This is a compilation album from the former Genesis vocalist who struck out and created his own very unique brand of music. The tracks here range from 1977's Here Comes the Flood to 1990's Shaking the Tree. Released in 1990, it unfortunately does not include his more recent chart toppers like Steam or Digging in the Dirt, but that by no means leaves this compilation short of it's "wow" moments.
Peter Gabriel's songwriting skills, combined with his oddball experimentalism (Genesis was a prog rock group while he was around!) make for such memorable and entertaining tracks as Shock the Monkey... which is incidentally also is one of the first commercially successful songs to use the Fairlight synthesizer. In fact, there's a short clip on the DVD Play: the Videos which features Gabriel using the Fairlight to sample the sound of breaking glass! Much of the lyrics have a twist in them, and can be interpreted in many ways. For example, Shock the Monkey sounds a lot like an anarchist's rant against capitalism, while it's really a song about jealousy.
Also included is the epic Biko, about the South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, and slower numbers like Red Rain. By 1990, Gabriel was experimenting further with world music, which resulted in the title track Shaking the Tree, which he co-wrote with Youssou N'Dour (of Seven Seconds fame1).
This is a thoroughy enjoyable album, although I would recommend getting either 2003's Hit (another best-of compilation) or 2004's Play: The Videos
 with Neneh Cherry