I've always loved Gabriel's voice, from early Genesis onwards. As with Costello; I lean towards the quieter moments; which probably says more about me than it does about either singer. I'm a sucker for tender and there's tenderness aplenty on this wonderful record.
'Sledgehammer' does what is says on the tin and sold the album, but there's plenty of hush here too.
I love it when Gabriel does 'intense'.
Amazing to think that initially the album wasn't well received. The Guardian's Alexis Petrides condemned 'So' as "an album packed with ultra-commercial priapic cod-funk" and "a ruthless bid for mainstream success." The Fairlights do flicker and Daniel Lanois' production is unusually robust for him, but it's still a co star, vital to the musical broth; flavoured by African rhythms, techno, prog, pop and soul. A seemingly rich stew but tasteful and (at times) surprising delicate. I never tire of the duet with Kate Bush on 'Don't Give Up', but for me the high point of many high points will always be 'Mercy Street'. I know that I've posted about this song before (with the recent release of a box set of the remastered 'So', complete with a couple of discs featuring live versions of the songs; 25 years old if you can believe it...) and I don't want to suggest that the album is grand for this track only but... 'Mercy Street' is without doubt my favourite Gabriel moment; one of my favourite ever songs; it highlights that wonderful timbre. Interesting, as I could not so easily choose just one finest moment from other favourites, the likes of Waits/Buchanan/Springsteen/MacAloon all have back catalogues to die for but (aside from maybe 'Thunder Road' and 'Born to Run') it's hard to nail them to one song.
The song was inspired by poet Anne Sexton.
You can gauge the song's effect on folk from this 2003 clip, taken from his legendary 'Growing Upwards' show in Milan.
I've followed it by the official video of the song.
I've then done the same thing (official video/Growing Upwards performance) for another highlight, the album's magnificent opener 'Red Rain'.