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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Peter Gabriel

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Review by Steve Alspach

Peter Gabriel has always been one to have a keen lookout on where music is, or where it's going. From the punkish stabbings of his 2d album, followed by the world music directions of the two subsequent discs (his 3rd and 4th albums), or more recent endeavors (as the "OVO" soundtrack), Gabriel has always been able to carve out his niche without being too oblivious to current music. The album doesn't sound rushed or hurried - all but one song runs between six and eight minutes, and Gabriel gives each piece a chance to develop on its own. The overall feeling of this album is one of subdued tones with occasional jagged edges, and in the end, it's another typical Gabriel album - thoughtful, exploratory, experimental, and indicative of a musician who is still searching for new dimensions.

The personnel on this album is: Peter Gabriel, vocal, Bosendorfer, Mutator, JamMan, MPC Groove, organ, sample keys, bass keys, firefly keys, bass pulse, harmonium, tom toms, crotales, arpeggiated bass, Telecaseter, reverse strings, mellotron, string samples, Wonky Nord, and Sansamp; Manu Katche, drums; Tony Levin, bass; Peter Green, guitar; David Rhodes, guitar, backing vocals; Mahut Dominique, percussion; Ged Lynch, percussion; Richard Chappell, percussion, programming; Shankar, double violin; Assane Thiam, percussion; Steven Hague, percussion; Tony Berg, backwards guitar; Christian Le Chevretel, trumpet; John Brion, mandolin, Chamberlin; Tchad Blake, tape scratching; David Sancious, Hammond organ; Danny Thompson, double bass; The Dhol Foundation, Dhol drums; Nusret Fateh Ali Khan, vocals; The Black Dyke Band, brass; Mitchell Froom, backwards piano; Richard Evans, recorders; Chris Hughes, drum programming; Pete Davis, Alex Swift, additional programming; Melanie Gabriel, vocals; AD Chivers, vocals; Sally Larkin, vocals; Dominic Greensmith, drums; Steve Gadd, drums; Hossam Ramzy, tablas; The London Session Orchestra, strings; The Blind Boys of Alabama, vocals.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Darkness
This song is a push-and-pull between some very soft passages and metallic blasts. It's lyrics delve into the realm of self-examination and facing one's fears.
Growing Up
This number has a hip-hop beat in the chorus that is similar to earlier compositions such as "Steam" or "Kiss the Frog" from the "Us" album, but the verses have a slightly sinister edge to them that are rescued by the chorus.
Sky Blue
The Blind Boys from Alabama lend a soulful-yet-mournful touch to the song's extended coda, and the guitar adds a few bluesy notes towards the end.
No Way Out
Like "Don't Give Up" from 1986's "So" album, this song looks at courage in the face of adversity - in this case, a crowd of people surrounding a man on the verge of dying. "You're not quitting on us," but the subject is not about to let go. The piece, interestingly enough, has a little of a Latin tinge to its rhythm.
I Grieve
Another cut with a Latin flavor to it - the percussion trills give a slight tango feel, but Gabriel moves it into a more rocking middle section. The track itself is an enigma, as the lyrics go "I grieve for you, You leave me" but the line "Life goes on" is repeated.
The Barry Williams Show
This is Peter's take on the trash talk shows so prevalent on TV these days. Again Gabriel throws in a dash of hip-hop rhythm, and there are some humorous moments, such as Tony Levin's bass belches as Gabriel runs through a list of show titles, and a trumpet throws in a little sass as well.
My Head Sounds Like That
The use of the mellotron with a brass section lends for a large sense of warmth and intimacy in this track. Like in the opening number, though, there is a loud section that cuts in the middle of the track.
More Than This
This is one of the more uptempo songs, and one of (by Gabriel's standards) optimism. Towards the end the tune really hits its stride, and the beat is quite infectious.
Signal To Noise
This one has an eastern flavor to it, highlighted by the vocals of Nusret Fateh Ali Khan. The cut builds in intensity as tribal drums come to the fore, and the string arrangement becomes tension-filled and discordant in places.
The Drop
The album ends on a delicate note. This is a short tune with just Gabriel playing piano and singing in a feather-soft voice.
 
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