on 23 September 2006
Distilling Eastern music for European ears. Peter Gabriel is a pioneer in the field of electronic and avant-garde music; here he created a masterpiece which helped to launch both his Realworld label, and became an essential album for many an 'ambient/electronic/world/eclectic' listener.
Sound-checked by both white label and established electronic artists [I can think of the Future Sound Of London offhand], this melds alternate-scale vocals [of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Youssou N'Dour among others] with his beloved [Nord] synths, awesome percussion [listen to the low-pass filters ending 'A Different Drum' without the hairs on the neck standing on end, I dare you] and abstract samples. A similar approach can be found on Damon Albarn's wonderful collection 'Mali Music'.
My personal favourite is the delicate melody of 'Of These, Hope', but this whole album flows as a journey, and easily surpasses any description of "soundtrack". I still haven't seen the film, and I won't; I luckily got to this first, and I don't intend to spoil things.
If you don't enjoy the cinematic intensity, the superb layered arrangements, the cross-cultural references, and the sheer musical talents on offer here, then I would suggest you need to listen once more with the lights down!
on 27 June 2001
So unexpected from a rock artist. Gabriel has surpassed himself. The music carries a theme throughout the album, yet each track has its own individuality, even though they often run into the next one without a break. Such a smooth understated beginning to Track 1, but wow, how it continues! A promise of the fantastic musical experience to follow. The driving rhythms, the off beat 'vocals', the sudden change of tempo; so easy to imagine the Holy Land and visualise of the story of Christ.
on 3 March 2012
Of all the albums in my music collection, I regard Passion as the most important in my musical journey. I don't say this lightly and by this I'm not saying that it's "the best album ever" (I'm of the opinion that such titles are essentially meaningless, just profile-raising devices). Everything has to be regarded within the context of each person's experience, and for me Passion, which I've the great fortune to have known since it was new, has been the single most pivotal album of my life. A masterpiece in itself (I understand that Peter Gabriel considers this to be his finest work), but perhaps more importantly for me it acted as a beautiful doorway through to a world of fantastic music.
Passion is the music that Peter Gabriel composed for Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation Of Christ, it is a powerful, coherent body of pieces by itself and watching the film is not a prerequisite to appreciating it (I saw the film in the early 90's, hoping that its effect upon me might be as profound as the soundtrack, but for me this album overshadows the film by a long stretch). Peter Gabriel's vision for this work was very ambitious: epic soundscapes peopled by musicians rarely experienced within the cosy confines of the typical movie soundtrack, and far beyond the scope of the vast majority of popular music.
Here Peter Gabriel played an array of synthesizers and other electronics, including the Fairlight sampler, provided occasional, discreet vocals, a little flute and piano, and percussion. Joining him were numerous musicians and singers from north and west Africa, including the stellar vocals of Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal, the Indian Sub-continent and the Middle East, as well as fellow sound-architects David Rhodes and David Bottrill, and an English boys choir, amongst many others. Hossam Ramzy's intricate layers of percussion and Shankar's otherworldly soaring double-violin are both intrinsic to the album. The title track, at 7.36 the longest individual piece, embodies the spirit of the album as a whole, and features transcendent Qawwali singing from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. "Sandstorm" evokes images of a procession of people battling through furious flying sands, coming in and out of view, resolutely moving forward. "Before Night Falls" is gorgeous and gentle, delicate finger cymbals and tabla trace an airy framework over which ney flute dances, echoed and then superseded by brooding double-violin. There is also an avant-garde element at play in repeating samples and unconventional patterns, as with the haunted "Troubled" and the fragmented flutes of "Gethsemene". More familiar spaces to a western ear appear amongst these converging fusions of electronica and ethnic folk music, in particular on the two versions of "With This Love", the first led by oboe and coranglais, the second by the boys choir.
I can trace backwards from here in time to other east-meets-west musical fusions from my childhood that perhaps steered me towards Passion, pop songs like "The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum" by Fun Boy Three, "Ever So Lonely" by Monsoon, "Living On The Ceiling" by Blancmange, and onward to Peter Gabriel's earlier albums, and the questing Kate Bush, but this was the moment for me when the doors burst wide open and I felt compelled to really go exploring, leading initially to checking out the excellent accompanying compilation Passion Sources, then onward from there, keeping abreast as Realworld Records began to blossom, and going off exploring beyond its bounds.
on 29 October 2012
In my opinion this is PG's best album apart from PG4. Gabriel steps back from the commercialism of 'So'.
