exists at all is faintly miraculous. Over the past seven years, with guests including Youssou N'Dour
, Peter Green
, Blind Boys of Alabama
and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
, Peter Gabriel has held recording sessions in Senegal, Atlanta, Singapore, the French Alps and on a boat on the Amazon, as well as spending lengthy sojourns in his own Real World studios.
Having written and prepared over 150 songs, it's amazing that Gabriel's managed to cut this huge body of work down to just 11 tracks. It's still more amazing that these tracks should be so consistent, and so contemporary. This quality springs from a thoughtful (and rare) layering process, with Gabriel combining his usual tribal rhythms with complex backing vocals, myriad samples, rock guitars, deep piano and--crucially--electronic sound effects. Indeed, the opening "Darkness" begins like the Prodigy before slipping into a quiet discussion of vulnerability and fear.
Elsewhere, there is the funky gospel-rock of "Burn You Up, Burn You Down", the dreamy, Peter Hammill-like fragility of "The Drop" and the vocal pyrotechnics and orchestral heights of "Signal to Noise". Throughout, Gabriel uses water metaphors, from droplets to oceans, to examine human troubles and put forward his positivist message. It's all brilliantly done--sophisticated and soulful both. The man's a marvel, and this is a big, big hit. --Dominic Wills