I fell in love with this album when it first came out - and even today, two decades later it is still fresh, surprisingly original, and an essential part of my music collection. And there are not many instrumental film soundtrack albums about which I can say that.
And two decades on, this has also been a hugely influential album. Marrying the music of North Africa (Egypt in particular), India and the Caucuses (the Armenian douduk features hauntingly on several tracks, along with the equally expressive Turkish ney flute playing of Kudsi Erguner) with modern technology, Gabriel created a sound scape and musical texture that has been much imitated ever since. Listen to the soundtracks of many modern films and TV shows and you will hear echoes of this soundtrack.
At times quiet and moody, at others passionate and almost transcendent, this is an album of contrasting colours and textures. It can also provoke a strong emotional response - the first time my wife heard "It is Finished", where a North African ululation moves to a peel of church bells and guitars she was moved to tears - the power and drama of that track is immediate. "Zaar" is a long, animated exploration of an ancient middle eastern city - bustling, dusty, noisy. Each peace strongly evokes a sense of event, place or mood.
A remarkable piece - Gabriel's masterpiece with no shadow of a doubt. If I could give it six stars, I would!