It is a purely instrumental album, and provides the music for Martin Scorcese's film 'The Last Temptation of Christ.' As with PG4, it combines world music with Western electronic music. The album features the Armenian instrument the duduk, which has been featured on the score of most epic films ever since. eg Gladiator. Come to think of it 'Passion' has been a heavy influence on the scores of nearly all epic films over the last 20 years (most especially John Debney's music for Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'). Don't the composers have any ideas of their own?
on 27 October 2003
This is quite simply Peter Gabriel's masterpiece. It encapsulates all that is magical about his music; his love of rhythm, his ear for melody, his love of all musical forms, especially those of Africa. The music is eery and passionate, quiet and immense, bold and beautiful. No home is complete without a copy of this work; I bought it on vinyl in 1989 and then again on CD a few years later. It still moves me when i hear it today like it did 14 years ago.
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!
on 8 December 2015
This piece of work from Peter Gabriel is fine to listen to and to use as a remembrance of the film "The Passion of the Christ". The individual tracks have been crafted with very carefully researched musicality, which we expect from Gabriel, that will either leave you thinking "what is this passage, and how have they made it?" or "what on earth was going on in the film at this point?" For example, during the betrayal of Christ in the Garden, the background theme makes you think of a bubbling cauldron, ready to consume everything, followed by some sort of beastly apparition. Frightful.
There are also sections of great peace and stillness, where we imagine a calm water, or sunset stretching out before us, ending with a simple blue and red line conveying a complex abstract landscape of music- perhaps like Christ's own mind, before the storm in the cup. Not at all easy to listen to. But what do you expect?
on 16 November 2000
I thoroughly enjoyed this music the first time I heard it, it was performed with modern dance. The combination of the images and the music left me with an overwhelming feeling of wanting to touch the music. The interplay and tension of the harmony with the beats and Middle Eastern themes is lovely. Do listen to the little snippets and see what you think.
The name of Peter Gabriel probably isn't that high up on most people's lists of innovators in electronic music (it certainly wasn't on mine until hearing this), yet on "Passion" that's exactly what he is.
It's absolutely no exaggeration to say that this is on a par with Brian Eno's best work (and sound-wise there are some similarities too, although Gabriel's less of a minimalist). "Passion" is in parts also reminiscent of Michael Mann's collaborations with Tangerine Dream. Some of Richard H. Kirk's madder, eastern-styled work also springs to mind at certain points, as does a certain Richard D. James (check "Gethsemane").
Yes, it is THAT good. It's genius in fact: although this soundtrack fits perfectly with the film from which it is taken (The Last Temptation of Christ [DVD]) it doesn't dominate it. Even if you've never seen the film, it works as an album in its own right. Plus, this is a model example of how to incorporate so-called "world music" in a way that is truly innovative without ramming it down people's throats á la Paul Simon.
One small complaint though - a lot of the more mentalist world music stuff from the film itself isn't on here, although those tracks do appear on a separate various artists CD called Passion: Sources. Should've made it a double CD in my opinion. Fans of the film may want to buy both titles to avoid disappointment.
A five star rating nevertheless since not only is this a superlative film soundtrack, it's also a benchmark ambient electronic album.
There are moments, many of them in fact, on this haunting recording of Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ which are so moving they bring tears to the eyes.
There can be no doubt that Gabriel was inspired, all those years ago, to some of his most broodingly lovely music, most of it purely instrumental, with the voices of PG and others occasionally heard in the mix of ethnic instruments (including the duduk, tabla, arghul, and the uniquely evocative, lonesome-sounding 'ney' flute) along with synths, a variety of keyboards and the violin of Shankar.
Jon Hassell is heard to good effect on trumpet, and on the long, astonishing track Passion we hear the vocals of both the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Youssou N'Dour. Bill Cobham's drumming is a bonus on a couple of tracks too.
Peter Gabriel is one of the few truly eclectic British musicians, with not only a genuine feeling for the many and various musics of the world, but with a voice that harks back to his vintage Genesis days while sounding like no other - a huskily angelic voice in the wilderness, if you will.
This is by anyone's standards hauntingly beautiful music, on its own terms. Rarely has a director been so lovingly or so lavishly served by a musician. This isn't simply a score, but a sequence of varied, emotionally powerful pieces which come together to make a timelessly lovely work of art.