Peter Gabriel had already been the front man for Genesis and a respected solo artist for 20 years before he released his fifth solo album in 1987.
But nothing could have prepared him for the success of "So" -- a commercial and critical breakthrough driven by a combination of '60s R&B, world-beat music and the art-rock that had marked Gabriel's earlier work.
It's no wonder that Gabriel wants to celebrate the 25th anniversary of "So" with a massive boxed set -- including a remastered version of the album and a CD of early demos that shows its evolution, a DVD documentary and a concert film -- and a tour where he plays the album in its entirety with many of the same musicians who played on the original. (That tour stops at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Sunday.)
Of course, "So" is remembered for the No. 1 smash "Sledgehammer" and the groundbreaking video that came with it, as well as "In Your Eyes," which is indelibly linked to the scene in "Say Anything," where John Cusack plays the song on a boombox held over his head to try to win back his girlfriend. There also is the Top 10 single "Big Time," which picked up where "Sledgehammer" left off.
But "So" also has several other classics that rarely get their due. Here's a look:
Don't Give Up It's an unusually subtle route for essentially an inspirational hymn, but the stunningly beautiful vocals of Kate Bush offering encouragement ("Don't give up, I believe there's a place, there's a place where we belong") make the point well over African rhythms.
This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) It's a remarkable union of Laurie Anderson's performance-art poetry and Gabriel's world-beat rhythms that captures both Gabriel's previous solo work and something entirely new that still surprises 25 years later.
Red Rain It's an artistic marvel to listen to how Gabriel sets the song up to represent a rainstorm, starting with a few drops and a simple accompaniment that grows in intensity along with the musical storm before overwhelming and then settling down again.