Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats was released in 1990 as Peter Gabriel's first "greatest hits" album, including songs from his first solo album Peter Gabriel (I or Car) (1977), through Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ (1989). It was remastered with most of Gabriel's catalog in 2002.
The tracks are creatively re-ordered, ignoring chronology. Some of the tracks were different from the album versions. Most songs are edited for time, either as radio, single or video edit versions. "Shaking the Tree," a track from Youssou N'Dour's album The Lion (1989), is a 1990 version featuring new vocals from Gabriel. "I Have the Touch" is listed as a 1983 remix, although it sounds enough like the remix from 1985 that many reviewers have declared the remixes to be the same.
One song, "Here Comes the Flood", is a new recording from 1990. This version is a piano and voice arrangement, that is far simpler than the highly produced version on Peter Gabriel (1977). Its sparseness is closer to the version that Gabriel recorded with Robert Fripp on the latter's album Exposure (1979). In interviews, Gabriel has said that he preferred the 1979 version, and it was that version with Fripp that he chose to overdub in German as the flipside to a single released before Ein deutsches album (1980).
Although this album highlights songs from Peter Gabriel's earlier albums, tracks from Peter Gabriel (II, or Scratch) and the soundtrack to the film Birdy are not included. "In Your Eyes" is notably missing from the compilation. Say Anything, in which it was played in a prominent scene, had been released the year before. Although this made "In Your Eyes" perhaps the most well known Peter Gabriel song aside from "Sledgehammer," it failed to crack the top 20 and was thus omitted from the album in favor of five of the other eight tracks from So — four other hits and album track "Mercy Street."
The album cover and the inside sleeve photographs of Gabriel are by Robert Mapplethorpe from about 1986.
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