Peter Gabriel's work doesn't lend itself easily to compilations -- not because he didn't cut singles, since he made many terrific stand-alone singles, but because his body of work is so idiosyncratic, even contradictory, that it's possible to have perfectly valid differing perspectives on his catalog. This results in differing opinions among fans, so it's perfectly logical that Gabriel and his associates would have a unique view of his own work, as captured on Hit. Billed on its slipcase as "The Definitive Two CD Collection," Hit spans 29 tracks culled from his entire solo career, from 1977's Peter Gabriel to 2002's Up, plus the previously unreleased "Burn You Up, Burn You Down." It certainly is a generous compilation, and it does contain the basics: "Solsbury Hill," "Shock the Monkey," "Sledgehammer," "Don't Give Up," "Games Without Frontiers," "Biko," "Red Rain," "Big Time," and "In Your Eyes." But the devil is in the details, and in this particular case, the details push Hit away from the broad-based appeal of So and closer to the dense, subtle territory of Us and Up. This is achieved, of course, through the track selection, which is heavy on recent material (note: none of the edit details are present on the back cover, hence their presence here): from Up, there's "Growing Up [Tom Lord-Alge Mix]," "More Than This [Radio Edit]," "The Drop," "I Grieve," and "Signal to Noise," which amounts to half the entire album; the previously unreleased 2003 live track "Downside Up"; "Cloudless" from the soundtrack to the 2002 Rabbit-Proof Fence and "Lovetown" from the 1994 Philadelphia soundtrack; "The Tower That Ate People [Steve Osborne Mix]" and "Father, Son" from OVO; the 1990 Shaking the Tree remake of "Here Comes the Flood"; from Us, the album track "Love to Be Loved," plus the singles "Digging in the Dirt," "Blood of Eden [Radio Edit]," and "Steam [Radio Edit]."
That's a grand total of 16 tracks dating after the career high watermark of So -- 16 tracks covering two full albums, plus a lot of odds and ends. There's unquestionably good material here -- not just the Us singles, but much of Up was quite excellent, even if it requires several listens to appreciate -- but the heavy emphasis on this post-So work skews too much to the new (nine of the 14 tracks on disc two are of relatively recent vintage), at least if the yardstick is either an evenhanded appreciation of Gabriel's entire solo work or a portrait of his best-known, best-loved work. After all, there are many singles missing -- "I Have the Touch," "I Go Swimming," "Come Talk to Me," "Kiss That Frog," and "Secret World" among them -- plus other worthy uncollected rarities (his deliriously paranoid "Out Out" from the 1984 Gremlins soundtrack needs to finally get a CD issue) and many, many terrific album tracks that would have had given this compilation greater breadth and depth, including "Moribund the Burgermeister," "Mercy Street," "Intruder," "Family Snapshot," and the tremendous pair of "On the Air" and "D.I.Y.," the two best cuts on the underrated Peter Gabriel 2 (which is once again consciously ignored by Gabriel, with this exhaustive collection featuring nothing from the record). If some of these 12 songs had managed to get on Hit, it truly would have been definitive, capturing the entire scope of his solo career. As it stands, it's a very good collection, one that delivers most of what is expected, even as it presents a relatively up-to-date self-portrait of the artist.