Released in 1986, ‘So’ became one of the defining albums of the era, landing multitudes of awards, millions of sales and a huge hit single with ‘Sledgehammer’. But when Peter started work on this, his fifth album, in February 1985 in an old farmhouse called Ashcombe near Bath he had no idea of the explosive and enduring impact this album would have.
In February 1986 Peter finally finished the album:
“I think when we played the album back we knew it was good. It wasn’t like I was an obscure artist; I’d had hits with Shock The Monkey, Games Without Frontiers and Solsbury Hill but after each of them I’d purposefully retreated partially back into the shadows. With ‘So’ this was the end of the idea of me being a sort of cult artist at the fringes of the mainstream, especially in America. There wasn’t an option to go and hide in the shadows any more.”
‘So’ 25th anniversary edition is the opportunity to explore how the album was made, the stories behind the songs, the evolution of each track and the outstanding live performance of the ‘So’ tour.
“Time leaves an indelible stamp on everything. When you revisit your past you can no longer live inside it, but you can walk around it, open up old memories and occasionally catch the scent of some place in which you lived”. – Peter Gabriel
‘So’ album remastered: Engineer Richard Chappell explains why:
“In planning the 25th anniversary release of ‘So’ Peter was very keen to go back to original sonic ‘vision’ for the album. The album had been remastered in 2002 by Tony Cousins but Ian Cooper was the original mastering engineer at the Townhouse Studio in 1986. 25 years on Peter went back to Ian to reconsider the mastering process. In early 2012 Peter and Ian met at Metropolis Mastering Studios (where Ian now works) and together they listened to the original half inch master tapes. Ian made some experimental changes but both he and Peter agreed that it sounded great as it was. Incredibly Ian actually had the original notes from the session 25 years before! They ended up approaching the mastering in the same way that they had at the very first session. A small amount of eq was added now and again and the limiting for the CD master was done using new prism converters.
Peter was happy with the final result. I then came back to Real World Studios to test the remaster and put it up against the first version of ‘So’ and the 2002 remaster. The new remaster by Ian stands up really very well against the original ‘So’ , now with even clearer definition in the top end. With the 2002 remaster Peter asked Tony to make some significant changes from the original – much more bottom end and mid range plus more compression added. Ian’s 2012 version is as true to the original as possible, but with the use of improved technology of today’s converters, it is a genuinely superior sound.”
Here’s a previously unreleased live track for Sledgehammer, now found on the box set: