Friday, 1 April 2016

Without Frontiers: the life and music of Peter Gabriel by Daryl Easlea

This book is a biography of Peter Gabriel, written by music journalist Daryl Easlea.

This book caught my interest as soon as I saw it in the library. I'm a big fan of Peter Gabriel's challenging and innovative music, both with and without Genesis.

The book focuses on Gabriel's music career, both Genesis and solo. It tells of the making of albums like Selling England by the Pound, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel's unnamed third solo album and So. We also learn of his activism for human rights and against injustice like apartheid. In this, he has worked with organizations like Amnesty International and Witness, the latter which he co-founded. Gabriel has also brought attention to non-western forms of music by co-founding the WOMAD festival, which features musicians from all over the planet.

The book focuses on his work and largely ignores Gabriel's personal life. This is probably because Gabriel has always been a private man. And anyway, his home life has apparently been rather uneventful, with the exception of the collapse of his first marriage.

While Easlea hasn't interviewed the subject of the book himself, he has interviewed several of Gabriel's friends and collaborators. Easlea has also done extensive research and uncovered many articles and interviews. He has then synthesized this extensive source material into a coherent narrative.

Easlea is very thorough and has a remarkable eye for detail. He not only describes the creation of each album, but also the reception it got among fans, the public and the critics.  He even analyses each individual track of Gabriel's major albums. The book also comes with a comprehensive discography.

To his great credit, Easlea takes Gabriel's work with Genesis seriously. Far too many critics dismiss Genesis or even progressive rock in general as pretentious nonsense, while acclaiming Gabriel's solo career. Easlea doesn't do any of that and even emphasizes the continuities that exist between Gabriel's work with the band and his solo work.

The result is a good and very readable book about a remarkable man. A man who both in his music and activism is Without Frontiers.

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