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Peter Gabriel Up

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It has been ten long years since he last put out a studio album, Us, and now Peter Gabriel is back with Up. As a fan, it was worth the wait. This album is unlikely to win him any new fans – there is no Sledgehammer here. However, this is a great album, very dark at times, and moody and atmospheric throughout. The production sounds great and the music is very interesting, with shifting rhythms and moods. It harkens back to earlier Peter Gabriel, mixing melody and dissonance very well. The whole album is filled with “world beat” rhythms and shimmering synths, that combination of tradition and technology that Gabriel has long been a master of.
Long time Gabrielites David Rhodes (guitar) and Tony Levin (bass) are back, along with drummer Manu Katche, who played on So and Us. The gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama show up on several tracks, including my favorite Sky Blue, where they add a beautiful, soaring background to an already haunting song. Daniel Lanois (who produced So, among many other great albums) shows up and plays a little guitar and Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan adds his voice to Signal to Noise.

Up is not a very radio-friendly album and the single The Barry Williams Show does not fit very well with the rest of the tracks. It sounds somewhat dated, being about a Jerry Springer-style talk show, and lacks the beauty of much of the rest of the album, but it has grown on me the more I’ve heard it. This is also a long album. Most of the ten tracks clock in around seven minutes, too long for commercial radio. It is an album that demands repeated listens, growing stronger each time around. Parts of it resemble Passion, Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, or the Birdy soundtrack.
Ten years was worth the wait for Up. Peter Gabriel has delivered an album that he knows his fans will like, and it is nice to see an older musician catering to his long-time admirers, rather than to the commercial music market of the time. This is a great album, and I highly recommend it.

More on Peter Gabriel here, here, here and here.

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