In the mid-1970s, frontman Peter Gabriel made the decision to leave Genesis at the peak of the band's creativity (the group had just released what is now considered to be their masterpiece, 1974's THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY). Gabriel wanted more artistic freedom, he wanted to spend more time with his family, and, as he clearly states on "Solsbury Hill", he was "feeling part of the scenery" as a member of Genesis. Thus Gabriel embarked on his solo career, where he was finally able to fully express himself artistically. His debut album, simply titled PETER GABRIEL (also known as PETER GABRIEL 1 or by its nickname, CAR), is probably one of the most impressive debuts ever released. Here Gabriel is anything but part of the scenery - he's the center of attention. We can't take our eyes - or rather, our ears - off him. Why? Because the man is a musical genius.
This becomes clear on the rolling opening for one of his finest tracks, "Moribund The Burgermeister", and is unquestionable on the aforementioned "Solsbury Hill", possibly Gabriel's most well-known song. If anyone doubted that Gabriel should have left Genesis, their doubts were shattered upon hearing that song. It's an uplifting sort of folk tune that sums up Gabriel's feelings post-Genesis and pre-first solo album. "Solsbury Hill" says that Gabriel's life was feeling incomplete and dull. He searched for a way to fix this, and finally found it - he'd leave Genesis. Once he did, it's clear that he was feeling nervous about his decision - after all, it was a major one - but he also felt very optimistic and excited about it. In the end, it payed off; Peter Gabriel became one of the most respected musicians alive. Some people are even unaware that he was ever a part of Genesis.
Part of what makes Gabriel's first album such compelling listening is the way the songs are organized. For example, Gabriel follows up the folksy "Solsbury Hill" with the hard rocking "Modern Love", and that with the quirky "Excuse Me". Each song is very different, but they're all great. To me, the album has only one miss, the whining honky-tonk tune "Waiting For The Big One", but even that song is redeemed by great instrumental sections. Through it all, Gabriel's songwriting is delicious - not as powerful nor as confident as it would be on some of his later releases, but delicious nonetheless. Even as something of a novice, Gabriel was one of the most talented songwriters of the late-1970s.
Throughout Peter Gabriel's first three self-titled solo albums, he was trying to find his place and really cement his musical direction (if "cement" is the right word - Gabriel was constantly experimenting even after finding his sound). It began with PETER GABRIEL 1, and concluded with PETER GABRIEL 3 - in the opinion of many, myself included, Gabriel's finest recording. Listening to this album, though, you wouldn't know it. It feels like the work of a veteran musician who's really hit his prime. However, it isn't. PETER GABRIEL 1 is a great album, but Gabriel was just getting started.