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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Peter Gabriel

Live Blood

Review by Gary Hill

This live album is rather unusual. I mean, it features Gabriel playing with the New Blood Orchestra, so it’s very symphonic. For my money, that’s an intriguing wrinkle, but wears a bit thin at times. Still, it is quite an entertaining set, although very little of it really fits as “rock music” of any kind. In other words, I like it quite a bit, but I’m not completely blown away by it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Intruder

Sound effects and other loops play as the anticipation builds in the crowd. Then symphonic instrumentation enters to start this off properly. The symphonic sounds serve this piece well, making it feel almost like classical music as Gabriel provides his vocals. The rock element might be a bit missing here, but this cool.

Wallflower
Piano opens this up and Gabriel’s vocals come in with that as the only real backdrop. Some strings are added to this, but overall it’s just a piano and vocal ballad and it works quite well. While there were a few bits of female vocals in the opener, there are more on this one. Mind you, not a lot, but they serve a bit more upfront role when featured, creating a duet texture to those segments. There’s a later movement that has a lusher, more powered up arrangement, but it gives way to a reprise of the mellower sounds.
The Boy in the Bubble
A very slow moving number, this is delicate and intricate and pretty. It’s quite mellow.
Apr├Ęs Moi
This one is quite symphonic in texture. It’s also very beautiful and very powerful. It’s the most poignant and effective cut to this point in the set. Gabriel’s vocals get very powerful and passionate on this piece and the symphonic instrumentation really adds to that effect nicely.
The Drop
While this one is good, it sort of pales in comparison to the one that preceded it. It’s mellow and tasty, though.
Washing of the Water
Female vocals feature more prominently on this cut than on a lot of the rest. In fact, it’s a true duet. It’s got almost a country or folk music texture to it. That said, it’s still all based on symphonic instrumentation.
The Book of Love
The vocals are the real driving force here. The backdrop is symphonic and quite pretty. Although this is fairly stripped down and mellow, it’s a very effective piece.
Darkness
One of the most powerful songs, Gabriel delivers a very passionate and potent performance. The cut alternates between very mellow and more powered up modes. 
The Power of the Heart
There’s more of a pop song texture here, but the stripped arrangement is sort of like an extremely slow and mellow ballad. It feels a bit too slow for my tastes, but Gabriel’s vocal reading is strong. Still, this feels too long and too timid in terms of the musical orchestration.
Biko
I’ve always loved this song. While this more intimate arrangement has its charms, I prefer the original. Still, it’s a great tune, no matter how it’s put together.
San Jacinto
This Gabriel classic gets an intriguing rework here. While it’s good, it’s another that I don’t think translates that well to this format. It’s a bit too mellow and feels almost freeform and meandering.
Disc 2
Digging in the Dirt
Originally more of a rocker, this one works surprisingly well in this type of arrangement. It’s killer with the multiple layers of symphonic sound and vocals. I like this a lot. I think I still prefer the original, but this is quite strong.
Signal to Noise
Somehow the layers of mellow against more powered up really work well on this piece. There’s a lot of dynamic range here, bringing lots of drama and power to the proceedings. I like this one a lot. At times it resembles soundtrack music. At other points it’s closer to real pure symphonic music. All the while, though, it’s powerful and intriguing. In fact, it’s one of my favorites here.
Downside Up
This one represents quite a change. The vocals that start it off are female and those vocals are quite prominent throughout, even when Gabriel joins. In addition, while this starts with a mellow symphonic approach like much of the rest of the set, it almost becomes jazz-like when the horn section kicks it up a bit. There’s a bit of a bass solo and this is really quite a cool groove. It’s another highlight. 
Mercy Street
Seeming to pale a bit in comparison to the previous number, this is OK, but a little slow and sparse. It’s suitably moody, though.
The Rhythm of the Heat
Now, this is more like it. It’s dramatic and powerful. The symphonic treatment really adds to this, and I might like it better than the original version of this tune. It’s dynamic and quite poignant.
Blood of Eden
Starting as a piano based ballad, it eventually becomes a more symphonic song, but really doesn’t seem to get set afire, at least in my mind. It’s good, but a little lackluster, particularly compared to the previous one.
Red Rain
While I definitely prefer the original of this song, I like this one a lot. Of course, a big part of that is the killer chorus, but the symphonic elements do bring some real charm and charisma to the table at times.
Solsbury Hill
Another Gabriel classic, they do this one a lot closer to the original version. In other words, it’s one of the few points on the disc where it really qualifies as rock music. This is a great song, no matter the particular version. It is one of the highlights here.
In Your Eyes
Here’s another of my favorite Gabriel tunes. It’s another where I prefer the original, but really like this one, too. There’s a bit of a world air to this at times.
Don't Give Up
While in some ways I like this symphonic arrangement a lot, it really does work well for this song, I don’t like the woman’s voice who sings with Gabriel. She’s got a bit of a warble to her voice that just annoys me. Still, it’s a good tune, and that factor only features at times here.
The Nest that Sailed the Sky
This is just an atmospheric instrumental followed by some introductions.
 
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