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Overall Grade
2 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
2 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Rent it

Peter Gabriel - Classic Albums: So

Street Date:
September 18th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 24th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2012
Studio:
Eagle Rock
Length:
60 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

In my eyes and ears, Peter Gabriel is a legendary musician, singer, and songwriter. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing him live yet, by I do own most of his solo albums on vinyl. He has such a beautiful and unique sound that combines rock and world music together, with a bit of jazz and classical. The result is a recipe for some of the best music my ears have ever heard. With Gabriel's 'So' album, Gabriel hit the top of the charts and became a household name with his hit single 'Sledgehammer,' due in large part to MTV.

'Sledgehammer' came out a few years after MTV got very popular in the 1980s. And the video for 'Sledgehammer' was and is still today considered one of the best music videos ever made. With its visual FX, animation, and music, 'Sledgehammer' entered the lives of many and made a permanent stamp in almost ever home of that time. This documentary follows a few people close to the making of the album including Gabriel, as they talk about the making of this award winning and yet odd album.

It was great to see how people close to Gabriel talked about the album and the man himself. Gabriel is actually quite a funny guy with a very dry sense of humor. One thing is for sure though, Gabriel and his musicians are very methodical and detailed when it comes to their music. During this album, the musicians would sometimes do several hundred takes on one song. They needed to get it just right. And back then, they did not have the technology to do things at a fast and easy pace. Which means, tons of equipment broke, and it was left to engineers to layer and loop hundreds of instruments and sounds. Some of the songs were even put together on old fashioned tape.

And Gabriel is aware of how slowly he works. Much like Stanley Kubrick, Gabriel would spend sometimes years on one album, therefore he set up his own studio, so he can work at his own space without having to pay someone else. During the course of this very short 60 minute documentary, there are several talking head interviews with writers, musicians, and Gabriel's long time producer Daniel Lanois. Not to mention Gabriel himself gives an enlightening interview.

The documentary is intercut with concert and music video footage from the album, if I hear the song 'Sledgehammer' one more time I think I might have a nervous breakdown. This was a very odd album for Gabriel. It came out at the height of the 80s, but it seems like it is a timeless piece of music, although you can hear some 80's synth here and there. I hoped for this short documentary to be better, and to give us something that is not "by the book", but everything feels very scripted and comes across as a dull promo puff piece. For huge fans of Gabriel, you might enjoy this, however you might feel slighted at the lack of information and poor structure.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

This blu-ray disc comes with a 1080i (not even 1080p) transfer with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In a few scenes, the aspect ratio was presented in 1.33:1, the original form. The video is typical for a standard made for TV special. The detail looks very good where you can read what is on the dials and sound mixing unit. The colors are vibrant as well, but most everything is shot inside or on a set.

The blacks are deep with some of the archived footage of the old music videos ranging from decent to poor quality. The talking head interviews look good, with the flesh tones coming out natural and smooth. I was hoping to see an up-to-date high definition version of his music videos, but sadly, that's not the case.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Unfortunately, this blu-ray comes with only an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 mix. This is a music documentary, people. Let's get a decent audio mix on here. While this is not a concert film, there are tons of music snippets from Gabriel's library inserted here, and it would have been nice to get the full sound. However, most of this release involve interviews, which sound fairly good.

The dialogue is clear and crisp, which is the only thing that is on this disc, besides some of Gabriel's music making an appearance, but when that does happen, it doesn't sound full. I was hoping for something better here.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Big Time (HD, 4 mins) -Here is a short little feature that provides some insight on this particular piece of music including alternate ideas and technical difficulties.
  • Amnesty Tours (HD, 8 mins) -Here, Gabriel talks about his work with Bono from U2 to get the world involved with Amnesty International.
  • The Making of 'Sledgehammer' (HD, 13 mins) -A pretty basic making of the famous music video and how they came up with the ideas for the music video and their execution of completing their ideas. Also, here is where you can see some of the brilliance and humor of Gabriel.
  • In Your Eyes (HD, 10 mins) -Here is a little featurette that goes into the creative and engineering process for this particular song. Some of you sound engineers will like this extra.
  • HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

    There are no HD exclusives.

    Final Thoughts

    'Classic Albums: Peter Gabriel So' is a neat look at the making of Gabriel's famous album. That being said, it's very short and doesn't provide enough information to satisfy me. The sub-par video and audio presentations along with the lackluster extras, which seemed to just be deleted scenes from the actual documentary made the whole film and release mediocre at best. Even if you are a fan of Peter Gabriel, I suggest you rent this one, it doesn't provide enough content to warrant a purchase.

    Technical Specs

    • 25GB Blu-ray Disc

    Video Resolution/Codec

    • 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC

    Aspect Ratio(s)

    • 1.78:1
    • 1.33:1

    Audio Formats

    • English: LPCM 2.0

    Subtitles/Captions

    • English
    • French
    • Spanish
    • German

    Supplements

    • Big Time
    • Amnesty Tours
    • Making of 'Sledgehammer'
    • In Your Eyes

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