these works would have been nice, or even some of the directors themselves, like Stephen R. Johnson, or Nick Park and Peter Lord on the animation for "Sledgehammer." But no dice. Some things that make even more sense aren't here--like the ability to watch the videos in chronological order. Sure, you can program eighteen of the videos in a "jukebox" feature, but being able to watch the visual evolution of Gabriel as an artist would be very helpful.

With the lack of extensive features, this is for the Gabriel fan. For the casual type who just would like to see a couple of their favorites, a rental would be in order. But hey, this just means maybe we can look forward to a better edition at some point in the future.

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